Have you recently found yourself staring at a fancy invitation and you’re wondering what to wear? Don’t worry – we’re here to help. But first, make sure you know what type of formal event it is. If the invitation says things like, “full evening dress,” “white tie,” or “dress suit,” a black tie and tuxedo is not what you’re looking for.
Instead, you’re looking for a white bow tie with long-tailed suit tails on the jacket. -And, while you can go to a formal event dressed to the 9s with full evening dress, you never want to go to a white tie event dressed for less. So first, check your invitation. If it doesn’t have any of the above, you’re in the clear.
What Should I Wear with a Tuxedo?
If it turns out that a tuxedo (AKA “black tie,” “formal,” or even “penguin suit”) is what you’re looking for, we have the goods on the goods. When you wear it, what do you wear and, also of importance, what do you wear with it?
When Is It Appropriate to Shine in a Tux?
Unless you’re on the way to a formal event or will be going to said event from where you are at the moment, wearing a tuxedo before evening isn’t traditionally done. By UK standards, “evening” doesn’t start until about 6:00pm. For the United States, those crazy upstarts that left the king, tuxedos have become “formal wear” no matter what time of day it is. Whether you stick with a tuxedo as the original evening formal or join the U.S. in breaking with convention is up to you.
“When” also has to do with the events at which black tie formal wear is appropriate. Sometimes you’ll receive an invitation stating the dress code. Sometimes, that dress code is implied. Here are a few events that are expected to be black tie affairs:
- At the opera
- Gala dinners
- Formal weddings
What Is a Tuxedo Exactly, and How Do I Dress It?
The traditional tuxedo is more than a suit, set apart by silk accents on the lapel, the silk stripe down the side, silk button and silk pocket linings. But there are other areas where a tux stands out:
- Jacket: long tail or no tail? You decide, but long tail raises it up a notch.
- Formal shirt: there are at least 6 ways you can have your formal shirt made. Choose what you feel makes you look best.
- Bow tie or necktie: Traditionally, “black tie” is also “bow tie”. However, depending on what you’re wearing a tux for, a necktie won’t be frowned upon. Be confident in your choice.
- Cummerbund or vest: This option is entirely up to what you feel most comfortable with. If a vest is too tight, for example, you’re not going to exhibit the confidence you should feel in this type of attire.
Do you feel the urge to jump out of the black tux and into some color? Maybe what you want most is to wear that tartan bow tie you have waiting in the wings, or the pink shirt with the pleated front.
When it comes to black tie, less is more. There’s nothing wrong with color, but use it as an accent piece, not the main attraction. For example, a red polka-dotted bow tie, cummerbund, and pocket handkerchief wouldn’t be out of place.
Accessories for Black Tie Events
What kind of accessories would top off the black-tie look? Don’t waste an opportunity to dress to the top. Here are a few choices:
- Watch: classic man’s watch, in silver or gold. For black tie, leave the rubber watches at home
- Pocket square: a lot of places will tell you that your pocket square and tie shouldn’t match. We draw the exception at tuxedos. This is your opportunity to add your style and color.
- Cufflinks: Put on cufflinks that match either your suit color or your accent color.
- Shoes: Tough choice! You could go with traditional patent leather, or perhaps cap toe shoes. Loafers or full dress. We prefer shoe styles like the Walter, or even the Mario for a more noticeable statement.
Black tie events aren’t something that are entirely up to the wearer of clothes. Most people, when at a black-tie event, have set expectations, even if they don’t share them with you. When in doubt, lean toward the more formal attire.