Formal Wear: Identifying Your Options for a Black Tie Event

Planning to attend a fancy gathering? Black tie events can seem pretty intimidating, particularly if you’ve never dressed for one before. However, once you know a few things, they shouldn’t be all that nerve-wracking. We’ve compiled a brief guide to help you understand your options.

What Is a Black Tie Event?

A black tie event is nothing more than a formal evening gathering that takes place after 7 PM. It might be a party, or it could be a social gathering, such as a dinner or an awards ceremony. It will likely involve both men and women, and the dress code will be more formal than most other social engagements, so put away your work suit. You’ll need something different to match the black tie dress code.

Understanding the Black Tie Event Dress Code

Less formal than the now rare white tie dress code, the black tie dress code actually originated from 19th century England. It’s more formal than business wear, though, and generally involves men wearing a black coat with a different lapel color to the rest of the jacket, a white shirt, and a black bow tie. Perhaps the best example of this dress code is the tuxedo. While we think of black tie dress code as very formal today, it was originally less formal than a tailcoat that would have been worn to a white tie event.

Deconstructing the Black Tie Event Dress Code

So, what items go into making your black tie event wardrobe? There are several individual pieces that you’ll need to understand. We’ll run down your options here.

The most obvious part of your formal evening attire will be the dinner jacket. You’ll find tuxedos in two varieties – single breasted and double breasted, although double breasted options are rarer, and less frequently worn. Your jacket should be black or midnight navy blue, and should have a contrasting material used for lapel construction.

Under the jacket is the shirt. You’ll generally opt for a white, collared, button-up shirt. In most instances, you’ll want to avoid any color other than white to achieve the formal yet understated look the black tie dress code calls for. Look for a white shirt with a wing tip collar to work best with your bow tie. However, wing tip collared shirts can only be worn with bow ties and formal tux jackets, so you might choose to go with a normal collared dress shirt.

Next on the list of black tie event clothing items is the waistcoat. Waistcoats add style and flair to your ensemble, and they can be made from a wide range of materials. You can opt for black or white, but you can also choose a waistcoat in a different color to add a bit of personality and color to your outfit if you prefer.

Next, we have the cummerbund. This simple accessory should be worn if you opt not to wear a waistcoat, and sits at the bottom of the shirt, just above the top of your pants. It ties or hooks in the back, and should match the color of your tie, which brings us to our next topic.

The bow tie is an essential part of the black tie event dress code. In most instances, you’ll opt for a black bow tie, but there are other colors available to help you add a bit of spice to your night. Many bow ties today don’t need to be tied (they hook at the back of the neck), but some do.

Finally, you need the right shoes for your evening out. Tuxedo shoes are the best option, but you can also choose to go with any high-polished dress shoe if you prefer. Avoid wearing low-gloss shoes, though.

Ultimately, you only need the right jacket, shirt, waistcoat/cummerbund, tie and shoes to create a formal yet stylish look for your evening out on the town. With the right choices, you’ll be comfortable but polished.

Men’s Guide: How Your Suit Should Fit

How your suit should fit

Whether you’re buying an off-the-rack suit or taking your current suit to a tailor to get it adjusted, there’s a few things you need to know to get it done exactly as it should be.

Firstly, tailor’s vary in skill and communication for the type of fit they’re creating. So to get a good return on investment, you need to know what a good fit actually looks like.

Luckily, there are some simple, standard rules you can follow outlined below to make sure you get the best-fitting suit possible.

What A Well-Fitting Suit Looks Like

To do the following checks, you will want to stand in your natural stance with your arms by your side. This may not feel very natural at first, but it the basis from which all of our movement flows, so If your suit doesn’t fit well here, it’s not going to look very good when you’re moving around either.


Turn from side to side to check out your collar as a poor fit can only be seen from the back.

Check that your jacket collar is resting against your shirt collar, which is in turn resting against the back of your neck.

If there are any significant gaps in between, then the shirt or jacket are too large. Conversely, a tight collar will create bunching and folds just beneath it,so make sure everything looks nice and smooth.



suit sleeves

The sleeves of the suit should sit comfortably. Aim to have a good ½ inch of your shirt cuff exposed outside the jacket sleeve and ensure there is no slight twisting of the sleeve while your arms are hanging by your sides.



The seam on top of the shoulder should be the same length as the bone under it, and should meet the sleeve of the suit right where your arm meets your shoulder.

Suit Jackets

Suit jacket length should just skim the groin. There should be no no button strain and similarly no sagging material where the jacket buttons up

Close a single-breasted jacket with only one button when you’re testing the fit, even if it’s a three-button jacket. You’re looking to see if the two sides meet neatly without the lapels hanging forward off your body (too loose) or the lower edges of the jacket flaring out like a skirt (too tight).

The button should close without strain, and there should be no wrinkles radiating out from the closure. A little bit of an opening at the bottom of the suit is fine, but the two halves beneath the button shouldn’t pull apart so far that you can see a large triangle of shirt above your trousers. (Ideally, you shouldn’t see any, though a bit is socially acceptable, especially when you mov

Jacket Buttoning

Starting with the top button and working your way down: it’s sometimes appropriate to have the top button buttoned along with the middle one (a stylistic decision — if the lapel is flat, it can look good to button it; if the lapel rolls over and hides the top button, only button the middle one).

It’s always appropriate to have the middle button buttoned as the middle button pulls the jacket together at your natural waist and lets the bottom naturally flare out around your hips.

You should never button the last button as this messes up the intended tailoring and flare offered by the middle button.


You can spot a bad fit in the seat when there are horizontal wrinkles just under the buttocks (caused by too tight of a fit), or by loose, U-shaped sags on the backs of the thighs (caused by too loose of a fit).


Trouser legs should crease slightly where the bottom meets your shoe

You want to be able to pinch around an inch of excess material all the way up the leg for the perfect slim fit .

One horizontal dimple or crease is usually ideal. The cuff should indeed rest on the top of your shoe — there needs to be contact — but it shouldn’t do much more than that. The trouser can fall a touch longer in the back than in front, so long as it’s still above the heel of the shoe.


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