I remember like it was yesterday. I was at a wedding for a dear friend and a man walks in wearing a black suit with a black tie, black gloves, red shoes, and a red cowboy hat. Everyone in the church silently chuckled with a few laughing out loud. We were all wondering why this man would show up to a wedding dressed that way, and a few people even asked him. What shocked us most was the gentleman thought he was dressed appropriately because the invitation stated “back tie attire. And he was wearing a black tie. I realized then that quite a few people have no idea about formal dress codes, and what is and is not allowed. If you want to make sure when you attend a formal event that you are remembered for looking great, and not for being completely inappropriate (like Mr. Red Cowboy Hat) peruse the following Dos and Don’ts about formal attire in the Western World.
- Do keep in mind that white tie is the most formal evening dress code.
White tie affairs are the most formal, and men have the strictest attire to adhere to with no exceptions. Men should wear black tailcoats, black pleated pants, white waistcoat, wing collard dress shirt, white bow tie, and a top hat and/or white leather, which is optional. Women should wear a long formal gown with or without gloves.
- Don’t forget there are “black tie” and “black tie optional” dress codes.
Black tie is the second most formal of the evening dress codes, so men should wear tuxedos with a black bow tie and formal white shirt. Black tie attire for women can be a long gown, dressy cocktail dress, or a LBD (little black dress). Since the world we live in is becoming less and less formal we also have the black tie optional dress code. Black tie optional for women per Emily Post can be anything from the evening gown and the LBD to dressy separates. Men should wear a tuxedo if they have one or a black suit and tie.
- Do have fun with the creative black tie dress code.
Black tie is still the second most formal dress code, so the most of the same rules apply. The difference is that creative black tie allows you to have more fun with your attire. Just think about how your favorite celebrities dress for the Oscars. With creative black tie, men could change the fabric of their tuxedos or change the color of their shirts and bow ties. Women can wear fun and unique accessories such as a feather boa or add beautiful headpieces.
- Don’t confuse semiformal with black tie optional.
It would be easy to confuse these two dress codes because they are very similar. The main difference is the full-length gown for women and tuxedo for men is excluded from the semiformal dress code. For example, in high school one would wear black tie optional to the prom and semiformal attire to homecoming.