We’ve hit that time of the year where party invitations are endless, and the chance of a black-tie event being in the mix is high.
The Tuxedo or ‘penguin suit’ that we know, and love today stretches back to 1865 when the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) wanted an evening dinner garment that suited a more relaxed environment than current dress codes permitted.
Poole, a Savile Row tailor at the time, came up with the idea of lowering the front of the jacket and cutting off the tails to make a ‘dining lounge jacket’ that was perceived as ‘casual’.
Though we don’t associate black-tie with casual in today’s society – it is a firmly upheld tradition for special occasions and events
So, what are the unwritten rules of dressing correctly for a black-tie event?
It doesn’t have to be black!|
In fact, black isn’t the best colour as it tends to turn a dusty grey when the sun goes down.
A preferred option is Midnight blue, which darkens as the evening wears on turning very black in appearance – plus, it’s more on the mark historically if you care for tradition.
In fact, it’s less about the colour and more about the type of suit.
Black tie doesn’t mean a black suit with a black tie – which is far more appropriate for a funeral than a prestigious event. It’s a 3-piece suit with a dinner suit jacket that has contrast lapels, ribbon down the legs of the trousers and is made from a high-quality fabric, such as satin.
The art of layering applies to black tie too
The last thing you want is for the band seam or shirt to be visible due to a waistcoat that’s cut too high, or trousers that are cut too low.
Your waistcoat should cover the band seam of your trousers and be buttoned up (just the top button, to be exact) unless you’re sitting down.
This custom stems back to the Prince of Wales who, it’s believed, was unable to fully button his waistcoat after dining. To flatter him and maintain favour, his companions undid theirs and established a new tradition.
And if you don’t care to wear a waistcoat at all a cummerbund is essential to keep the band seam covered.
Let’s have a word about the shirt
A black-tie shirt will have a turndown collar and be double-cuffed – to be secured with cufflinks.
Cufflinks are a great opportunity to add some flair to your ensemble whilst maintaining that dapper, high society look.
Ideally, the front of the shirt will be pleated (no, we’re not talking Austin Power’s ruffles) or Marcella.
Nothing completes a black-tie ensemble better than a properly tied bow tie.
A clip-on bow tie is always obvious and whilst you might get away with a pre-tied version, it’s always worth going the extra mile with the real deal.
Of course, nothing is going to make you look more like James Bond than being comfortable in your 3-piece and charming your companions.