Black tie is a dress code surrounded with questions. Do I have to wear a dinner jacket? Which accessories go best with a tuxedo? Remind me, how do you tie a bow tie? Because most of us will only need to adhere to a black tie dress code once or twice a year, it can all seem a bit daunting. However, if you relax and take your time, pulling together the perfect black tie outfit can be both fun and rewarding. Not to mention, if you buy quality pieces, your black tie look can last you for years to come.
At Alice Made This, we’ve compiled our own rules for black tie dress, from styling timeless cufflinks to coordinating your shirt studs with your lapel pins, to give you a helping hand and make sure that you are accessorising your jewellery just right.
Where does black tie dressing come from?
Have you ever wondered where black tie dressing even came from? When and where di we start wearing tuxedos and dinner jackets?
Black tie dressing started in the West in the 19th century. In England, we relate it to a dinner suit or dinner jackets, whereas Americans often prefer the phrase tuxedo. Whatever you call it, the dress code traditionally denotes a suit in black, midnight blue or white, with two or three pieces. As we will discuss later, the suit should also be worn with a white dress shirt, black patent leather shoes and appropriate accessories (including cufflinks, of course.)
The dinner jacket stemmed from the smoking jacket and was first documented in 1865 and worn by King Edward VII. The word ‘tuxedo’ originated in America in 1886 and was named after Tuxedo Park, the town in New York State where it was first introduced.
When we think about black tie dressing, we often think of menswear worn to events after 6pm, sometimes including balls, weddings and dinners.
What is a black-tie event?
A black-tie event signifies importance. Think award ceremonies, weddings, balls or special birthdays. A black-tie dress code is often enforced for those occasions that you really want to remember, those special milestones that will stick with you throughout life. No detail can be overlooked!
Do’s and Don’t for a black-tie event
- Do read the invitation, paying particular attention to the dress code. You want to make sure you are dressed appropriately and fit for the occasion.
- Do know your jacket lapels. There are three different types to be aware of: the notch lapel, the peak lapel and the shawl lapel. All have different depths of V so you’ll want to pick the one that you feel most comfortable with and that goes best with your suit and shirt.
- Don’t be afraid of midnight blue. Despite its name, black tie dressing doesn’t actually have to be black. In fact, traditionally it was midnight blue.
- Don’t try to be different with a white tuxedo. There are other ways to stand out in a room rather than being the guy in the white suit. Some men can pull this off, but it has to be approached very delicately. Unless you are super confident, stand out through your choice of accessories instead and keep the suit black (or at least keep the trousers black).
- Do pay attention to the trousers. Make sure your trousers are dark, well fitted and that they match the jacket. Ensure that they are comfortable and that they don’t cling anywhere.
- Do invest in a great dress shirt. Dress shirts are traditionally pleated, with a winged collar and cuffed sleeves. We love pairing a dress shirt with shirt studs for that extra bit of sophistication.
- Don’t just wear your work shoes. We know it can be tempting to leave on your black office shoes rather than investing in a dedicated pair, but it’s time to step up. Choose a pair that are black, patent, comfortable and that work with your suit.
- Don’t wear jazzy socks. There is nothing worse that ruining a well-tailored suit with a flash of novelty socks. Pick a pair of black evening socks that allow your shoes to still fit comfortably.
- Don’t wear a white bow tie. No, never. Experimenting with colour can be acceptable depending on the occasion but, if in doubt, keep it black.
- Do consider a cummerbund. Not always necessary, but for extra special occasions it can make for a nice nod to the tradition of the dress code.
- Don’t forget a waistcoat. If a cummerbund isn’t your thing, then a waistcoat is a great alternative. It creates the deep V or U shape and hides the waist to create the staple silhouette of black-tie dressing.
- Do think about your hair. We recommend styling it slightly differently to usual. We’re talking off the face (swept back or to the side) and cleaner than normal. Don’t forget that shave either!
- Do indulge in a new scent. Dressed, styled and ready to go? A beautiful eau de toilette or aftershave is the final, refined detail. You want to be smelling as good as you look.
Is there any seasonality to black tie dressing?
It’s no secret that black tie dressing is not always the kindest in really warm or really cold weather. But, there’s no need to worry. With careful styling you can look great no matter what the weather.
In winter, we recommend styling your suit with a black or charcoal overcoat to see you safely inside. In the summer on the other hand, it’s a great idea to opt for a three-piece suit so that you can always remove your jacket while still looking immaculate.
Should I hire a suit for a black-tie event?
Unless you are only ever going to be invited to one black-tie event, we would recommend getting your own fitted suit. Nothing beats a sharply tailored suit that fits you perfectly and the cost of renting multiple suits could add up to more than you’d pay for your own anyway. An off the shelf suit can fit well, but it will never match something that has been specifically fitted to you.
What is ‘black tie optional’?
There’s nothing to make guests feel uneasy like a non-committal dress code. Forget about an amalgamation of workwear and wedding attire, if you’re invite has black-tie in the dress code then we vote for going all out! Be confident, bold and own your black-tie look. You’ll look all the better for it – not to mention more put together than anyone who has half-committed.
What accessories to wear to a black-tie event?
Invest in timeless classics
Classics are classics for a reason. When you’re shopping for your outfit, opt for a well-fitting tuxedo and a timeless pair of cufflinks and you can’t go far wrong. Not only will you look dapper for that special occasion, but you’ll be able to wear the cufflinks again for weddings or to the office. If you’re unsure about your sizing, a good tailor will be more than happy to offer you a proper consultation so that you’ll feel happy and comfortable in your suit, as well as looking great. When it comes to cufflinks, we’re always on hand to discuss your ideas and are more than willing to give advice on materials and finishes to suit your style.
Start with grooming
Start your preparations for your occasion with a clean-cut shave or a fresh trim. Treat yourself to a trip to your local barber for an indulgent wet shave or use your grooming routine as some well-earned ‘you time’. Put on your favourite playlist, have a warm up drink and relax before the night ahead. Remember to moisturise to give your skin a healthy shine before you leave!
Go for gold
There is something about gold accessories against a black suit. The combination is refined and sophisticated, warm and understated. This simple pairing, whether that be cufflinks, a set of shirt studs or a lapel pin, can offer rich tones and an elegant finish to your black-tie outfit. So many people automatically reach for silver accessories when it comes to black tie dressing, so why not stand out from the crowd and bring some warmth to the party.
Black ties work too
Not a fan of a bow tie? Don’t panic. We’re big fans of a standard black tie when it comes to formal wear. Keep things monochrome and layer with a crisp white shirt and some silver cufflinks. Let your black tie be your playful rebellion against the normal ‘rules’ and express your personality with this contemporary twist. Black tie dressing doesn’t mean that everyone has to look the same.
Stylish in satin
Material plays between matte and satin finishes are a great way to do something different with black tie dressing and really pay attention to even the subtlest of details. Add some elements of satin into your outfit, perhaps on your tuxedo jacket, and pair will copper cufflinks to add a complementary warmth to the sheen. Copper is a wonderful metal when it comes to keeping an outfit traditionally stylish while also being contemporary and minimalist. Copper cufflinks look particularly fantastic when they catch the light.
Co-ordinate your accessories
There are some occasions when mismatching raw materials and finishes are appropriate, if not preferable, but we would suggest that black tie isn’t one of them. Keep things classic and refined with a cufflinks, shirt studs and lapel pin gift set in matching metals and designs. That doesn’t mean that you can’t pick a geometric design that stands out from the norm, but you want to keep yourself looking suave, composed and smart.
Devil’s in the detail
It’s no secret that we are big fans of a decadent lapel pin. Whether it’s worn on the lapel of a winter coat, instead of a flower through a button hole at a wedding or placed precisely on a chunky piece of knitwear, a lapel pin can elevate an outfit and add a lovely, graphic detail. On a tuxedo, however, is where the lapel pin can really come into its own. Standing out against the black of your jacket, whether you opt for gold, silver, rose gold or copper, your lapel pin will catch the light and they eyes in the room. Go even further and make it personal!
One for the ladies
Black tie dressing, of course, isn’t just for gentlemen. A statement necklace, a pair of reversible earrings or a geometric ring all look wonderful with a floor length gown, adding a unique detail to a classy ensemble. But, for those who like to push boundaries, a black jacket and a suit can look as fab on her as it does on him.
How to wear shirt studs
Shirt studs are decorative fasteners that adorn the buttonholes of a dress shirt. Your shirt will have special buttonholes for them to be simply inserted into.
Made in Britain, our collection of shirt studs is available in gold, rhodium and rose gold, perfect for styling with a lapel pin or a pair of cufflinks. Featuring our signature Elliot design and a high polished finish, our shirt studs have stems to mirror our cufflinks and can be easily and securely slotted in place.
A wonderful alternative to black buttons, shirt studs add an extra attention to detail to your black-tie look and a contemporary nod to classic black-tie dressing. Whether you prefer gold, rhodium or rose gold, shirt studs are an ideal way of elevating your suit and expressing an extra bit of personality.
For more advice on black tie dressing, or for more information on any of our men’s accessories and women’s jewellery, follow us on Instagram @alicemadethis.
Remember, you can tag your photos with #myamt #alicemadethis to show us how you are wearing your Alice Made This jewellery and to be in a chance with winning a voucher for our online store. If we reshare or post your look then you’ll be one of our winners.