TUXEDO GUIDE – THE BLACK TIE DRESS CODE FOR A GENTLEMAN AND HIS LADY

From the Duke Of Windsor in the 30s to 007 – James Bond, Evening wear or Black Tie as its commonly known remains the standard for formal attire.

 

Yesterday evening I happened to deliver an outfit meant for a black tie event to one of my most loyal clients [for the sake of this article, let’s call him Mr. X]. Mr. X contacted me about a week ago that his company is organizing a black tie event/dinner party which will hold later this evening @ Eko Hotels & Suite here in Lagos State and that he wanted me to style him for the occasion.

During my consultation meeting with him, he started to share some ideas as to what he thought would be okay for him to wear.

I was listening attentively till the point when he asked me the question – Hey, Mr. Kobi, can I just wear a nice shirt, bow tie and well-tailored trouser, a waistcoat and ignore the jacket, just to be different in an attractive way and also…?

That’s when I interjected his question just like Kanye West would if Taylor Swift was on Stage…I said “what!, oh no Mr. X, that’s not gonna work, that’s not your dress code, that’s what the male waiters most likely will be wearing, you know what let me tell you what items are a must have and won’t have for any black tie occasion” and then I started to analyze and spell it all out for him using the MoSCoW method. Pardon my ambiguity…please read on.

black tie

A waiter ready to serve

So a little TUTORIAL for my fellow Style Consultants reading this….

The MoSCoW method is simply a requirement prioritization technique used in management, business analysis, project management, and software development [which happens to be my other areas of expertise] to reach a common understanding with stakeholders [in this case – my clients] on the importance they place on the delivery of each requirement [in this case – styling for a black tie event] – the acronym for Must Have, Should Have, Could Have and the Won’t Have.

And yeah, I am also an IT Consultant and I try to incorporate some of the methodologies in above listed discipline in my Fashion Business. It’s easier for me that way since I see each client engagement for my services – be it styling, wardrobe consultation, personal shopping or purchase as a Project which must be managed effectively, delivered timely and under budget. Capisce?

black tie

KOBI KOACHMAN Styling Project Work Sheet

 

STYLING TIP: In order to deliver a successful Styling Job/Project, it is essential that a clear set of prioritized requirements are agreed with the client, alongside the overall objective, quality, timescale and budget. And the method for setting priorities I would recommend is MoSCoW.

END OF TUTORIAL…

So guys, without further ado, let’s go straight to the topic.

The basic components of black tie are:

a black dinner jacket with matching trousers || an optional black formal waistcoat or cummerbund || a white formal shirt with wing collar || a black bow tie || black dress socks || black formal shoes and other accessories.
Read further as I break it down for you one by one – Enjoy!

#1. JACKET

black tie

The Jacket must be sleek and clean. The back should not have any vents, however, if it must have vents, only double vents are allowed. A peak lapel is the most formal option, but a shawl collar lapel is also okay. You must avoid a notched lapel at all costs. The velvet dinner jacket is also acceptable and has that cool vintage look. If you choose to wear this, you should pair it with clean cut black trousers ONLY, and never with same velvet trousers. One button is the norm for single-breasted models and pockets should not have flaps.

Also ReadSUIT LAPEL TYPES | SHAWL LAPEL VS PEAK LAPEL VS NOTCH LAPEL

 

#2. WAIST COVERING

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The waist covering is optional, but when you decide to wear a waist covering, you have two options (a) The rare U-shaped full-back evening waistcoat with straight bottom. This waistcoat which is best suited to a peaked lapel single breasted jacket and not with double breasted jackets (b) The more common black cummerbund made from silk to match the jacket facings can be worn around your waist instead of a waistcoat. It’s best suited to shawl lapel jacket.

 

#3. TROUSERS

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Trousers for a Black Tie event should have plain hemmed bottoms, no cuffs/turn-ups at the bottom. They should not have belt loops and should never be worn with a belt. The trousers should not have pleats. They can be worn with or without suspenders, though the suspenders must be either black or white. It should be same material and color as the jacket. They can be black or midnight blue, the only acceptable colors for a black tie event. They should be slimmer towards the ankle, meaning boot cut trousers are not acceptable.

 

#4. SHIRT

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It should be white fabric either pleated, plain or piqué/Marcela. For a black tie event, you should choose a turndown collar instead of wing collar (which is more appropriate for a white tie event). Although in this modern age, wing collars are used with black ties. If you are wearing the pleated white shirt, ensure it’s tight and neat instead of bulging out in front which doesn’t make it smart. Either a fly front (concealed buttons) or French placket (buttons on the show) is acceptable. It must be french cuff/double cuff as well and should be worn with simple but elegant cufflinks – black, white or silver.

#5. THE SHOES

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First of all, a black tie event isn’t the time to experiment with different types of shoes and colors. So no Brogues, No double or single monk strap. It must also be a black shoe, well-shined and smart. If you have black patent leather shoes, that’s better. Oxfords or Pumps with a satin or silk bow on the top is also acceptable.

 

6. NECKWEAR

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Never rock a long neck tie to a black tie event. The only neckwear allowable is a black bow tie and should be hand-tied. To tie a bow tie is not difficult, and can be easily learned. It’s just like tying your shoelace. Watch the video below to learn and then practice.

Also Read: HOW TO WEAR A BOW TIE – An Introductory Guide | Styles For Gentlemen

 

7. SOCKS

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Black silk socks are preferable, although you can wear black wool or cotton socks. However, if you are bold enough to pull off colorful socks with evening wear, by all means, do so while keeping it simple too.

 

8. POCKET WEAR/HANDKERCHIEF

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This is optional, however, if you wish to wear a something in the breast pocket then you may wear a simple silk or linen white colored handkerchief or a white and black polka dot pocket square. The idea is to keep it simple.

9. BOUTONNIÈRE

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A flower may be worn. Red and white carnation, blue cornflower, and rosebud have all been popular at times. In France, the boutonnière is usually a gardenia, and boutonnières and handkerchiefs are not worn simultaneously.

 

10. SUSPENDERS

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This is also optional. But the rule says Never wear a belt, even if hidden by a cummerbund. Instead, wear suspenders, preferably black, if you need to keep your trousers up.

 

11. WRIST WEARS

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By default, traditionally visible timepieces are not worn with a formal evening dress, because timekeeping is not supposed to be considered a priority. That’s why pocket watches are more appropriate. However times are changing, nowadays you can wear a nice authentic subtle chain wristwatch. You cannot wear a Rubber or Sports Wrist Watches to a black tie event.

ALSO READ: HOW TO DRESS TO A WEDDING | WEDDING GUEST ATTIRE

 

BLACK TIE EVENT FOR LADIES:

This is a night for you to look your most gorgeous, dress your best in your evening wear and come out to have fun! The choice of whether to over a dress or under dress in your formal attire should be a function of the nature of invitation itself. A simple get together party from 6pm to 8pm will require only a little black dress, while a more lavish affair to celebrate someone’s monumental achievement or an end of year party will require more. In simple terms, the greater the effort of the host, the greater the level of formality expected of you as a guest.

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GOWN: Wear a long formal gown or a shorter fancy cocktail dress that is black tie appropriate. The choice is based on what suits you, your legs and your age. Older women prefer long formal gowns while young ladies feel more suited to short gowns. The Colors to keep in mind for the gown: jewel tones, emerald, ruby, amethyst and, of course, black.

JEWELS: Bring out your best jewels, with plenty of sparklers (but tiaras are inappropriate). Sparkly earrings and bracelets are expected as well.

SHOES: Also wear high heels instead of flat heels.

BAG: Your handbag should complement your dressing. And there are specific types of handbag suitable for evening wear, see details below to choose from.

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Type of Bag
Description
Type of Bag
Description
BAGUETTE
A long, narrow shape of a loaf of French bread
ENVELOPE
Slim clutch, shaped like an envelope, often with pointed flap
CLUTCH
Lacks straps or handles, meant to be held
MINAUDIERE 
A hard case bag, either a clutch design or with a strap
CROSS-BODY
Features strap to be worn across the body
WRISTLET
A small bag with a strap to secure it to the wearer’s wrist

In conclusion, I will leave you with an Expert’s advice on Black Tie

“There should be nothing more exciting to the fashionable male than receiving an invitation that requests ‘Black Tie’ – take the opportunity to invest in a high quality tuxedo in an exacting fit that will last for years to come – shawl collar models in slim fit styles are very much on trend. If you are buying your first tuxedo, resist the urge to splash out on the velvet tux and opt for a virgin wool model with a small amount of elastin for stretch and comfort.

Black is of course the quintessential choice however a midnight blue is particularly versatile and you’ll be surprised how many outfits can be created with this color for other occasions. Finally, don’t dumb it down with a necktie, choose a brilliant white shirt with a semi-spread collar, complete with a bow-tie in the same fabric as the lapel, choose a shiny patent leather shoe and tuck that invitation into your jacket pocket with confidence.”

– Matthew Keighran, Managing Director, HUGO BOSS Australia

FINAL THOUGHTS

Have you ever attended a black-tie event before? What did you wear and what were other people wearing? Please feel free to drop your comments and contributions on the comment section below.
For general inquiries, brand promotions and collaborations regarding MR KOACHMAN, send me an email to mrkobi@kobikoachman.com. You can find us on different social media handles, see handles below. Feel free to join/follow us on any of the channels you frequently use as we continuously inspire you on how to dress well and live well.

Thank you so much for stopping by. Till you hear from me again, Continue to Do Well. Live Well and Dress Really Well. Be Stylish.

Yours in Style,

Kobi O. Mbagwu (Mr. Kobi)
Founder, MrKoachman.com
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Mr. Kobi

I am Mr. Kobi, a professional style consultant, menswear blogger & entrepreneur who uses fashion to change people’s lives. My personal goal is to help gentlemen dress better, live well, do well and develop a unique personal style that matches with their lifestyle and goals. I believe that success can be built through style. I believe that fashion is a tool that can be used to change people’s lives positively. I strongly believe that if you dress well, you look good, and if you look good, you feel good and when you feel good, you worry less, and the less you worry the more you are able to stay motivated and focused in your goals pursuit and by so doing you are able to live a more fulfilling and successful life.
  1. Hmmm, didn’t know “notch lapel jackets” aren’t allowed. Can one wear a leather wrist watch cos you just mentioned a chain wrist watch?

    • Hello Ugo, oh yes notch lapel is a no-no on a Tuxedo, they are more suitable for suits worn every day at office while the Shawl lapel is the most suitable for formal events such as weddings and black tie events even though a peak lapel can be worn. In summary, Peak collar tuxedo are the less formal than shawl and bit more formal than a notch lapel tuxedo. For wrist watch, a black leather wrist watch would do, but rubber/sports watch must be avoided at all cost. Please share this article with whomever you think would find it useful. Thanks.

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