Black Tie Dinner: The Definition And History Of The Black Tie Dress Code for Men

Jul 25 09:49 2013 Tiecoon Print This Article

When an invitation for a wedding or a holiday party proclaims a black tie dress code, everyone knows that top-notch formality is in order. White tie, requiring tailed tuxedos, is the only more formal designation in existence, and is relatively rarely used. Just what does this dress code required, and how did black ties come to symbolize the second-highest level of formality?

History of the Black Tie Dress Code

The Black Tie Guide’s detailed history of men’s formal fashion traces the origins of the black tie dress code back to Victorian Britain. Since Britain led the world in many respects,Guest Posting including fashion, at that point in history, America was eager to follow the trends being set across the pond. Adhering to a separate, formal dress code for evening activities, including dinners, dates back much further, but the most recent recognizable precedent for the current “black tie” and “white tie” designations can be found in the late 1800s. Societal expectations of men’s formalwear had changed frequently up to that point, but the idea that gentlemen should adhere to an agreed upon formal dress code remained consistent. Donning evening wear prepared men not only to appear polished at dinner, but at any social event that may have followed, such as a trip to the opera.

Gradually, comfort had become a slightly greater priority in men’s dress, and in the 1860s, the dinner jacket began to gain acceptance in more casual evening situations. This tailless jacket would later be dubbed the tuxedo in America, derived from the New York city in which the garment made its debut. Wary of this less formal alternative to tails, the tuxedo was designated as the informal alternative to the formal tailed jacket. Thus, the two levels of formal dress, now known as black tie and white tie, were born.

Of course, fashion went through many phases, and by WWI, the tuxedo was generally accepted at almost all formal evening events, no longer deemed informal. As dress became more and more casual, the tuxedo was not expected outside of special occasions. The tuxedo and the accompanying black accessories had become reserved for formal occasions, much as it is seen today.

Definition of Black Tie

Since the phrase “black tie” has been used for over a century, the exact meaning of the phrase has evolved, and it still may mean slightly different things in different geographical areas or social circles. However, there are some elements that most experts still seem agreed upon. One of those elements is that the dress code should generally be reserved for evening events taking place after 6:00 p.m.

The terminology could be a little misleading, because a black tie dress code implies much more than simply donning a black neck tie. In fact, etiquette expert Emily Post clarifies that the appropriate black neckwear for a black tie event is technically a black bowtie. She even specifies that said black bowtie should be either twill, shiny satin, or silk. The Black Tie Guide, however, indicates that a black long tie is also acceptable. In addition to their black neck wear, guests are also expected to don the following attire: A black tuxedo, white dress shirt, black dress socks and shoes, and a black vest or cummerbund. Some sources indicate that a midnight blue tuxedo may also fit the dress code. Accessories such as cuff links should also be black or dark in color.

Strict adherents to dress code traditions express even more detailed expectations, such as the fabric and cut of the tuxedo, the material of the shoes, and the style of cuffs, but the basic requirements have been captured. According to Emily Post, some variants on the dress code include the summer variation, where a white coat may be substituted; creative black tie, where some liberty may be taken with shirt or bowtie and cummerbund color; and black tie optional, where a dark suit and subtle tie, such as a navy blue or dark gray tie, may be substituted for a tuxedo. Etiquette experts agree that if a host specifically includes a black tie denotation on an invitation, guests are obliged to either acquiesce to the dress standard or decline the invitation. Be a gentleman and put on a black tie and all that goes with it.

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