What to wear to a black-tie event

3rd December 2014
Katie Kwok

At this time of year, social lives tend to take off. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas and the New Year, for many businesses there’s a holiday to celebrate at the end of a long, tough year.
Be prepared for invitations to come through your letterbox. If you see the words ‘black tie’ on there, be in no doubt that you’ll be expected to turn up in a dinner jacket. In fact, you should wear a formal black tie or simply send your regrets, rather than be seen as rude.

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Black tie requested
Occasionally, of course, you might see the words ‘black tie preferred’, ‘black tie requested’ or ‘black tie optional’ on the invite. Your host is copping out here. If the majority decide to wear dark business suits, those who have bothered to dress in a tuxedo will feel awkward. In these situations, it’s best to listen to Frank Sinatra: “If a man enjoys any opportunity to wear his tuxedo, he should do so”.

Then of course, we have the joker in the pack: ‘creative black tie’. Don’t panic. Simply restrict your creativity to items such as your tie, cufflinks, shirt, waistcoat or cummerbund.

No rented dinner jackets
Once you’ve established you’ll be wearing a tuxedo, you’ll need to make sure you look great in it. That means no renting – invest in a quality, classic tuxedo that will never go out of style. If you’re heavier set, stick to dark shades to look sophisticated. You should choose white only in tropical climates.

Single-breasted tuxedos are slimming – go for one or two buttons and a peak lapel. If you opt for a double-breasted dinner jacket, keep it buttoned up. A plain white pocket square in your breast pocket is always a good move.

Black tie dos and don’ts

  1. Match your dinner jacket lapels to the braiding on your trousers.
  2. Choose wool barathea or mohair for your dinner jacket fabric.
  3. Avoid vents in your dinner jacket.
  4. Your shirt should always have a turn-down collar.
  5. Trousers should have plain hemmed bottoms without turn-ups.