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Black Tie, White Tie or Smart Casual?

Posted on 05 April 2019

Are black patent shoes required? Should I wear a necktie or bow tie? What exactly is the difference between a Black Tie event and a White Tie event and what is smart casual?
These are apparel-questions that most people just do not know an answer to.

My wife and I went out to dinner the other day, nothing fancy, but my wide insisted that I put on a dress shirt and jacket. We live in Palm Beach where at times, it gets very hot, so most people do not subscribe to the notion of a dress code and fancy their, should I say, more casual style. If you go to dinner around here, in most restaurants, people dine in T-Shirt and Flip Flops.   
So I get dressed in shirt and tie and when we arrived, I was the only person even wearing long pants. I do not feel out of place really, I like to wear a nice shirt and tie and the restaurants we frequent do not usually have a dress code besides the ‘No Shirt, No Shoes- No Service’ sign!



But what if you are invited to a Black Tie event, or a White Tie event? Do you know the rules? On a different occasion we were invited to a more exclusive event, the invitation stated ‘Black Tie Dresscode’.
For a Gentleman, that means to dress in a Black Tuxedo, for a Lady, it means to wear a long dress. But it is not so much the suit and the length of the dress, the real art is in the combination of colors, cuts and accessories to wear with the tuxedo.

A Black Tie event is a bit less formal than a White Tie event. If you watch a State Dinner on TV or go to an Opera or let’s say a royal Wedding, these occasions are mostly White Tie events in which a long tail Cut or Tuxedo Suit with white Tuxedo Vest and Bow Tie are a must.
A Black Tie event means that the event starts after 6pm and you must wear a Tuxedo, a regular black or dark suit will not suffice unless it clearly states ‘Black Tie optional’ or the less formal ‘Cocktail’ on the invitation. Women have it a little easier in this regard, a long Dress will be fine for both, White Tie and Black Tie events.

A Tuxedo must be worn with Patent Leather Shoes, so the general rule. However, as almost everything in fashion, rules change or are at least bent, because I have seen men wear Suede Leather Shoes with a Tuxedo at a Black Tie event, and the world is still turning.

Tuxedo with Silver Vest and Tie

If the invitation states “Cocktail” you can wear a dark Suit, it does not have to be a Tuxedo. If you wear a black suit, the shoes must be black as well. Brown Shoes are allowed only with a Blue Suit. Unless it states “Smart Casual” on the invitation, you must wear Socks.

But what happens if I simply ignore the Dress Code?

Well, if you choose to ignore it at a White Tie event, chances are that you might have to go home, certain establishments let you rent or borrow a suit, jacket or tie for the evening to bring you up to Code. If you arrive at a Cocktail party a bit more casual than expected, you may still be admitted.

The rules for women are a bit more relaxed. Usually a formal Long-Dress is sufficient for either event, it should not be too revealing in the leg and cleavage area. The Color should be chosen according to the event, a black dress is almost always a good idea. The only place where black is not the right choice of color is a wedding, a dark blue is the darkest color permissible.



Accessories should be carefully chosen and should fit the event, a watch should be classic and should never be a smart watch. By the way, at a White Tie event, men must not wear a watch.

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