The Queen of Formality: White Tie Affair
White tie functions are much less common and they are typically associated with Presidential dinners, exclusive high society galas, and royal affairs. While the slightly less formal black tie dress code requires men to wear a tuxedo, white tie affairs command a tailcoat jacket for men and a floor length ball-gown for women. If you are lucky enough to be invited to such an event then this guide will help you dress appropriately for the occasion.
The Tailcoat Jacket
While a black suit might be an acceptable alternative to the tuxedo when dressing for a black tie event, there is no jacket substitute when dressing for a white tie affair. The jacket must be a black or midnight blue tailcoat jacket that is precisely tailored to hug the upper body, and should show one half to three quarters of an inch of shirt’s collar and cuffs. The front of the coat should reach just below the waistline and the tails on the back should fall slightly over the knees. The lapel style is peaked and is either made from fine satin or grosgrain. The classic tailcoat jacket has six buttons on the front (in keystone pattern), and two buttons on the back right on top of the tails. The buttons are covered in the same fabric as the jacket.
Full Length Trousers
The white-tie trousers are quite similar to the ones worn for black tie functions. Trousers worn with tailcoat for white tie affairs are made from the exact same fabric as the jacket, have no cuffs, and are pleated. In addition either two narrow, or one wider stripe of satin or grosgrain decorate the outer seam.
Waistcoat not Cummerbund
While black tie allows for either waistcoat or cummerbund, white tie does not allow for such flexibility. A white waistcoat made from fine pique cotton is the only choice but there is the option of either single breasted or double breasted cut. The waistcoat must not extend below the tailcoat jacket. It should fit snug around the torso without causing discomfort. The white tie dress code has a lapel style known as “oblong revers”. In addition, most white tie waistcoats have two welt pockets on each side. Traditionally these pockets were used to store a pocket watch.
Wing Tip Collared Dress Shirt
The dress shirt worn for white tie functions is solid white in color and has a detachable wing-tip collar. Typically this formal dress shirt is made from stiff linen, plain cotton, or pique bosom. The cuffs are single cuffs that are fastened with cufflinks. The front of the shirt is closed with two or three studs that match the cufflinks.
The White Bow Tie
No other neckwear is acceptable besides the white bow tie. Typically the bow tie is made from pique and matches the waistcoat. Most common is the classic butterfly bow tie but the pointier batwing style is, although less common, equally acceptable. While black tie may tolerate a pre-tied bow tie, the bow tie worn for white tie functions must be self tied. For more information on tying bow ties you may also want to view our guide on How to Tie a Bow Tie.
White Tie Accessories
Shoes worn for white tie functions must be made from shiny patent leather and are either pumps or lace-up oxfords. Other optional accessories are a white boutonniere, a white handkerchief, a pocket watch, suspenders (special trousers are needed when wearing suspenders), white buckskin gloves, a Chesterfield overcoat (worn as outerwear in colder climates), and a black silk top-hat or collapsible opera hat.