The other day, the creme de la creme of public life in the U.S. was assembled at the MET Gala Ball in New York. Anna Wintour, the icon of vogue, had set the dress code to white tie, which means long formal evening dresses for the ladies and tailcoat, patent leather footwear, starched shirt and waistcoat, wing collar and white bow tie for gentlemen. First of all, I have to applaud Ms. Wintour for instigating the most formal dress code for men, because it is a step in the right direction as white tie is the counterpart of a long evening gown. To say it with the words of my friend James Andrew:”I am thrilled to see that the – ANTE- has been upped and hope that this is just the beginning”. However, as you can imagine, not many men in the U.S. own a white tie ensemble, let alone know what it is. At the same time, if you attend an event like that, it doesn’t seem too much to ask people to perform a google search for white tie dress code. Many men were not dressed appropriately, and so the question arises if they don’t know better, if they just don’t care or maybe both because certainly the lack of funds is a non-issue in most cases. Today, I would like to discuss some of the white tie outfits at the MET and outline What to Wear & What Not to Wear when the dress code is white tie. Hopefully, some men will learn from it so they show up in better white tie outfits next year.
What Not To Wear to a White Tie Event
1. Do Not Wear Slippers
Valentino wears slippers with bows, which is wrong. On the other hand, Pumps with a round cut out would be appropriate, so you can see a bit of the sheer silk socks.
2. Do Not Wear Boutonnieres that are Obviously Fake
For a white tie event, a white or red carnation are very traditional, a rose can work as well but try to get a fresh flower, if that’s not feasible, take a look at the authentic looking boutonnieres by Fort Belvedere, but never get these obvious fakes made of leather or patterned fabric.
3. Do Not Wear a Neck Tie
No matter what color, do never wear a regular necktie to a White tie event – Edward Norton, does not know that – you can do better.
4. Do Not Wear a Regular Suit
Never wear just a regular suit, but a tailcoat and you will already by ahead of Seth Myers in his navy suit.
5. Do Not Wear a White or Off White Dinner Jacket
White or off-white dinner jackets are not appropriate for white tie events.
6. Do Not Wear a Regular Tuxedo
In the U.S. many people have no concept of formal wear and call anything a tuxedo that is not a suit, no matter if it is a morning coat, an evening tailcoat or a black tie tuxedo. Of course, you know better and you should also know that a regular tuxedo should never be worn for white tie events. And if that’s the only option you have, either wear a waistcoat or cummerbund. Never expose your waistband and never wear belts with evening wear.
7. Do Not Wear Spats with Evening Wear
Spats are reserved for formal morning wear with a stroller suit or a morning coat. Johnny Depp, wanted to stand out and added white gloves and a cane to this outfit along with a pocket watch chain. That’s fine but the fact that he wears spats shows that he has no clue about proper evening dress etiquette. Check out this article about spats to learn more.
8. Do Not Wear Black Shirts
Jake Gyllenhaal’s outfit is inappropriate for various reasons but the one thing I want you to always remember here is never to wear a black shirt for formal evening events. It’s simply wrong and looks terrible.
9. Do Not Wear a Designer’s Name Visibly on Your Gown or Clothing
Visible labels or the designer’s name are tacky if you display them on your clothes. You should not wear them, especially not at a white tie event. Honestly, I would have expected more from Sarah Jessica Parker but here a quote:“Did you see his name on the back?” Parker asked, twirling around so we could see the designer’s signature in red script across the gown’s tail. “I said to Mr. De la Renta, please let me use scarlet embroidery thread, and splash your name across the back. It was my idea. He would never in a million years have done it, he’s far too modest.”
10. Do Not Wear Wristwatches & White Soles
At one point in time, it would have been impolite to look at your watch in society. Later, pocket watches became acceptable with white tie, but wrist watches have always been wrong with white tie. That aside, white shoes or soles are inappropriate with white tie.
11. Do Not Wear a Studless Shirt & Don’t Skip the Bow Tie
A white tie shirt should show one to three studs, not more. Also, wear a white or off white bow tie in silk or cotton pique.
12. Do Not Wear a Morning Coat
A morning coat is only appropriate for formal daywear, not evening wear. Obviously, Marc Jacobs does not know that. To learn all about this garment and the etiquette, take a look at the Morning Dress Guide.
13. Do Not Wear a Cummerbund
Cummerbunds are appropriate to wear with a tuxedo for a black tie event, but not for a tailcoat ensemble with a tailcoat. Obviously, the cummerbund is the least these two gentlemen have to worry about…
14. Do Not Wear Notched Lapels
Notched lapels are too informal for a white tie event. Always make sure that your tailcoat has peaked lapels.
15. Do Not Wear A Dinner Jacket
The gentleman on the right wears a dinner jacket, which is wrong for a white tie event.
16. Do Not Show Any Shirt or Waistcoat Tabs
Overall, Tommy Hilfiger’s outfit is among the better ones. The lapels are smaller and proportional to his height, the waistcoat is nice but the details I want to point out is tabs. Unlike regular soft day shirts, white tie shirts have a starched shirt front, the so called bib. In order to prevent the shirt front from bulging up when you sit, it is connected to the trousers with a tab. The same is true for the waistcoat. Tommy Hilfiger obviously forgot about this tab, which is why it is showing. Do not show your shirt or waistcoat tab, instead, button it to the inside button of your trousers.
17. Do Not Wear Waistcoats That Are Too Long
Probably the most common mistake among men who wear white tie for the first time is the fact that the waistcoat is too long. The reason for this phenomenon is probably the low rise of pants. While it is true that the waistcoat should always cover your waistband, the vest length and rise have to harmonize in the sense, that the trousers have to be cut high, and the waistcoat short, so the vest does not peek out from underneath the tailcoat. Also, you should not wear a belt with a vest, because it makes you look bigger and creates a gap between the vest and trousers. Now, last but not least I want to say that it is always easy to criticize but actually doing it better is the difficult part. As such, I would like to show you a picture of my personal white tie ensemble – as you can see, I preach wine, and I drink it too ;). Now, please share your white tie pictures with us, by sending them to me by email!
What To Wear – Better White Tie Examples
Now let’s focus on the better outfits at the MET Gala Ball 2014.
1. Do Wear a Pocket Watch
Bradley Cooper is wearing a Tom Ford ensemble that suits him well. He looks much better than the majority of the other men at the event. He only has a few things that could be improved. His shirt studs should not be plain black, that’s usually only appropriate for black tie. Also, his trousers are a bit tight indicated by all the wrinkles. He does a good job of wearing the right waistcoat and a watch chain. If all men would dress at his standard, the event would be fabulous.
2. Do Show Some Cuff
You definitely want to show some shirt cuff. Most men prefer between 0.25″ – 0.5″ appropriate, but even a little more can work for white tie, because generally the collar is higher and so you should also show a bit more cuff to keep it balanced. Eddie Redmayne is not showing any cuff and it looks noticeably worse than the outfit of Bradley Cooper above.
3. Wear a Beautiful Boutonniere, Gloves & Top Hat
Accessories are very important for white tie. white, fine hair sheep leather gloves, a silk top hat, a pocket watch and a boutonniere are great way to upgrade your look. Tom Ford wears a beautiful set of diamond studs and matching waistcoat buttons. Proper evening waistcoats are tailored to be worn with exchangeable buttons. If you invest in a set in gold, and something white, you’ll never need anything else, and you can wear it forever.
4. Wear It With Confidence
A white tie ensemble needs to be worn with confidence and if you pay attention to what I said here, you have no reason not to be confident when you wear your white tie ensemble. There is truly no other garment for men that makes you look as elegant as a tailcoat with white tie.
5. Wear an Evening Overcoat
For white, a regular overcoat won’t do. A black Paletot may be good for double duty, but ideally you have a designated evening overcoat. I have one that is completely silk lined with button fly and peaked silk faced lapels, alternatively you can wear a cape like in the picture below.
6. Wear an Evening Waistcoat
Most places don’t sell you evening waistcoats but regular waistcoats in white. The difference is that evening waistcoats are cut out deeper so you can see the shirt front with the studs better.
7. Wear Patent Leather Shoes
Either go with patent leather opera pumps, with a bow (not slippers), or go with plain patent leather oxfords or derby shoes. These are the only appropriate footwear options for white tie.