Black tie’s numerous variations reflect its origin as informal dining attire and its later role as semi-formal cocktail attire. White tie, on the other hand, originated as the most formal type of civilian apparel and has retained that exclusivity for over two centuries. When it transitioned from formal evening dress to “special” evening dress after the Second World War, its definition became fixed. Fashion designers may attempt to alter the tailcoat’s features from time to time, but style and etiquette experts recognize that the fundamentals of full dress (as white tie is also known) are not open to interpretation.
The following definition is drawn from fifty authoritative American and British resources published over the past seventy years.
Optional hat; either black silk top hat or collapsible opera hat
Zac Posen with an evening cape – one of the proper overcoat options for white tie
Men fortunate enough to receive an invitation to a white-tie affair should use this definition only as a starting point. Considering that full dress is required solely for the most illustrious of social events and that its garments are not nearly as forgiving a dinner suit, it is important to be familiar with the component details in the White Tie section before purchasing or renting the required attire.
(Not So) Well Suited
How not to wear white tie, courtesy of George W. Bush: 1. The waistcoat should never extend below the bottom of the tailcoat. 2. The shirt collar must be a wing collar. 3. The trousers are to be worn at the waist, not slung down around the hips. 4. The shirt sleeve should how at least 3/4″ of cuff. (To be fair, Prince Philip is equally guilty of this particular gaffe.)
Defintion: What is White Tie? The bigger brother of Black Tie
Learn the basics about White Tie, what it means in comparison to Black Tie and what details and accessories you must pay attention to.