White Tie DOs and DON’Ts

White Tie Guide

Tailored to fit, “white tie” can give any man a special dignity and distinction as do no other clothes.

Complete Book of Etiquette

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All you need to know about the most formal dress code: white tie. At the MET Gala Ball, people were wearing all sorts of things even though the dress code was clear: white tie. Therefore, we decided to create a helpful guide that ensures you look your best when you wear the most formal of all menswear outfits.

White tie tailcoat ensemble

White tie tailcoat ensemble

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 that you can see a bit of the sheer silk socks.

Opera pumps also known as court shoes

Opera pumps also known as court shoes

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 – Wear a White Marcella Cotton Bow 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. White tie means you should wear a white Marcella cotton bow tie in your neck size because you do not want to have an adjuster show on your collar. For a selection of quality white tie bow ties, take a look here.

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

Sarah Jessica Parker in Oscar de la Renta gown - she insisted on the branding

Sarah Jessica Parker in Oscar de la Renta gown – she insisted on the branding

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.

evening waistcoat

evening waistcoat

 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!

Sven Raphael Schneider in White Tie

Sven Raphael Schneider in White Tie

What To Wear – Better White Tie Examples

Now let’s focus on the better outfits at the MET Gala Ball 2014.

0. Wear a quality White Tie bow tie.

In our shop, we offer white tie bow ties in your neck size so you look your best. Furthermore, we have a small version as well as a larger version depending on your taste and head size. Last but not least we offer the extremely rare single end bow tie for a particularly dapper look. Of course all of our bow ties are self-tie bow ties, and we offer videos that show how to properly tie a them.  (How To Tie a Bow Tie for BeginnersAdvanced Ways to Tie a Bow Tie & Single End Bow Tie Tutorial)

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.

Bradley Cooper at the Met Gala Ball 2014 in Tom Ford white tie ensemble. 2 stud front, single cuffs, trousers too tight, not the watch chain

Bradley Cooper at the Met Gala Ball 2014 in Tom Ford white tie ensemble. 2 stud front, single cuffs, trousers too tight, great  watch chain

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.

Eddie Redmayne in white tie - trousers a bit short, waitscoat too long, wristwatch but no cuffs

Eddie Redmayne in white tie – trousers a bit short, waistcoat toot long, wristwatch but no cuffs


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.


8. Wear Over The Calf Silk Socks in Black

As a white tie gala is very formal it is essential to keep your legs covered at all times. The only way to ensure that is to wear over the calf socks in black that match your trousers. Now, cotton or wool won’t make it because they are more appropriate for daywear. Instead, go with a pair of silk over the calf socks. Just like any good pairs of socks, these do not come in one size fits it all, but rather in fixed sock sizes. You can find the absolute finest socks for a white tie ensemble here (no worries, you can also wear them for black tie so it’s a good investment). 


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White Tie DO's & DON'Ts
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White Tie DO's & DON'Ts
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Learn all about White Tie DO's & DON'Ts richly illustrated by pictures from the MET Gala Ball 2014, which had a white tie dress code.
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Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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