White tie dress code is a formal dress style and is considered the most formal evening dress code. It is typically reserved for very special occasions or extremely formal events such as weddings or ceremonies. People consider it proper because it reflects a unique protocol and culture that you can trace back throughout its history.
The white tie dress code has been in practice since the end of the 18th century. The attire represented more than just what someone was wearing on their body. It was an outward expression of who they were and how they behaved. This specific style of dress was reserved for special occasions and used to indicate social status and position in society.
Over time, however, the white tie dress code slowly became out of style, with more people opting for black tie attire that was a little less formal and allowed for more flexibility in dress standards.
What is White Tie Attire?
As we mentioned earlier, the white tie dress code had traditionally been defined as the most formal type of attire or dress code. While many people assume a black tie event is the most formal dress code, it’s actually white tie dress codes that require the most formal attire.
White tie requires specific features and dress codes for both men and women. One of the things to remember about white tie dress codes is that there is a minimal margin for flexibility in terms of what to wear.
It sometimes makes it difficult for guests attending a white tie event because they might not own all the proper clothing to match the white tie dress code requirements. In that case, we suggest that you go to your local tuxedo rental shop and ask for help to rent the right look.
What to Wear to a White Tie Wedding
While white tie weddings aren’t as common as they once were in the 18th and 19th centuries, It is worth mentioning that many people getting married today still require that their guests show up in white tie attire. The requirements of a white tie ensemble are different for both men and women, but the conditions generally lend an air of formality and elegance to the wedding event.
When a wedding host requests white-tie attire, they expect a certain regal ambiance. Guests should adhere to that same look.
White Tie Attire for Men
A man attending a white tie wedding should wear the following:
- An evening coat, usually with tails. Some men wear a white dinner jacket, although a black tail coat works as well.
- A white piqué wing-collar shirt with Marcella cotton front (other white-collar shirts might work, but this is the traditional look). This is a white dress shirt that has the smaller collar points to sit above a bow tie.
- Single cuffs with cufflinks – This aspect is a must. You should avoid a shirt with buttons on the sleeves.
- Trousers that match the coat – White tie trousers often have a satin stripe down each pant leg and low hems on the outside of the legs with no turn-ups or breaks above the shoes. You could also go without the single stripe for a more modern look.
- Patent leather black shoes with matching black laces.
- A white bow tie – Wearing white tie literally includes a white tie. Bow ties are the norm for these formal occasions.
White gloves are also an option for men, but they are not here to protect your hands from cold weather as you might think. Instead, you can use them as an accessory that helps to complete the white tie look.
According to traditional fashion rules for a white tie dress code, a man should complete the look with a white bow tie. However, modern fashion has dictated that men can add a little color to their outfits by exchanging the plain white for one that contains a splash of color or even a patterned bow tie.
While we recognize that this is becoming more acceptable, we prefer the traditional approach of a white bow tie. Make sure that you choose a bow tie that is not pre-tied. You can also add in a white pocket square. Other common accessories include a pocket watch or even a top hat if it suits the formal wear and the occasion.
White Tie Attire for Women
For ladies, there are a few options here as well. Traditionally, women attending white tie events like weddings or other formal events like state dinners or debutante balls should wear a long floor-length gown from a high-end fashion house made from elegant fabrics.
The goal of a formal evening gown is to accentuate the elegance and grandeur of the woman, matching the ambiance of the event.
As for accessories, it is good to wear simple earrings instead of anything long as it would make the whole outfit too busy. Too much might distract from your beauty rather than enhance it, and at a white tie event, the women are the stars of the show. A full evening dress typically doesn’t need too many accessories.
While we don’t like flashy accessories, we want flattering jewelry such as necklaces that match the woman’s gown and overall look. You could also include accessories such as white full-length gloves.
As for shoes, they should be simple but with closed toes and heels. In addition, you should not wear them in any other color than white or silver. We would also recommend avoiding wearing them with anything else but a white or skin-colored hose under the full dress.
White Tie vs. Black Tie
White tie is considered the most formal option of dress code. At the very least, it requires a tuxedo, white shirt with white piqué wing collar, and bow tie.
On the other hand, black-tie attire is slightly less formal than white tie, and it doesn’t require anything too spectacular. For example, as a man, you could wear a standard tuxedo or a regular dark suit and a nice dress shirt along with the classic black bow tie. A woman, on the other hand, could wear an evening dress and some simple accessories.
If an invitation says “black tie preferred,” it means the event is sort of formal, and guests are encouraged to wear a tuxedo or at least a dark suit. However, in this case, guests are not required to adhere to the black-tie standards.
If it states “black tie only,” we recommend that you find your best and fanciest black suit and tie and wear it to the event since this is a requirement.
If the wedding invitation says to wear white tie, get your full dress white tie outfits ready. You may need to rent a tux that includes white tie trousers, a waist coat with tails, and other elements that aren’t included in your standard tux.
Finally, suppose the invitation says “cocktail attire” or “dressy casual.” In that case, you can wear almost anything to the event that is “dressy,” including a nice dark suit and dress shirt and good-quality black leather shoes (not sneakers). Women can choose between elegant dresses or cocktail ones.
What Not to Wear to a White Tie Event
The white tie dress code demands that you avoid certain types of dress. Such a formal event requires that you wear white tie evening wear with few exceptions.
For example, you shouldn’t wear anything below:
- Athletic apparel and sneakers: No matter how expensive they are, these won’t fly at a wedding where everybody else will be dressed to match the event’s elegance.
- Jeans and t-shirts: Even high-end jeans, which might pass at a classy birthday party or high-class function, won’t do here. Remember, t-shirts will never work at a white tie event.
- Sports jacket: A sports jacket is not appropriate attire for a white tie event. You should also avoid other types of jackets such as blazers or dinner jackets. Instead, you should wear a coat with tails that match your trousers.
- Big or gaudy jewelry: If your ring or bracelet is so big that other guests can see it from the other end of the room, don’t wear it to a white tie event. No matter if we’re talking about earrings, necklaces, or even your watch, try not to overdo things and play it safe. Remember that you do not want to outshine the bride or groom at white tie events, especially weddings.
- Trousers that aren’t up to par with the rest of the outfit or don’t match: Your pants should always fit well and break on the top of your shoes. Your shoes also need to match the rest of the look (usually black).
- Shorts and short trousers: No matter what event you’re going to, wearing shorts is never appropriate at a white tie event. If others can see any part of your leg above your ankle, you’re not dressed appropriately.
- A suit without a coat: You will still need to wear the appropriate attire since it’s called a tuxedo suit. A suit with only pants won’t do for white tie occasions no matter how classy your look is, so make sure your suit comes with a matching coat, preferably with tails that go down to your knees.
- A short dress: Women should wear a formal dress that goes all the way to the floor.
Keep this list in mind when planning your white tie outfit. These outfits might get you sent away from the event.
The modern definition of white tie dress code doesn’t have anything to do with the color of your clothes.
However, you should be aware of its specifics the next time you’re invited to a white tie event and ask yourself, “what is white tie dress code?” If you’re not familiar with it, white tie can be pretty hard to pull off for a few reasons.
First of all, it’s still pretty rare unless you go to some formal occasion like opera or ballet performance, so there can be confusion surrounding what dress precisely fits the white tie requirements.
Secondly, people usually wear something they’re comfortable in, which means that if everyone else opts for a casual outfit, yours will look out of place. Still, don’t worry.
Even though many more things come into play (tie or bow tie material and color, shirt style), white tie is not too hard to pull off as long as you pay attention to details and remember to follow our guidelines.
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