Posts Tagged 'black tie'

Black Tie: A Coat of Many Colours?

Last week, we discussed some of the conventions associated with wearing Black Tie, following the start of the awards season. There is so much to say about this dress code that we thought we should pursue it further. This week, how to introduce colour successfully into what some perceive as a boring colour system, and how to tie a proper bow tie.

The white dress shirt should preferably have a turndown collar (as opposed to winged). Wing collars are the preserve of White Tie, which is the highest form of formal dress. Although, it is usual to find gentlemen in Black Tie sporting wing collars. Interestingly, John Robertson, fellow tutor at The English Manner, notes that:

bowtie“[He has] seen the black dinner suit with the wing collar and the black tie worn SO successfully that [he] would be the last person in the world to say it is incorrect. It comes down to confidence and flair. Especially amongst the younger set, I say go for it, just so long as you do it with style. As long as you are breaking the rules anyway, best to go all the way. Not only does this look require that you tie your own tie, to avoid any display of adjusting hardware as well, wear a single ended bow tie (the favourite of The Prince of Wales) or a properly sized butterfly (that matches your collar size).”

Introducing colour into the black and white colour scheme of the garments can be dangerous. Yet, like with the wing collars, if you know the rules you can break then with panache and élan. There was once an occasion where a gentleman attended a Black Tie dinner wearing:  a white business shirt, blue blazer, dark bottle green trousers and a bow tie. No one noticed that he wasn’t wearing a ‘proper’ dinner jacket, as the bow tie gave the over-riding impression.

It is probably fair to say that most of the male population would opt for a ready-tied bow tie over a DIY one. Whilst there are benefits with the former, nothing can look better than a ‘proper’ one, as the ready-tied variety do not look nearly as good and can be very obvious to the trained eye.

You can find instructions on how to correctly tie here:

However we would advise a trip to a gentlemen’s’ outfitters to learn how to tie a bow tie, rather than just relying on the web. Shops such as Gieves & Hawkes, T. M. Lewin, or Thomas Pink – all of which are accessible outside of London.

It is never good manners to question the authenticity of someone’s bow tie: especially by pulling it to see if it comes apart! It may be a good idea to carry in your pocket a ready-tied tie, in case your attempt at having a go yourself fails.

Cummerbunds are worn with pleats pointing upwards and are worn in the spot around the waist where a conventional belt would be worn. Belts themselves are not normally worn with Black Tie: opt for braces if you feel a cummerbund is not for you.  A cummerbund bridges the gap between the waist edge of the trousers and the beginning of the pleated or pique fronted shirt.

Other accessories you can add include evening studs: a lot of proper dress shirts do not have the front four buttons, but have holes for formal dress studs. Studs are often given as 18th or 21st birthday presents and can last a lifetime. For dress shirts with double cuffs, cufflinks are required. Please note that all ‘jewellery’ (or accessories) should compliment what you are wearing and each other. For example, if your studs are black with silver edging, your cufflinks should ideally be silver, too.

Another point to note is that in America, it is referred to as ‘Tuxedo’ (see last week’s post as to why), whereas Brits will call it ‘Black Tie’ or ‘Dinner Jacket’: the latter is never written on invitations, only the former. In France, the notation “Jacquet” on an invitation denotes Black Tie.

What do you think? Do you dare break the colour rules? Have you found any better instructions on how to tie your bow tie? Let us know by commenting on this post.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner


Red Carpet: Black Tie?

We’ve barely got over Christmas: the last mince pie has been eaten and that stubborn piece of Christmas cake that no one chose to eat up has been thrown away. Now we are faced with endless acceptance speeches, glittering gongs and ticker tape as the awards season is here once more. It seems that everything and everyone has to have an award ceremony nowadays.

Whilst many of us will be slaving away in the coalface that is work, there are those select few, who some may envy, that are living the high-life on the red carpet. Traditional award ceremonies call for the most common of formal dress codes, Black Tie. But where does this dress code come from? What is it supposed to look like? It seems many of our celebrities don’t know either, or have chosen deliberately to flaunt it.

Keeley Hawes and husband Matthew Macfadyen at this year's BAFTAs

Keeley Hawes and husband Matthew Macfadyen at this year's BAFTAs

Black Tie was the creation of celebrated dandy Griswold Lorillard, who wore a mutated and deliberately altered version of White Tie to New York’s Tuxedo Park Club in 1886. At first, sartorial traditionalists were shocked with both the change and the audacity of the man. Lorillard, whose father owned the club – so there was no danger of being thrown out – wore a much shorter jacket than the required tailcoat. He also wore the white piqué shirt, which was worn with correct White Tie, and black trousers.

In England, the then Prince of Wales, Edward, had introduced a similarly short jacket for him and his courtiers, which they dubbed a “Cowes jacket”, which they wore to the annual boating festival.

Fashionistas, at first shocked by the new form, soon began to warm to the new design and the new dress code caught on, soon evolving into how we wear it today.

Black Tie, when worn correctly, is not to be taken literally: it does not mean wearing a black tie – one is not going to a funeral. The tie is a black bow tie, and, where possible, should be self-tied. A white dress shirt (preferably piqué) with turndown collar can be fastened with evening studs. A black dinner jacket and tapered trousers are also part of the dress code. Black patent leather evening shoes are optional, although preferred.

Black Tie is more diverse than some imagine. It can be dressed up or down. For example, if attending a private dinner at home, one could select a soft silk shirt with properly tied bow tie, if going to a subscription dinner – a pleated shirt.

Ladies don’t have it quite so easy when it comes to dressing up for a Black Tie event, although like their male counterparts, they can dress up or down, from little black dress with pearls for a formal business function, to something far more glamorous with ‘important’ jewellery for that award ceremony. However, the reason men wear black and white is so that it acts as a blank canvas for their partners to wear whatever colour they so wish (within reason, of course). Floor length dresses can be worn for more formal black tie events; otherwise cocktail length or luxurious evening trousers are perfect.  If attending a white tie event, then long dresses for ladies are de rigueur, together with tiaras and gloves. Earrings can be more flamboyant for evening events, dangling sparkles only at night, and always smaller and discreet – perhaps the ubiquitous pearls – for day wear.

There is so much to say on the humble Black Tie (including how one actually ties it) that next week we will discuss this dress code further.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

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