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Black Tie Dressing

Dressing For The Occasion: Black Tie

IntroductionTuxedo, dinner suit, black tie, cravat noir… 

Call it what you will, this formal code of dress is probably the smartest ensemble most modern men are expected to don during their sartorial career.With a lack of regular occasions to wear black tie nowadays, many younger gents may be unfamiliar with the art of effectively executing the look.In the United Kingdom, the tailored component of a black tie ensemble is known as a dinner suit. 

The name is self-explanatory; it was your uniform at the dinner table, and evolved as a more casual alternative to white tie (tailcoats and all).Black tie was exclusively an evening dress code, and remains so. Six o’clock or when darkness fell (whichever occurred first) was your cue to don your dinner suit.

We’re all familiar with the look of a tuxedo (US vernacular) from black and white films, but how do you put this look together and what are the finer details of its component parts?With party season upon us, we examine how today’s gent can approach this distinct area of formal wear, and how this traditional form of dress has evolved to cement its place in the menswear wardrobe of today…

The Jacket
The first item to begin with is the jacket. This should be made from pure wool and is traditionally jet-black. Midnight blue also looks rather fetching and is ideal for gents who are more inclined to make a statement; this tone appears ‘blacker than black’ under artificial light, and was particularly favoured by the always dapper Duke of Windsor in the thirties.

Bow Ties: Key Styles
For black tie, as the name suggests, your bow tie should be jet-black. Barathea silk, previously discussed in the jackets section, was also used for bow ties before shiny silks took over, and this matte-finish material will lend a more traditional, sharper finish to your ensemble.
Readily available from specialist formal wear brands, they cost a little more than standard silk bow ties, but are worth the extra pennies. For a super-louche alternative, velvet bow ties are also an option – just make sure if you take this route that your blazer isn’t velvet as well, otherwise you run the risk of looking like a 1970s game show host.
Some great brands to try for bow ties include Hilditch and Key, Drakes, Marwood London, Ralph Lauren, Austin Reed, Duchamp and Darcy Clothing:
  • AUSTIN REED BLACK SELF TIE SILK BOW TIEAustin Reed Black Self Tie Silk Bow Tie
  • RALPH LAUREN SILK SATIN BOW TIERalph Lauren Silk Satin Bow Tie
  • THOMAS PINK SKINNY SELF TIE BOW TIEThomas Pink Skinny Self Tie Bow Tie
  • BLACK SATIN SELF-TIE BOW TIEBlack Satin Self-tie Bow Tie
  • THOMAS PINK MARCELLA SELF TIE BOW TIEThomas Pink Marcella Self Tie Bow Tie
  • SIZED SELF TIE BLACK SILK BOW TIES CR535BSized Self Tie Black Silk Bow Ties Cr535b
Modern Lookbook Inspiration

Traditional Black Tie
Here we have curated a selection of traditional black tie ensembles, consisting of a dinner suit, white shirt and bow tie. These would all be appropriate for the majority of black tie events:
Unconventional/Contemporary Black Tie
Below you will find some more contemporary or unconventional takes on black tie. Whether it is through choice of dinner suit colour, shoe style, detailing, shirt type or even the removal of the bow tie, designers are continuing to push boundaries and trying to rewrite the rules of this previously strict dress code.
It should be said that purists will look upon the majority of these outfits with contempt and they are NOT suitable for true formal events – it is up to you to adjust to the scenario and occasion.
However, as you will see in part two of this guide, there is often no need to try so hard – concentrating on quality, fit and your finishing touches will ensure you effortlessly stand out from the crowd:

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