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Black-Tie Attire

A classic black wool tuxedo

Simply put, the black-tie dress code encompasses a variation on the tuxedo. As one of the most longstanding of formal dress codes, black-tie attire can be expressed in one of three main ways: full tuxedo, black-tie optional, or creative black-tie.

Off-white double-breasted tuxedo with black bow tie & belt.

The Full Tuxedo

At a Glance: Tuxedo, shirt, velvet loafers, & bow tie.

A classic black tuxedo with velvet slip-ons.

An enduring classic that takes the guesswork out of putting together an outfit for a black-tie event, the full black tuxedo comes with over a century of established guidelines that arguably make it the most refined of all dress codes.

White tuxedo shirt with cufflinks and black tuxedo trousers with silk side seam.
Black tuxedo pants and velvet slip-ons.

What Kind of Suit You Need

Typically crafted from pure or blended wool, tuxedo jackets will come in your choice of a peak or shawl lapel, and feature refined details like silk-trimmed pockets and a silk-lined lapels. Tuxedo trousers will never carry belt loops, opting instead for interior suspender buttons and side adjusters for fastening, and a silk-lined out seam for added detail.

The Shirt

A full tuxedo should always be completed with a white shirt, which can be found in a variety of tuxedo-friendly styles, like plain, textured or pleated bib-fronts, or hidden plackets, and typically with French cuffs. Don’t forget to add a black silk bow tie!

The Shoes

To finish the look, add some black socks and step into a pair of polished, Oxford-style patent leather lace-up shoes, or lose the socks and opt for velvet loafers.

The Accessories

The full tuxedo can be touched up with a white pocket square and a pair of cufflinks, which are a great way to infuse a subtle touch of personality.

Black-Tie Optional

At a Glance: Formal suit, dress shirt, leather shoes, & tie.

Black & white 3-piece suit with micro houndstooth check.

As the name suggests, a “black-tie optional” event is one in which wearing black-tie attire is not required, but formal attire is.

3-piece houndstooth check and knitted grey tie

What Kind of Suit You Need

Start with a single-breasted, double-breasted, or 3-piece suit. You’ll want to stick to classic colors like black, charcoal, and dark grey; midnight blue or navy are also excellent choices. While solid colors are preferable, discreet patterns like a thin windowpane or a micro houndstooth check are certainly acceptable.

The Shirt

A white shirt is a must, as colored shirts—even a very pale pastel blue, for example—will be much too informal. Avoid patterns in your shirt, and, when possible, opt for a French cuff (though a barrel cuff is still ok in a pinch).

The Shoes & Accessories

Bring it all together with a pair of leather Oxfords, loafers, or Derbies and a classic silk or knitted tie. Be sure to avoid wearing an actual bow tie with this ensemble, as it may give the impression that you can’t distinguish between a tuxedo and a formal suit.

Creative Black-Tie

At a Glance: Off-white jacket & trouser pairing, dress shirt, lace-ups or slippers.

Off-white double-breasted tuxedo with black bow tie & belt, and black suede loafers.

With weddings becoming less formal, “creative black-tie” gives guests more freedom to infuse some personality—most often by forgoing the tuxedo & suit altogether and opting for a relatively casual dinner jacket pairing instead.

What is a Dinner Jacket?

A dinner jacket—which is simply the term for a jacket that's specifically designed for use in a formal outfit—invites you to add hints of your own personal style through different fabric and accessories to create a unique (yet still elegant) look. Colors should not be overly flamboyant, but you can certainly step outside the boundaries of the traditional black-tie code with brighter shades like off-white.

White double-breasted dinner jacket with black bow tie.

What Kind of Suit You Need

Wool, cotton, or velvet dinner jackets in a rich shade like burgundy, deep green, should be paired with black tux trousers, while bright off-whites can be paired with black or matching shades.

The Shirt & Shoes

While a white shirt & bow tie is certainly acceptable, a dinner jacket ensemble opens the door to more updated pairings, like a black button-up, or black Merino wool or silk blend turtleneck instead of shirt—and when it comes to shoes, subbing velvet slippers for lace-up makes a memorable sartorial accent.

The Accessories

When putting on the finishing touches, a pair of dark socks remain a classic staple, while the right pair of cufflinks, shirt studs, or pocket squares can easily infuse a bit of personality. For those who want a more individualist spin on a classic, a dinner jacket pairing is the go-to choice in black-tie.