What is the difference between black tie and white tie events?

After the 1950s, formal events and black tie events became almost synonymous in North America. This wasn’t the case previously and still isn’t the case in a lot of European countries. Traditionally, white-tie events were known as formal events and black-tie events were simply semi-formal. We’ve talked about black-tie attire here before at SuitUpp and today we’ll take the opportunity to elaborate on the white-tie counterpart. To start with, you can take a look at President Obama below in his white tie and tails:


For men, white tie attire essentially involves a starched white shirt, waistcoat, white bow-tie and a dress coat. The dress coat is sometimes known as a tail coat and is a component of not only white tie wear but also of the morning dress. The other important components for a white tie event (a.k.a evening dress, full evening dress, white tie and tails) are satin striped pants (one stripe in North America and two in Europe) with a fish-tail back – worn with  braces instead of a traditional belt. The white bow-tie is usually worn with a wing-tipped collar which is surrounded by a double-breasted suit jacket that is designed in such a way such that it can’t be closed. Finally, the look is completed with some nice patent leather shoes.

In modern day, the most common occasions for a full evening dress code usually involve dinner with heads of state, formal university events ( mainly at some of the earliest of universities to be established) and other formal balls.

Generally speaking, white tie events usually take place after 6pm or after it’s dark outside (whichever comes first) – i.e. this isn’t the type of attire for a morning event – for that, you should learn about the morning suit which we’ll talk about in the near future.

1 Comment

  1. 1


    February 5, 2011

    4:09 pm

    The defintion and description are correct, but Obama is not wearing white tie. He is wearing a dinner suit (not a terribly nice one either — the lapel is wrong), which calls for a black silk bow tie, a low-cut silk or wool waistcoat (not the atrocities available in U.S. mass “formal” wear stores) or a cummerbund in lieu of the waistcoat. The shirt he’s wearing is also completely inappropriate for white tie, as full evening dress would require a higher collar and a stiff marcella front. I am not sure what this get up is, but it is certainly not full evening dress.

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