Traditional Attire Group - Formal wearFormal wear

These are the formal clothes required for particular occasions, and this will be specified on the invitation.

Bow Tie

‘Black tie’ will indicated that a dinner jacket should be worn, with matching single-braided trousers as part of a dress suit. Perhaps because of the unusual degree of ambiguity in the terms involved, the American expression ‘Tuxedo’ is increasingly used to refer to a dinner suit. The ‘black tie’ of course, is a black bow tie – unless you are a moronic Hollywood film star!   The suit is always plain black, and should have the minimum of modern trappings, pointed lapels being preferable to the later ‘rounded’ type. 

A white dress shirt should be worn, preferably with a starched front and stud fastening. There really ought to be an absence of fluff and frills – but unfortunately, some men at black tie functions feel they have to express their individuality this way.  Another example of misapplied individualism is the cummerbund, the slightly shiny material which goes around the waist – this should normally be black to match the tie, but advice to those who favour garish colours (bright red or blue, for instance) is “Don’t wear a cummerbund at all.”

‘White tie’ is still more formal, and confined nowadays to exceptional events. It implies wearing a black single-breasted tailcoat, a white bow tie, a white dress shirt with a low-buttoning white cotton waistcoat, and black double-braided trousers.   A black top hat was once part of this ensemble, but would now be regarded as ‘over the top’ (no pun intended).

Top hat Black

Now confined mainly to weddings and Royal Ascot racecourse (where it is obligatory for men entering the Royal Enclosure), as well as Royal Garden Parties. It comprises a black or grey morning tailcoat, a grey or buff waistcoat (single or double breasted), striped dark grey trousers, a normal double-cuff white or pale shirt with a tie – not a bow-tie  (a silver-grey tie is considered particularly suitable).   Here, a top hat is normally worn – usually grey with a black band above the brim (unless at a funeral, when a black top hat is more appropriate).

Waistcoat Morning Suit

A form of morning dress consisting of black jacket (not blazer) and dark grey, striped trousers remained popular amongst certain City types and politicians until comparatively recently. A smart look, but nowadays a very unusual one.