Last Updated on June 4, 2023 by Ellen Christian
Wondering about a white tie dress code? Find out what to wear to a white tie event and the best evening wear for formal occasions.
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White Tie Dress Code
So, what is a white tie dress code? When do you wear white tie versus black tie to a formal event?
When it comes to formal attire, it’s not as simple as women wearing a gown and men wearing a tuxedo. White tie events call for their own special dress codes.
What is a white tie affair?
This is the most formal type of event you could be invited to. While you may never be invited to state dinners or royal ceremonies, you’ll know what to wear if you are.
What is a white tie dress code?
White tie is the most formal dress code for evening events, such as galas and balls. It’s typically worn to higher-profile events, like an awards ceremony or debutante balls.
For a man, it typically includes a morning coat or tailcoat, a wing collar dress shirt, bow tie and patent leather shoes with black laces. Accessories can include a pocket watch and cuff links.
A woman will generally wear full evening dress including white gloves and a small tasteful clutch. Accessories can include pearl studs or delicate yellow gold jewelry.
Accessories for traditional white tie
For women, white tie means wearing a floor-length gown with formal accessories, including gloves—traditionally elbow-length in white or ivory—and a small clutch bag. Hair should be styled in an elegant up-do, and jewelry should be understated.
Best white gloves for white tie dress codes
When it comes to white gloves, silk or satin are the most appropriate fabric for evening wear. Most evening gloves come in either classic white or ivory, but there are also options available with subtle metallic accents. Choosing a white silk glove with just enough embellishment can help make your look more unique.
White tie for men
For men, white tie means wearing a tailcoat (or dress coat) paired with trousers that have a single silk stripe running down the side, a white pique waistcoat, formal shirt with wing collars and studs, as well as a top hat and white bow tie. Shoes should be black patent leather.
Never wear a plain white shirt and dress suit to a white tie event. A white tie ensemble is very formal. You need to wear a tailcoat and tuxedo shirt. Bow ties are a must.
What are white tie trousers?
White tie trousers should be plain black formal trousers with a single stripe of silk down the outside seam. They should have no cuffs, and should be worn slightly higher up than regular dress pants.
They are usually cut to fit snugly around the waist and hips and flare out slightly at the bottom.
What’s the difference between black tie and white tie?
Although both dress codes are formal, black tie is slightly less formal than white tie. This means that the attire for a black tie event is not as strict and can be more open to interpretation.
For women attending an event with a black tie dress code, long evening gowns or cocktail dresses in dark colors such as navy or black are appropriate.
Hair and makeup should be more subdued than for a white tie event, but still elegant.
Men attending a black tie event should wear a traditional tuxedo with a bow tie or cummerbund, patent leather shoes, and no top hat.
Morning dress vs white tie
White tie is only worn to events after 6pm. Before that, the alternative is morning dress, the semi formal component to white tie.
What are the rules for a white tie event?
Men must always wear a black tailcoat, white formal shirt, white waistcoat and bowtie, and black patent leather shoes.
Women should wear a formal length evening gown and white silk gloves.
Can a woman wear a suit to a white tie event?
No, a woman cannot wear a suit to a white tie event. This dress code requires that women wear floor-length gowns. A cocktail dress or evening gown in a formal fabric such as silk is appropriate.
What about shoes?
Men should always wear black patent leather shoes with a white tie outfit, while women can choose between black patent leather shoes or metallic heels.
What is a white tie tuxedo?
A white tie tuxedo is a tailcoat worn with white trousers and accessories, such as a white waistcoat and bowtie. This look is similar to the traditional black tie tuxedo, but it is even more formal.
White tie tuxedos are typically only appropriate for very high-profile events.
What color bow tie for a white tie event?
The bow tie for a white tie event should always be white.
What do you wear to a white tie wedding?
When attending a white tie wedding, the dress code is the same as any other white tie event. Men should wear black tailcoats with trousers that have a single silk stripe running down the side, a white pique waistcoat, formal shirt with wing collars and studs, as well as a top hat and white bow tie.
Women should wear a floor-length gown with formal accessories, including gloves—traditionally elbow-length in white or ivory—and a small clutch bag. Hair should be styled in an elegant up-do, and jewelry should be understated. Shoes should be black patent leather.
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Can I wear white tie to a black tie event?
No, you will look overdressed compared to everyone else. It’s best to wear black tie to a black tie event.
No matter which dress code is being observed, it’s important to remember that for a formal event, you should always look your best. With a little bit of research and preparation, you can make sure that you look the part at any type of dress code.
By following these guidelines, you’ll be sure to fit right in at any white tie or black tie event.
Ellen believes you can feel beautiful at any age and size. She shares healthy beauty and fashion information geared toward women over 40. She is a direct sales rep for several fashion and beauty businesses.