dress code….

john kahrs

dress code….

This is a very interesting article and clear dress code for formal wear. Savile Row tailoring has changed quite a lot of the years and especially at the finest end of our business, well to me personally, dress wear. Put simply we’re all enjoying a great return to people enjoying beautiful bespoke tailoring. However, we’ve a long way to go to return to the days when black and white tie formal wear was so common place.

When I was in Anderson’s when they were on Savile Row we had a specialist dress wear maker called Ted Arronowski. He was a lovely Polish gentleman who flew with the Royal Air Force then stayed in England after the war. Even ten or fifteen years ago we were blessed to have a lot more active coatmakers who were all highly skilled.

Ted however, was and still is legendary even though he’s passed on years ago. The reason for this is that all he made was dress wear. Black, white tie and all tail coats. His speciality was the way he put on the silk facings by hand which isn’t easy. He always managed to keep them soft with a beautiful roll but still managed to keep them clean without a bubble or crease.

Everything was either satin or corded silk as we still use today. However, as the skill level dropped off then sadly a lot of people started using silk facings mixed with man made fibres. They look and feel reasonable and are certainly a lot easier to use but still pretty horrible as far as I’m concerned. And before you ask we never use them.

Anyway, I digress we got sent this link from Kelsi Trinidad of the Gentle Manual. Its’ a super guide and I know a lot of this knowledge is lost and unclear. I can’t thank them enough for making such a clear simple point of reference.

We make a lot of dinner suits, or tuxedo’s as they’re called in the USA. Also, we make a few white tie outfits which is a lot rarer these days but looks fantastic if you want to turn a few heads.



Oct 11th, 2013 InfographicsStyle Author: 

Another invite and another attempt to decipher the sometimes daunting dress code. With categories like White Tie, Black Tie, and Lounge, it can be overwhelming and confusing at times. Whether it’s charity gala, or a formal wedding, dressing the part doesn’t have to be a cryptic task. Take a good look at our thorough infographic and rule guide below for your edification.

Formal Dress Code

White Tie

Also known as “full dress,” the White Tie dress code is the rarest and most formal of them all. Even the White House only has a couple White Tie events in a year. Though for most people, an invitation to an event that has a White Tie dress code is a pretty unlikely one, it is great to know the rules if you ever given the honor. First, you should know that this dress code the most strict. The required parts of a White Tie ensemble include a white waistcoat (style of vest) worn over top of a white full-dress stiff bosom shirt with a detachable white pique wing collar. This shirt is secured white shirt studs and white cufflinks. A matching white bow tie is an absolute essential, hence the name of this dress code. On the bottom half is worn black pleated trousers with a black satin strip that covers the outer seams (known as the tuxedo stripe). These formal trousers can either be tightened with adjustable side tabs or held up by white suspenders that are worn under the waistcoat.

We should note that proportions are very important when it comes to full dress. The trousers are high-waisted (by today’s standards) and the waistcoat must cover the waistband of the trousers but cannot extend below the front of the tailcoat. Although this is this strictest code, you can add a subtle touch of your personal style with your choice of formal cufflinks (silver, mother of pearl, etc.), adding a boutonniere, or maybe integrating a white pocket square.  Proper footwear is either the more traditional black patent court pump with grosgrain ribbon or black patent leather oxfords. The most common events that call for White Tie attire are charity galas, official ceremonies, government ceremonies, and the opera.

Lord Grantham wearing White Tie/Full Dress in Downton Abbey

Black Tie

The words “Black Tie” may conjure up memories of high school dances, but now that you are all grown up, this type of affair is a bit more involved than renting the generic polyester tux set from your local suit emporium (gross). When you attend the company awards nights, your sister’s formal wedding, or charity event that calls for Black Tie, it’s important  abide by the rules to look your best. You don’t want your peers to get the impression that you’re as clueless as a pimply teenager. A classic black tuxedo is still the standard at these events. The typical tuxedo jacket has a single button and is single breasted with a satin peak lapel and no vent. A black bow tie and black patent leather oxfords are a must. Optional additions to the basic tuxedo include a simple (usually white) pocket square or an elegant opera scarf if you’re feeling a bit spry.

Black Tie is the most commonly used dress code for any polished event and knowing how to dress for it is a great weapon to have in your arsenal. A variation on the traditional Black Tie dress code is Warm Weather Black Tie which features a white jacket instead of black and is sometimes called upon for summer formal events. Formal or evening weddings, company awards dinners, and some private dinners are all occasions that may require you to don a tuxedo.

Mad Men Attire
Cast of AMC’s Mad Men wearing Black Tie

Black Tie Optional

The fact that the word “optional” is in the title is only begging for confusion. A host may choose this dress code if they want to be considerate of the fact that not all guests may have a tuxedo. At these events, it is acceptable to forgo the tuxedo (if you absolutely must) and opt for a polished black suit. However, if you have the means, we still encouraged you to wear a tuxedo of some sort. Because of the precarious nature of the word “optional,” we suggest you to contact the host if you need clarification.

A Black Tie Optional event is still formal in nature but it has a slightly more relaxed rules for attire. A tie is still necessary and so are your polished black shoes. Accessories can be used to express personal style. Instead of a bow tie, you can opt for a necktie with ahandsome tie bar or a classy lapel flower. Tie bar placement is key, so if you are a tie bar rookie, check out our ultimate guide to tie bars. You’re most likely to run into this category at weddings, stylish events, formal dinners, and galas.

Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston and Kevin Spacey sporting Black Tie Optional at the 2013 Emmy Awards
Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston and Kevin Spacey sporting Black Tie Optional at the 2013 Emmy Awards

Black Tie Creative

This variation on the standard Black Tie category allows the party to get started with a little festivity. Black Tie Creative is an opportunity to showcase your personal style in terms of color, accessories, and collar and lapel style. You may opt for the uncommon shawl lapel or a slim cut tuxedo in a dark saturated color like midnight blue or maroon. A colored jacket, colored wingtips shoes, or a brightly colored bow tie are all fair game in this category. Even going with a black shirt instead of white can add subtle creative flair. Although this dress code offers flexibility, it is important to keep in mind that if the event is “Black Tie” at all, no matter how festive or creative it is, it is a formal event and your sartorial modifications should still honor a the formal atmosphere of the event. Keep in mind that wearing a standard tux or an ensemble with “black tie optional” qualities is also perfectly acceptable.

A variant of the Black Tie Creative dress code is Festive Black Tie. How you should dress to this occasion depends on the given situation or theme of the party. The most common example of a Festive Black Tie event is a company Christmas party, but there are infinite ways to twist it and that depends on the host. Fun themes like “Black Tie and Boots” call for wearing a bolo tie with a tuxedo or sporting a Western themed tie or cufflinks.

Black Tie Creative on the Red Carpet
Ryan Gosling, Neil Patrick Harris and Chris Pine wearing Black Tie Creative


A Lounge dress code event maintains formality while allowing for integration of more color and options into your look. Tuxedos are totally out of the picture for this dress code. A suit in a dark, neutral color such as classic black, navy, or gray is recommended. Take a little liberty with your lapel and collar style as Lounge attire is less strict than the other formal dress codes. Polished shoes are not necessary and both black and brown shoes work. If you are feeling adventurous, mix in a pastel colored shirt or a subtly patterned tieto give your suit character. Pairing a skinny tie with a nice tie bar can give your Lounge outfit a modern edge. This category can be worn to daytime formal parties or business dinners.

Hugh Jackman, John Krasinski and Joseph Gordon-Levitt wearing Lounge attire on the red carpet

Gone is the dread of another invitation with a dress code! Now that you are seasoned in formal dress codes, take a little liberty when you can and remember when you shouldn’t. The age-old rule of thumb has not changed, it’s better to be overdressed than under-dressed.


So if you’ve got a big event coming up this will be a lot of use.

  • Philip
    Posted at 13:56h, 23 October Reply

    Many thanks for this article Tom!

    Clear, concise and essential reading…

    I (through work) have to attend many fuctions throughout the year and it still appalls me just how wrong many people continue to get it.

    It’s not a generation thing either – people easily old enough to know better still make drastic mistakes from head to toe. I’ve seen a pretty good dinner suit ruined by a dirty pair of brown “piecrust” shoes.

    I dould go on and on but hopefully enough people will see this article and make a more informed choice, before stepping out to a fuction or two!

  • Daniel
    Posted at 00:16h, 24 October Reply

    this article is cool but I think a normal person can’t really dress as good as those super stars, just because they are super stars, they look good whatever they dress. But I’m sorry not for us or a normal person.

    • tom
      Posted at 11:25h, 24 October Reply

      Of course you can….

  • NeilsOnWheels
    Posted at 11:06h, 25 October Reply

    Thank you jesus. Im kind of and by that i mean totally dumb/ challenged when it comes to how to dress for very specific events. This was so easy to read and with pictures!! thank you!!

    check out my cool fashion showcase!


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  • Kirby Allison
    Posted at 01:13h, 16 November Reply

    I have beautiful fresco suit that a tailor made up for me, but with the lining, it’s still quite hot. I feel that for any suit to be truly light, it has to be unlined. Otherwise, it’ll never breath as well as the fabric would otherwise allow.

    • tom
      Posted at 15:25h, 16 November Reply

      Good point. Linings are man made and of course wool is a breathable natural fabric.

  • Charlene
    Posted at 14:19h, 17 November Reply

    Thanks for all this good job, but you tell nothing about the requirements for ladies ….?

  • Hans
    Posted at 16:51h, 06 May Reply

    Where are the daylight dress code: semi-formal stroller, and formal cutaway.

  • anon
    Posted at 15:14h, 27 May Reply

    Great information, but you should be aware that your American customers will be total laughingstocks if they wear whiskey colored shoes with dark suits.

  • Dean
    Posted at 22:41h, 07 June Reply

    Well, I should have read this article before sending you my e-mail regarding tuxedos. Seems straightforward, but I still wonder, as I see some jackets with silk only below the notch, a La Will Arnett above. Others have full silk. There is some variation with tuxedo style notched collar vs point lapels.

  • Frank Skony
    Posted at 14:43h, 18 January Reply

    Would “Lounge” be the same as “Cocktail Attire”? I was recently invited to a wedding where the dress code was specified as Cocktail Attire. Now, I wound up wearing a nice Charcoal Grey suit with a French Cuffed Lavender shirt and Purple striped tie, and a good polished pair of black wingtip shoes. I was well dressed for the event, and on par with what others were wearing – but what would the rules be for Cocktail Attire?

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