Although special occasion-dressing seems to be heading away from formal and toward semi-formal, many people still believe that getting “dressed up” helps to add to the specialness of an event. If you’re one of those people, read on!
Dear Wedding Guru: “What’s the difference between tuxedo, black tie, and formal attire?”
(Our answer on next page)
The Wedding Guru says: The simple answer is that formal signifies “more dressed than what you would wear to the office” (or even to a Saturday night date). Today, the concept of formal is very ambiguous and can mean anything from a tuxedo to a dark suit to a black shirt with designer jeans. But, the “rules” say that a black suit is only appropriate for formal functions, and a formal shirt can be worn with either a tuxedo or a black suit (but a tuxedo shirt should only be worn with a tuxedo).
For men, black tie means a tuxedo: a single, double-breasted dinner jacket with satin lapels; matching pants with a satin stripe on the pant legs; satin-trimmed pockets and the accoutrements; a black cummerbund, a white formal shirt (with French cuffs fastened with cuff links and without a pocket); a black bow tie or a long black tie; black dress socks; and black formal shoes. In hot weather, a white dinner jacket and a cummerbund are correct.
For women, black tie means a floor-length, short, or three-quarter-length evening gown with evening sandals or pumps, an evening bag, and understated jewelry. Because “formal” for women is also ambiguous, I suggest that you include the dress code in your invitation. You can, for example, write “black tie” or “black tie optional,” or be even more specific by saying “long gowns preferred.” The fancier an event, the fancier the dress code should be.
There is a separate code for dress uniforms for men or women in the military.
Even more formal than “black tie” is “white tie” — but we’ll save that for another blog post!
I was overwhelmed by the amount of information at Blacktieguide.com, so if you want even more details, by all means check out that site.