Monday, 18 March 2013

Keeping traditions - Men's Full evening dress code

In the last blog I made a hint to traditions, which gives me the perfect opportunity to touch on the ultimate formal men's dress code for formal events/occasions from a Western man's perspective and secondly an opportunity to respond to a reader regarding his comment on Mr. President Obama's choice of white tie for inauguration in January 2013. I am at no means a subject matter expert on the named issue(s), but a quick research shows that men's formal dress code clothing has being in one way or another regulated and has strict rules. So when breaking the rules of formal dress codes at least make an effort to know the rules.

There are are Four (five) formal dress codes for a Western gent. At the top which I will name number One is the White tie event, full evening dress. Two - is the dinner suit, Three is the morning coat, Four is the Stresseman and lastly Five the suit which most men own and know what it is. So to keep if formally I will say five. For today I will focus on the White tie - full evening dress attire rules/codes.

1. White tie event (full dress, evening dress or full evening dress) is worn to ceremonial occasions such as state dinners (in some countries), very formal balls (for example Viennese balls)and evening weddings.
As evening dress, white tie is traditionally considered correct only after 6:00 p.m.
Formal full evening dress is strictly regulated (not legally but by tradition not changed since 1870's) and strictly consists of the following:

  • Black (traditionalist preference) or midnight blue dress coat( evening tailcoat) with silk grosgrain or satin facings, horizontally cut-away at the front
  • Trousers of matching fabric with one wide or two narrow strips of braid down the side seams. Trousers are worn with braces and no belts.
  • White plain stiff-fronted cotton shirt, which is closed with studs
  • White stiff wing collar, detachable or stand up collar
  • White bow tie (not pre tied) made of cotton marcella
  • White low cut waistcoat (vest) made of cotton marcella, covering the trouser waist line
  • Black silk socks or stockings
  • Black court pumps with black silk bows or highly polished black Oxfords with least ornamentation (brogueing) or paten black shoes.

Accessories to the attire:
- Cufflinks for the shirt, if not using studs
- Pocket square- (white linen) and or boutonniere
- Pocket watch - strictly no wrist watches
- Black silk Top hat 
- White gloves
- White sil scarf
- If and when it is a cold evening, the overcoat must be a Chesterfield coat, Inverness cloak or Opera cloak.

Full evening dress as renditioned by Knize of Vienna (city known for its formal balls and strict dress code). Note that there are only two colours in this formal dress attire, black (for traditionalist) and white. Nothing else. I think so should it be.
HRH Prince Philip of England in full evening dress

Full evening dress as worn by US President John F. Kennedy to his inaugural ball
US President Reagan in full evening dress for inaugural ball. Probably the last US President who wore a full evening dress to the inaugural ball at the White House 

Much dispute and talk has been going on regarding the 2013 inaugural ball of US President Barack Obama for his second term. The US President's choice of evening dress was half heartedly a mixture of decide. Some people argued that he wore a similar attire when getting married some 20 years ago, so it was a combination of the inaugural celebrations and marking the 20th anniversary of his marriage. I am not going to go into the flap pockets of the supposedly dinner jacket. I will get there once we touch on the Dinner suit.
Hmmmm... I also found out that white tie (bow tie) with a dinner suit is common for American marriages. Odd tradition anyway. Either we stick to tradition (enforce it) or ...leave it and not invert in between. The below is neither fish nor fowl.
I will not say a word about the bulgy sacking trousers. 

Photos sourced from various Knize, Wiki other Internet sources.


  1. Hi Wooster,

    I agree with you (if the sadness) is directed to that men whether dignitaries or simple men can not dress appropriately as etiquette demands for formal occasions.

    Thanks for your comment.

    Enjoy the Easter Season.

    The Shoe Aristo Cat

  2. Hello,

    I was a bit cryptic, but you got it right. I think that people should make more of an effort. Life is to short not to be premium.

    Thanks for a great blog and have a great easter!

  3. Hi Wooster,

    Thanks for the clarification. True life is too short not to be at the top.
    Check on this and what do you think "

    Easter is almost done. Looking forward to a week of hard working, my comfort is that only 4 days to go.


    The Shoe Aristo Cat

  4. I looked at the piece on the nordic royals. Indeed very sad.

    Its nice with some time off. I dont want to brag, but I will be home until august when I start my new job.

    Have an excellent week!

  5. Wooster,

    Thanks again for your comment. Hope you enjoy our time-off before starting the new job. It is some time very refreshening to gather some new energy from time to time.

    Have a pleasant week and enjoy the time off.

    The Shoe Aristo Cat