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Dress Code: Black Tie

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The Black Tie dress code has been a signal of elegance and sophistication for decades. Evolving from 19th-century roots, black tie attire has matured into a symbol of refined formality at more prestigious gatherings. Delving into the history of the men's black tie dress code unveils the fascinating history of how this dress code emerged and how it has gracefully transformed across the ages. Ensuring men look their best at Black Tie events has been an integral part of Eton’s purpose for decades, so let us help build a stylish look for your next black tie event.image5

The history of black tie attire

To delve into the origins of black-tie attire, let's travel back to the mid-19th century. At that time, dressing for a black tie event involved a tailcoat, vest, high-waisted trousers, a white shirt, and was completed with a cravat – the early version of our modern tie and bowtie. In the 1860s, the then Prince of Wales, who went on to become King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, approached his Savile Row tailor with the desire to create a less formal outfit for a relaxed gathering at Sandringham, one of the British monarchy’s country houses.

This collaboration between prince and tailor led to a modification of the tailcoat, ironically enough, by removing the tails and cutting the coat from a dark blue cloth instead of the traditional black. This moment in fashion history is seen by many as the advent of the dinner jacket. Some say the look took inspiration from velvet smoking jackets, which were popular with gentlemen of the English upper classes, worn to protect suits from cigar smoke.

In the early days, the dinner jacket found its place at home or in private clubs, remaining more appropriate for informal occasions. The more formal White Tie dress code was still the go-to for grand events. However, a shift occurred later, courtesy of another British royal, Prince David. The young prince later became King Edward VIII, only to abdicate the throne in the name of love shortly thereafter. As well as being known for his short and turbulent reign, he was something of a fashion influencer, and it is King Edward VIII we have to thank for many modern style conventions.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the he boldly sported the dinner jacket at formal gatherings, breaking away from the prevailing trend for tails. His fashion influence played a pivotal role in popularizing the dinner jacket as a credible alternative to white tie attire. By the late 1930s, the dinner jacket had become firmly established as preferred formal wear in royal circles.

In the UK, this attire is known as a dinner jacket, but the more commonly used term in the USA is Tuxedo. The origin of the transatlantic name shift can be linked back to the prestigious Tuxedo Club located just outside New York. There are two versions of the story, but the widely accepted version goes back to the 1860s and the connection between a few Tuxedo Club members who shared the same Savile Row tailor as British royalty. It's believed that these gentlemen introduced the new formal style to the USA, where it gained popularity at the club, eventually adopting the Tuxedo name and spreading onwards across the country.

What’s a Classic Black Tie Outfit for Men?

For the modern man, the standard outfit for the black tie dress code consists of the following: a black/dark blue tuxedo, a white tuxedo shirt, a black silk bow tie, a cummerbund or waistcoat, patent shoes and a white pocket square.Image1

The Tuxedo or Dinner Jacket

When invited to an event with a black tie dress code, opt for a black or dark blue tuxedo featuring silk lapels. With a tuxedo the jacket and trousers are always cut from the same cloth, but the tuxedo is distinguished by its silk-finished lapels and a subtle silk trim known as a gallon, which runs in a narrow strip down the sides of the trousers.

The dinner jacket is imagined by designers in many different styles, but the shawl-collared version with one-button closure, is by far the most prevalent and traditional. Of course, there are many other options: you'll find dinner jackets with peaked lapels and even double-breasted variations.

While black and dark blue tuxedos dominate most black-tie events, there’s often a lively discussion swirls the white dinner jacket. Some argue it's suited solely for regions below the equator, while others embrace its versatility. For a fresher take on black tie, you could pair the white tuxedo jacket with standard black tuxedo trousers, adorned with a silk trim.

The tuxedo shirt

Crafting a polished ensemble begins with the right shirt. The timeless tuxedo shirt, typically white, comes in a range of styles - from pleated and piqué breasts to various collar options like wing tip or regular cut away. Tuxedo shirts are usually made with double French cuffs, so you will need cufflinks to complete your black tie attire.

At the front, tuxedo shirts are normally fastened with black removable studs, or, alternatively, you can chose a tuxedo shirt with a concealed button placket or regular buttons.

Many of the most of sophisticated men opt for a tuxedo shirt features a pleated breast, removable black studs, french cuffs and a wing tip collar. However, since your choice of shirt sets the tone for your entire look, it is advisable to get the look in a way that makes you comfortable. There are so many elements to consider when dressing for a black tie event, so if you are going to try removable black studs for the first time, make sure you have time and an expert to call upon for assistance.

Here you can find our full range of tuxedo shirts

Black bow tie

Staying true to the dress code, the bow tie should be black and ideally crafted from silk to harmonize with your tuxedo's lapels. The choice between self-tied or pre-tied is yours. Generally, the self-tied option, ensures an authentic touch, but make sure you have time to learn how to tie it if you have not done so before. Check out our handy guide on how to tie a bow tie.

Discover our full range of bow ties.


The cummerbund, is a key accessory in the black tie dress code. It conceals your waistline, striking a harmonious balance between the tuxedo jacket and trousers. It should match your tie, lapels, and gallon, and it should be black and crafted from silk. Traditionally, the pleats of the cummerbund face upwards, a clever design feature for stowing lighter items like opera tickets. The cummerbund originated in 1850s India, when British military officers were inspired by local gentlemen, who opted for a silk belt instead of the warmer waistcoats which more suited to cooler climates. Today, the cummerbund is a global style statement although a double-breasted tuxedo eliminates the need for a cummerbund as the tuxedo should be buttoned throughout the event. If a cummerbund is not to your taste consider a matching tuxedo waistcoat as an alternative, selecting one that complements your suit's fabric.

Pocket square

Enhance your ensemble with a touch of elegance by adding a white pocket square. The pocket square is perfectly at home in the pocket of a tuxedo or dinner jacket, adding a striking contrast to a dark jacket while lifting the crispness of the white shirt. This accessory adds a final flourish, elevating your outfit to a new level of refinement.


For a flawless black-tie look, opt for the classic laced black patent shoe – a timeless choice that exudes sophistication. Alternatively, embrace individuality with velvet slippers or opera pumps. Whichever shoe you choose, wear black socks, ideally ones that reach far above your ankle, since you don’t want to flash any leg during a black tie event. Your footwear completes the ensemble, ensuring you radiate refined elegance from head to toe.


While traditionally reserved for less formal occasions, silk scarves can infuse your black tie ensemble with a touch of individuality and charm. Opt for a silk scarf in a darker hue to add depth and personality to your look. This subtle yet distinct accessory allows you to express your style while maintaining the elegant essence of the event. Explore the art of sophisticated self-expression by embracing a silk scarf that complements your distinguished attire while expressing your personality. Are you more of a the Dark Blue Dots Wool and Silk Scarf or the Black Polka Dots Silk Scarf sort of gentleman?


Unlike in the white tie dress code, wearing a wristwatch is entirely appropriate for a black tie event. However, selecting the right watch is essential. Opt for a smaller, more refined timepiece that exudes a more subtle elegance. While bulky diver's watches have their charm, they might appear ostentatious in a formal context. Instead, consider a smaller, perhaps rectangular watch in silver or gold, complemented by a black strap. This choice will show you appreciate the understated and sophisticated color palette of your ensemble, yet add a subtle touch of sophistication.


Classic tuxedo trousers are designed without belt loops, so if you require additional support, suspenders are an excellent solution. Opt for black suspenders to maintain the sleek aesthetic. For trousers with buttons on the inside of the waistline, consider button-on suspenders for a secure fit. These elegant and essential accessories not only keep your ensemble immaculate, but also add a touch of timeless sophistication to your black tie outfit.

Classic black tie outfit for women

While dress codes often revolve around male attire, women's choices for black tie events are equally important. Opt for a formal evening gown that exudes grace or a knee-length cocktail dress for a refined yet contemporary look. Unlike the ultra-formal white tie dress code, black tie events allow for women to be more daring. Women can explore a spectrum of colors and patterns, all while ensuring their outfit reflects the occasion's sophistication. Women are looking to achieve the perfect balance between boldness and appropriateness, creating an ensemble of timeless elegance.image6

Black tie creative

Black tie creative is a modern twist on the classic dress code, inviting you to infuse your personal flair into your attire. This variation offers room for interpretation and the chance to tailor your outfit uniquely. A notable departure is the allowance to experiment with the color and fabric of your tuxedo. While retaining the traditional black or dark blue pants with silk-trimmed side details, you can introduce a jacket in an alternative hue – envision a lush velvet tuxedo jacket in deep burgundy or rich green.

If a boldly colored tuxedo isn't your preference, you can still make your mark through accessories. Experiment with a bow tie in a distinctive color or pattern, while a black bow tie remains a steadfast choice. Similarly, your cummerbund can be a canvas for a vibrant shade. Don't shy away from adding a pop of color with a pocket square or quirky socks. And why not flaunt those whimsical cufflinks you received last Christmas?

Ladies, your version of this dress code mirrors the principles of individuality. Embrace the freedom to embrace bolder hues and patterns, just as men do. Black tie creative empowers you to craft an ensemble that mirrors your distinctive personality while staying in sync with the event's essence.image8image9Image7

When to wear black tie attire

From galas and charity balls exuding an air of elegance to opera and theater premieres where the classic tuxedo captures the glamour of the occasion, black tie attire graces each event with a confident touch. Evening weddings, especially in grand venues, demand black tie elegance to ensure you're impeccably dressed for the celebration. Whether it's corporate dinners, private gatherings, or award ceremonies, the black tie ensemble elevates your presence to a distinguished level. High-end parties and exclusive soirées naturally call for the sophistication that black tie ensembles effortlessly provide. And as the New Year arrives, welcome it with timeless style at New Year's Eve galas, embracing the tradition of black tie for an unforgettable night. It's essential to remember that adhering to the stated dress code for each event is not only a mark of respect but also a way to contribute to the ambiance and elegance of the occasion.

While black tie events are often associated with special occasions, owning a tuxedo presents an opportunity to elevate even more of life's moments. If you already have this timeless ensemble in your wardrobe, consider using it beyond the expected occasions. Hosting an intimate dinner party, celebrating a milestone birthday, or even a romantic evening out can become more memorable when you bring a touch of refined elegance to the occasion. Your tuxedo can become a versatile asset, allowing you to create extraordinary moments whenever you desire. So, whether it's a grand gala or a quieter rendezvous, let your tuxedo be your companion in embracing life's exceptional experiences.