All About the Smoking: Black-tie Dress Code Explained

All about the Dinner Suit. Black-Tie explained:

The history of formal dress code

The past few hundred years of formal evening dress and black-tie dress codes for men have seen a variety of changes and developments. From the regency period to the present day smoking, the rules and regulations of formal evening dress have evolved to reflect the changing times and trends.

In the early regency period, men’s formal evening dress was characterized by a closed body coat with tails and short fronts, a waistcoat, and a cravat. Throughout the regency period, trends changed slowly from wearing breeches with long socks and pumps, to wearing trousers with boots. This style of dress was typically worn to attend formal occasions such as balls and dinners.

Materials such as wool, velvet, silk, and linen (all in many colours) were most popular and would vary depending on the season and the specific event. Contrary to popular belief, this period was actually filled with bright and bold colour, just as much in the mens clothing as the women’s.

Eveningwear 3 Bright

During the reign of Queen Victoria, a more restrictive formal evening dress code arose for men – White-Tie – characterised by a black tailcoat, waistcoat, trousers, and a cravat (later, a bow tie).

This dress code, remaining largely unchanged for around 150 years, is still the apex of male formality and is often worn to galas and State functions.

It can also be seen in a form more reminiscent of its early regency predecessor, worn with breeches rather than trousers, at very specific events such as some state weddings, certain diplomatic receptions, and hunt balls.

Around the turn of the 20th century the “dinner jacket” was introduced as a more relaxed alternative to the tailcoat, contemporarily worn with a black bow tie and waistcoat rather than the white ones with which it would originally have been paired.

This marked the birth of the Black-Tie dress code, which is now the most formal thing most men will wear in their lifetime.

*Please note that some of the historical drawings included in this article were obtained from the internet and are believed to be in the public domain. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or the originality of these images and we do not claim any ownership or authorship of them. If you are the rightful owner of any of these images and would like them removed, please contact us and we will promptly comply with your request.

Central Characteristics

The Black-Tie dress code is typically associated with formal events such as weddings, dinners, and other special occasions. The Black-Tie dress code is typically characterized by a dinner suit, called a Tuxedo in America, with a formal evening shirt, a black bow tie, and shiny black leather shoes. For women, the dress code calls for a floor-length evening gown or cocktail dress.

When it comes to black tie events, it is important to remember that the dress code is meant to be formal. The dress code should be followed as closely as possible in order to look good and to show your respect to the host and to the dress code itself. Generally, any deviation from tradition will make your outfit look worse. It is also important to remember that the dress code is meant to be timeless, so it is best to avoid overly trendy or flashy clothing.

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    The Maroon Barathea Smoking jacket. Made with the finest materials and tailored to perfection, this suit will make you look your best.
    Pair it with our black smoking pants for the perfect formal look.

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    This olive corduroy dinner jacket is the perfect addition to any wardrobe. Crafted from a high-quality cotton fabric, this jacket is designed to provide a comfortable fit and timeless style. The plain green color is subtle and sophisticated, making it a great choice for any formal occasion. With its custom tailored fit, this jacket is sure to make you look and feel your best.

The go-to material out of which to make a dinner suit is wool barathea. It is a heavy, twill-weave fabric that is made from worsted woollen yarns. The fabric has a smooth surface and a matte finish. It is usually black in colour but can be found in a variety of different colours too. The fabric is known for its durability and resistance to wrinkling, making it an ideal choice for formal wear. As wool is a natural fibre, it is fairly breathable, making it comfortable to wear in any season.

For the gentlemen who overheat with ease, we would recommend high-twist tropical wool instead of barathea, as it is less insulating whilst retaining the resistance to wrinkles and the durability

  • WholeCut (1)-acc-main-edited

    Looking for a sophisticated and elegant way to dress up your look? Look no further than our Black Patent Wholecut Shoes! Made from black plain leather, these shoes will add a touch of class to any outfit. Whether you’re dressing up for a special occasion or just want to add a little extra edge to your everyday look, our Black Patent Wholecut Shoes are perfect for you.

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    The Marcella shirt. This shirt is made to your exact specifications, so you can be sure that you’re getting the perfect shirt for your unique style.

  • Plain Satin Silk - Black

    Premium Black Satin self-tied Bowtie. Handmade in Italy from 100% silk. It is the perfect bow tie for a black tie occasion.

  • black silk cummerbund

    Premium Black Satin adjustable Cummerbund. Handmade in Italy from 100% silk. The perfect cummerbund for a black tie occasion.

It is most traditional to wear dinner suits with a matching waistcoat, making it a three-piece. If this seems too formal, or perhaps you are worried about the extra warmth of a waistcoat, you might instead opt for a cummerbund.

The cummerbund is a sash-like waist-covering that originated in India during the 19th century. It was originally worn by British officers in the Indian Army as a part of their dress uniform. The cummerbund was adopted by the British military to help easily adapt their uniforms to the hot and humid climate of India by replacing the waistcoat.

The cummerbund eventually made its way into civilian dress around the turn of the 20th century, where it was adopted as an alternative to the waistcoat for formal occasions. It is a very flattering garment, as it gives the impression of longer legs, making the wearer appear taller and slimmer.

Dinner suits are styled with one button at the front, and either peak lapels or a shawl collar. These lapels are generally covered in silk, unless it is an odd dinner jacket made of a contrasting fabric to the trousers. Dinner jackets also do not historically have flaps on the pockets, or vents at the back. The trousers do not have belt loops, and they have a black silk stripe down the side to match the bow tie.

white silk tuxedo jacket

Dinner suits can also be double breasted. This would be the only instance in which it is traditionally acceptable to forgo a waist covering, such as a waistcoat or cummerbund. Although these are the traditional features, and arguably the “correct” ones, we can work outside of these parameters to suit your personal preferences.

Dinner suits require a special sort of shirt, with either a stiff/marcella or pleated front, and French cuffs for cufflinks. Evening shirts also often do not have buttons at the front to allow one to accessorise with shirt studs, which we think are very stylish!

The shoes typically worn with a dinner suit are either wholecuts or opera pumps, generally in patent leather. Opera pumps are often viewed as an anachronism, but wholecuts are anything but anachronistic, and will be sure to elevate any formal evening ensemble. Black socks are a must for a Black-Tie ensemble, as they create a seamless transition from your shoes to your trousers.

  • Black Onyx Shirt Studs

    These cufflings are a great way to add a little bit of personality to your outfit. They are made from high quality materials and are perfect for adding a little bit of edge to your look.

  • Black Onyx/Silver Cufflinks

    These cufflinks are a beautiful black onyx and silver mix. They are a great way to add a little bit of luxury to your look.

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    Looking for a stylish and comfortable sock to wear with your favorite shoes? Look no further than these black ribbed socks! Made from 100% cotton, these socks are over the calf length and are great for any outfit.

If you want to delve deeper into the subject of the black tie dress code and the dinner suit, watch this video where we cover everything from the characteristics, design elements, fabrics, colors, history, rules, and more.

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