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Black Tie vs. Formal: Dress Etiquette

February 5, 2010

Although there is some overlap between black tie and formal affairs, there is a distinguishing dress etiquette. A tuxedo can be worn to a black tie or formal occasion whereas a black suit is only appropriate for formal functions. Similarly, 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.

Antonio Valente tuxedo shirt with bibbed fronts and Swarovski crystal buttons

Antonio Valente tuxedo shirt with bibbing and Swarovski crystal studs

When deciding on a shirt, either a tuxedo shirt or a formal shirt, it must be styled with French cuffs (fastened with suitable cufflinks) and without a pocket. Custom dictates that a tuxedo shirt must have bibbing with studs, but it can also have plain fronts with studs. A formal shirt, on the other hand, will only have plain fronts detailed with buttons, fancy buttons or a fly placket.  Traditionally, tuxedo and formal shirts have been white, however, black shirts have become fashionable and should only be worn with a black tie. Additionally, a formal shirt can also be ivory but must be worn with an ivory tie.

Antonio Valente tuxedo and tuxedo shirt

Antonio Valente tuxedo and tuxedo shirt

To complete the outfit either a bow tie, which is very conventional, or a long tie would match nicely with either a tuxedo or black suit. Also, a pair of high gloss shoes, either slip-on or lace-up, will pair well with a tuxedo or black suit. On the other hand, black patent leather shoes should only be worn with a tuxedo.


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