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Picking the right formal wear for an event

Many of us are familiar with at least hearing the terms black or white-tie event, but what does it mean? Misunderstanding the difference between the two can damage one’s reputation in a formal situation. For someone who isn’t frequently invited to formal events, making the right choices when choosing what to wear is essential. This guide will talk you through the differences between particular dress codes and break down the rules in a few simple steps, making sure that you pick the right formal wear for an event.
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Understanding formal dress codes

Black-tie dress code

We will start with black-tie as it is often the most common dress code, and if you’re not familiar with it, it can be a little unclear. If an event states that the dress code is either black-tie or black-tie optional, it is best to stick with the correct black-tie ensemble. The black-tie dress code was introduced in the late 17th century and has maintained prominence in formal events’ expectations ever since. There are seven key elements, and we will break them down for you now.

Tuxedo jacket

The jacket is the most important feature of your outfit. It is crucial to keep it minimalistic with sleek lines. For the classic look, black is best. You can use it frequently, and it will not age. However, to add a little twist, you can try midnight blue, or even bolder, choose a velvet dinner jacket for a more vintage look. Regarding lapels, it is a must to choose between either peak or shawl.


Your trousers should be perfectly paired with your choice of jacket unless you’ve gone for a velvet dinner jacket, which should be matched with grounding black. They should be hemmed at the perfect length, and it is advised to go for a slim fit that will compliment most body shapes and sizes, maintaining a classic and vigorous look.



The shirt should be white with a turn-down collar. You don’t have much leeway, so it is best to make sure it is tailored using high-quality fabric. If you want to be a little adventurous, you can opt for a pleated shirt as long as it is kept to a minimalistic style.

Bow tie

Traditionally the bow tie should be black. If not, it must match the facing of your tuxedo. You have room to play with size and texture for a look that suits you; try not to go too bold.


A cummerbund is a silk or satin fabric tied around your waist to create a partition between your shirt and trousers. The cummerbund has certain creative freedoms, but it must be black if you have chosen a traditional black bow tie.


Waistcoats don’t need to be worn, but it makes a delightful addition to your outfit. If you decide to wear one, make sure it is black or dark hue (if you feel adventurous). You can find some incredible textured fabric to add excitement to your look.

Dress shoes

Make sure you wear high-quality tanned patent leather shoes with your outfit. Preferably Oxford leather. Have your shoemaker create a narrow, rounded-toe style pair for the perfect look.


You can add some personality to your outfit with cufflinks. Try to keep them a solid colour, but other than that, they are a great way to express yourself.

On top of the essentials, you can always add a white lapel flower, evening scarf, or a black dress watch to your attire. It is a great way to personalise your look and stand out amongst the crowd.

Other formal dress codes


The most formal dress is considered white-tie, which predates black. The most prominent assets of this outfit are a hand-tied white tie and a black tailcoat.

This should be accompanied by a wing-collared dress shirt, high-waisted pleated trousers, and patent leather pumps. Other accessories you could add to this are mother-of-pearl studs and cufflinks, a walking stick, white gloves, a top hat, a white lapel flower, a key chain, a black or white opera scarf, a waistcoat, or pleated cummerbund (as long as the pleats are facing upward).

Creative black-tie

You may come across a creative black-tie event that is often themed. The dress code is similar to a black tie, but instead a blue tuxedo with shawl collar and trousers to match. The bow tie should be pointed, and the white dress shirt with French cuffs.

Black tie optional

As stated before, it is a safe bet to stick with a black-tie if the invitation says optional. However, if you know the event’s formality, you could opt for this. It is almost the same as black-tie but has two significant differences. You should wear a skinny black tie and polished calfskin shoes. This dress is often used for weddings, formal work events, and award ceremonies.

To stand out at a formal event, making the correct decisions regarding your suit is critical. Knowing where to start can often be confusing, so we hope this article has made it easier when it comes to making important decisions and stocking your wardrobe for any formal event. When it comes to finding a tailor-made suit for any occasion, there isn’t much better than Patrick & co. With a team of experienced professionals who only source the finest materials, you can trust Patrick & co to create the perfect suit for you.

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