Receiving an invitation for a black tie event can strike up a mixture of emotions; you’re excited, but have no idea what you should be wearing. To help ease your anxiety, we’ve deciphered the dreaded dress code with this handy Savile Row guide.

What Is a Black Tie Event?

Black tie is a formal dress code for evening occasions such as a dinner party, awards ceremony, milestone birthday, or wedding. Less formal than white tie but more formal than business dress, it is traditionally worn for events after 6pm.

What Is the Dress Code for a Black Tie Event?

From your dinner jacket to the shirt and cufflinks, here's everything you should wear to a black tie event.

The Suit

The tuxedo – otherwise known as the dinner suit – is the most traditional and arguably the smartest black tie option. Made from black wool, it comes with satin peak lapels and a stripe in matching material running along the outseam of the trousers.

For those wanting to take a more modern approach, a velvet jacket (and black trousers) is just as acceptable. We think it looks best in midnight blue – which actually looks darker than black under artificial light.

The Shirt

Shirts worn for a black tie event are better known as dress shirts. They should be white, with a Marcella bib front, turndown collar and double cuffs (not buttons). An everyday white shirt isn’t completely off limits, but it will certainly bring the level of formality down a notch.

The Shoes

Shoes should be black, but not the ones you usually wear to the office. This is evening formalwear, after all. Patent Derbies are the most sensible choice, however velvet slippers are a viable – if not a little unpractical – alternative.

The Bow Tie

Your bow tie should be black (never white), made from silk and hand-tied. Other colours – such as burgundy – can work, but only if the event allows it. Most importantly, ensure that it’s proportionate in size to your shirt collar and face shape. If you’re struggling to tie your own bow tie, we have a handy guide that will tell you everything you need to know. Alternatively, we offer a selection of pre-tied bow ties that will save you the trouble altogether.

Black Tie Bow Tie

The Cummerbund

The cummerbund may not be essential, but it does help to create a sleeker look – eliminating the piece of shirt that pokes out below the button of your single-breasted suit jacket. Not only that, it also shows you respect the traditional dress code.

What Black Tie Accessories Do You Need?

In regards to other accessories, the key is to keep it simple – sticking to a maximum of three. We suggest opting for a dress watch (with a gold or black leather strap), some classic cufflinks and a neatly folded white pocket square.

Top Tips for a Black Tie Event

To summarise, here are our top tips for mastering the black tie dress code:

  • Buy, don’t hire – a tailored suit is always the best option
  • Keep accessories to a minimum
  • Double cuff shirts are better than single
  • Cufflinks are essential
  • Do not wear a belt unless necessary (most dinner suit trousers will have side adjusters
  • Wear braces if necessary
  • Never wear a white bow tie (that’s for white tie events only)

What not to wear to a black tie event?

Black tie events are formal affairs that require you to be suitably dressed. You should't wear casual clothing such as jeans, T-shirts, shorts, jumpers and trainers. It's also best to avoid suits that aren't black (or dark blue) and patterned ties or shirts.