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WHITE TIE WEAR
White tie (or full dress, evening dress, full evening dress; slang top hat and tails or white tie and tails, tailsuit, tails) is the most formal evening dress code in Western fashion. It is worn to ceremonial occasions such as state dinners in some countries, as well as to very formal balls and evening weddings.
The chief dress code components for White Tie for men are:
Women wear a suitable dress for the occasion, such as a ball gown.
As evening dress, white tie is traditionally considered correct only after 6 p.m. although some etiquette authorities allow for it any time after dark even if that means prior to 6 p.m. (though there are some exceptions). The equivalent formal attire for daytime events is called morning dress. The semi-formal evening counterpart of white tie is black tie.
The invention of white tie is widely accredited to Beau Brummell (1778–1840), who simplified and codified evening dress at the time. Many essential elements introduced by him are still reflected in today's white tie to a certain degree such as the monochromatic colour scheme and the use of coat, waistcoat and trousers.
Although the use of white tie had been slowly in decline since the First World War, there has been a recent resurgence in interest in the early part of the 21st century, partially due to successful period dramas such as Downton Abbey, the vintage movement and its adoption by prolific people/groups such as The Hives who have worn it as their band outfit since 2011.
The coat (or 'body coat' as tailors call it) is cut to hug the body closely and is detailed in the seams at the back of the coat and the waist seam. The lapels can be pointed or have a shawl collar; faced with either silk satin or grosgrain although other types of silk can be used including moiré and barathea weave. The colour of the facings should be black or, in the case of a midnight-blue coat, be either black or midnight-blue. The coat is cut so it is worn open and cannot be buttoned; the two sides should never meet. There are usually six decorative buttons, three on each side, which are either of polish black horn/bone or covered in silk which could be the same as that of the facings or figured. The cuffs usually have four buttons. The fronts are cutaway at a sharp angle and the tails have a single vent. There are two styles of cut for the coat; the older cut with 'laid-on' lapels where the lapels are attached as a separate piece onto the body, and the modern 'grown-on' lapel with the lapel cut as part of the body and shaped using darts.
The trousers, never cuffed, are of the same cloth as the coat and have two narrow lines of braid sewn very close together running down both side seams, a single line of braid is used on trousers for black tie. They are usually cut with a high-rise so the fronts of the coat cover the waistband completely in order for the waistcoat to cover the waistband easily. They are worn with braces (suspenders in American English) to avoid the disruption of the lay of the waistcoat that would be caused by a belt being worn, and to keep the trouser creases better aligned.
The waistcoat and bow tie are usually made of cotton marcella (known in American English as "piqué"), although plain white, off-white or ivory silk bow ties and waistcoats are sometimes worn. Black wool waistcoats were once the norm for full dress as the alternative to the white but it is now rarely worn. The waistcoat is cut low, that is, the opening is low to allow much of the shirt front with their studs to be displayed. It is either single or double breasted, with or without revers/lapels, and can be fully backed or backless. Button numbers vary depending on style and are almost always detachable to allow the waistcoat to be cleaned and starched. The bow tie also exists in various widths and styles.
Many menswear authorities today assert that the bottom of the waistcoat should not be visible below the front cutaway of the tailcoat. This has been the prevalent view in the United States since the 1920s, where actors such as Fred Astaire popularized the look of the unbroken black line from neck to feet which lengthened their silhouettes on-camera. The practice was also reinforced repeatedly by authorities dating back to at least World War I and is adhered to in numerous fashion magazines dating back to at least the 1840s. However, since full evening dress is the most conservative form of men's dress, and has otherwise changed very little since the 1870s when the bottom of the waistcoat was visible below the cutaway of the tailcoat, some traditionalists (especially in Europe and among the aristocracy) tend to wear the waistcoat with its hem extending below the cutaway of the tailcoat by 1–2 cm. As for British royal authority on the matter, the waistcoat does not extend below the fronts. Worn either style, the waistcoat must cover the trouser waistline (which should never be seen).
The shirt should have a detachable stand-up or wing collar, with a plain but stiffly starched bib front and cuffs, though shirts with attached collars are becoming more prevalent. Shirt fronts can be plain linen, plain cotton or cotton marcella and are closed with studs.
Shirt studs, cufflinks and waistcoat buttons could be silver, gold or other precious metals, faced with mother-of-pearl or other semi-precious stones and ideally all matching in a set. A white pocket handkerchief and boutonnière may be worn (although in France both may not be worn simultaneously and the boutonnière is traditionally a gardenia). The timepiece is either a pocket watch suspended from a ribbon fob (worn inside the fob pocket of the trousers) or an Albert chain (worn in a pocket of the waistcoat). Wristwatches are never to be worn.
At occasions of state, and in the presence of royalty, state decorations are worn by those who have been awarded them: miniature medals plus up to four breast stars, a badge suspended from a narrow neck riband and a broad riband (sash).
The hat should be a black silk top hat which may be collapsible — a tradition which arose from the fact that opera houses traditionally lacked a cloak room to hand in a top hat. The overcoat should be a dark dress coat such as a Chesterfield overcoat, Inverness cloak, or opera cloak. White gloves were traditionally considered essential and are often worn for dancing, but must be removed when dining. A silk scarf and cane are optional extras.
At some state and heraldic occasions in Britain, knee-breeches and silk stockings are worn instead of trousers, also known as 'alternative court dress'. This is particularly necessary where the garter of the Order of the Garter is intended to be worn. If a knight of the Garter wears breeches, he wears his garter under his left knee. Ladies of the Garter wear their garters above their left elbows. (Buckled shoes, however, are not correct wear with white tie; rather, 'court pumps' (low-cut patent shoes with black bows) may be worn - either with breeches or with trousers.)
Other than opera pumps (which can have pinched or flat bows), patent or highly-polished calf leather Oxfords (with or without toe-cap seam) are correct to wear with white tie, especially with black satin ribbon laces. In the past, other types of shoes have been worn but are now rarely seen; these include patent button boots (with black wool or silk galoshes) and Chelsea boots (sometimes with bows). The socks are of black or midnight blue silk or fine cotton. The trend to wear coloured socks with white tie is incorrect because it draws unnecessary attention to the feet, distorts the run of black from waist to toe and is illogical to the black-white colour scheme.
Where state decorations are worn, it will usually be appropriate for royal and aristocratic women to wear tiaras.
Military dress uniform is the appropriate military uniform for white tie occasions, though mess dress is also sometimes used, as not all nations have two distinct classes of formal evening uniforms. At hunt balls (run by fox hunting clubs), members who are entitled to do so may wear a scarlet tailcoat. This hunt attire is colloquially known as "drinking pinks", to distinguish it from the "pinks" intended to be worn while riding. A hunt ball invitation in America would generally specify the dress code as "black tie, or scarlet if convenient".
As a specific example of national costume, Scottish national costume/Scottish national dress may be chosen by someone attending as the representative of Scotland on state business. As with other forms of ethnic dress and national costume, there is no direct equivalent to white tie in Scottish national dress.
The dress coat is also part of other related codes, such as civilian day court dress in the royal court (in the United Kingdom). However, these alternatives are now being replaced by standard white tie for formal state occasions, such as for ambassadors at the State Opening of Parliament.
In the United States white tie has been replaced by black tie for many formal occasions such as evening weddings, the Academy Awards and even presidential inaugural balls. It is still occasionally seen at:
In Austria and elsewhere in Continental Europe there are many balls where white tie is worn; a notable example is the Vienna Opera Ball.
In Finland and Sweden as well as the Netherlands many academic traditions (disputations, commencement ceremonies, and academic balls) still require white tie, even during the daytime. In these countries, academic traditions require a black waistcoat for daytime ceremonies. If no ladies without doctoral degree are present, it is customary to wear a black waistcoat even in the evening. For formal academic balls of student unions, student nations, and other student organizations, couleur is worn with the white tie.
In some universities (most notably Aalto University), doctoral regalia includes a black tailcoat with facings bearing the insignia of the university, embroidered in gold or silver. Doctors from these universities may wear this regalia at all occasions requiring white tie. On the other hand, doctoral swords are not usually worn during normal white-tie occasions. Doctors may wear their doctoral headgear instead of opera hats even for non-academic occasions.
In Finland and Sweden many weddings are white tie, as are the Nobel Prize ceremony and dinner occasions with heads of state.
RELATED FORMS OF DRESS
White ties were historically worn by clerics and in the professions that formerly were filled by priests and minor clerics. In various forms they are still worn as part of:
White ties are not usually worn with military mess dress, where black ties are most often worn even with the most formal variants, though there are exceptions. In the Royal Navy, mess dress requires a white waistcoat but a black tie.
To read more about white tie wear, please click on the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_tie