White tie (or evening dress, full evening dress; slang top hat and tails or white tie and 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 components for men are the black dress coat commonly known as an evening tailcoat, white bow tie, white waistcoat and starched wing collar shirt, while women wear a suitable dress for the occasion, such as an evening gown.
As evening dress, white tie is traditionally considered correct only after 6 p.m. although some etiquette authorities allow for it anytime after dark even if that means prior to 6 p.m. The equivalent formal attire for daytime events is called morning dress. The less formal evening counterpart of white tie is black tie.
Men s clothesFormal evening dress is strictly regulated, and properly consists of:
Black or midnight blue dress coat (commonly known as an evening tailcoat) with silk (grosgrain or satin) facings, horizontally cut away at the front
Trousers of matching fabric with one single wide stripe or two narrow stripes of satin or braid in the United States, two stripes in Europe; and are worn with braces (suspenders in the U.S.)
White plain stiff fronted cotton shirt (usually cotton marcella, known as piqué in the U.S.)
White stiff wing collar, preferably detachable
White bow tie (usually cotton marcella)
White low cut waistcoat (usually cotton marcella, matching the bow tie and shirt
Black silk socks or stockings
Black court shoes
Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding (1951)The waistcoat and bow tie are usually made of cotton marcella (known in the United States as piqué ), although plain white or off white silk bow ties and waistcoats are sometimes worn. 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 collar, with a plain but stiffly starched front, though shirts with attached collars are becoming more prevalent. Shirt fronts can be plain linen, plain cotton or cotton marcella. Shirt studs and cufflinks should be silver or white. 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). 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 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. A silk scarf and cane are optional extras.
At some state and heraldic occasions in Britain, black buckled court shoes, knee breeches and silk stockings are worn instead of trousers. 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.
Women s clothesAlthough female dress is not as formally codified as that of men, where white tie is prescribed women are expected to wear full length dresses such as ball gowns. Dresses with lengths above the ankle (such as cocktail or tea length dresses) are frowned upon and considered inappropriate. Depending on the formality of the event, bare shoulders may or may not be acceptable. Shawls and long gloves are common accessories. Women s gloves should be white and elbow length and are never taken off until seated at a table. At the most formal balls, ball gowns are often required to be white. At hunt balls, ball gowns are often required to be black, white, silver or gold.
Where state decorations are worn it will usually be appropriate for royal and aristocratic women to wear tiaras.
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