top of page

Decoding Dress Codes: White Tie vs. Black Tie Events

This article will educate readers about the distinctions between white tie and black tie dress codes for formal events, enabling them to make informed wardrobe choices and feel confident in their attire choices.


Understanding the nuances of white tie and black tie dress codes is essential for individuals attending formal events, as it allows them to select the appropriate attire, exude confidence, and adhere to event etiquette.

But deciphering dress codes for formal events can be tricky. What does one wear to a white tie vs black tie event? What matters most is understanding the distinctions between black tie vs white tie dress code.

white tie vs black tie event

White tie vs black tie

If you’ve received an invitation for a formal event and it says “white tie,” what are you supposed to wear? Most people have heard of a black tie event, but is white even fancier?

White tie dress code

White tie is the most formal of all dress codes. Men must wear white bow ties and black tailcoats.

These are the most formal of all events, including diplomatic Galas and Royal events. A tuxedo is a requirement, no matter how formal your suit might be. The tuxedo needs to have tails with a tuxedo shirt and a white bow tie.

Black tie dress code

The black-tie dress code is still a formal dress code yet a slightly less strict option. Black tie is slightly less formal, where men can wear tuxedos or dinner jackets.

With a black tie event, you still need to arrive looking formal with a formal dinner jacket, dress pants, and shirt. It's also important to wear a bow tie, not a regular tie. Any black tie event ensemble can be complemented with cufflinks or pocket squares. The bow tie you wear needs to be black, but beyond that, the dinner jacket and pants can be dark blue or dark gray if preferred.

Most men arrive to black tie events well groomed, with their faces cleanly shaven, though men with a beard can simply take care to trim it beforehand to ensure they still look formal.

Black tie optional

In some cases, you might receive an event that says 'black tie optional.' This has many of the same elements as a black tie dress code, but it's slightly less formal. Many weddings, for example, say ‘black tie optional.’

With these settings, you want to wear still formal clothing, including a nice suit jacket and pants, but you can get away with a regular tie instead of a bow tie. To these events, cufflinks and other accessories are not often prioritized, but the colors should remain the same as a black tie dress code.

Black tie vs white tie: key differences


White-tie events are the most formal of all occasions. These include:

  1. Royal galas

  2. Political parties

  3. Prestigious formal occasions for celebrities

Black tie events can be:

  1. Fundraisers

  2. Weddings

  3. Formal dinner parties

  4. Local or smaller galas

  5. Awards ceremonies

white tie vs black tie dresscode


With white tie events, men must wear a black, unbuttoned tailboat.

With black tie events, men can wear a tuxedo, or they can wear a suit with dress pants and a matching dinner jacket in either black, dark blue, or dark gray (not anything with different colors).


For a white tie, men must wear a white evening shirt. Nothing else.

For black tie, men wear a white collared dress shirt, not anything with bright colors. This is not an opportunity to stand out with pink shirts.


For white tie events, men must wear a hand-tied white bow tie.

For black tie events, men wear a black bow tie.


Footwear for white tie events needs to be polished black leather shoes with black ribbons. Also, men need to wear black evening socks.

Footwear for black tie events needs to be black leather dress shoes and black socks.

white tie or black tie shoes


White tie events require mother-of-pearl cufflinks and black trousers with suspenders.

Accessories can be whatever works well with the type of event and the suit or tuxedo being worn. Obviously, a man wearing a tuxedo to a black tie event won't be wearing the cufflinks he would if he wore a suit jacket and dress pants.

For Black Tie events, a pocket square is encouraged, though not required.


With a white tie event, men have the option of accessorizing their outerwear to include a top hat, dress cane, and white gloves.

There are no strict requirements for outerwear for a black tie event, but it is considered a bit much to wear a top hat, dress cane, or white gloves as those are set aside specifically for white tie events. Black tie ensembles might be paired with a nice overcoat or leather gloves.

Renting or buying formalwear

Most men rarely receive invitations to white-tie events, so it stands to reason that the average man might be able to skate by with the tuxedo he already has for a black tie but be left wanting for a white-tie event.

If you don’t have what you need for the black tie vs white tie dress code, you can always consider renting formalwear for the event rather than purchasing new formalwear.

If you rent for a white tie vs black tie event, you should strongly consider renting a suit that fits well and does not hang loosely where it shouldn’t. If you are worried about the fit, you can always purchase custom formalwear but leave several weeks in between for fittings and alterations. This is a good tip whether you are going to a white tie vs black tie.

Summing Up

While most people have heard of a black-tie event, the white-tie event is even more formal. It is, in fact, the epitome of formality. With black tie vs white tie dress code requirements, you need to ensure you have what your invitation requires. If you lack any part of the neckwear, outerwear, shirts, or other accessories, you can rent or buy new formalwear from a high-end company.

18 views0 comments


bottom of page