A Gentleman’s Guide to Dress Codes
No one wants to be remembered as the guy who turned up in jeans when everyone else was wearing tailcoats or vice versa. This is why we start fretting over what to wear as soon as we receive a formal invitation, unless the hosts put us out of our misery by specifying the dress code.
For your convenience, we’ve put together a breakdown of the most popular dress codes and what they mean in the U.K. . If you find yourself abroad, you may want to do a quick check of local customs.
If you receive an invitation to a white tie event, you should feel very honoured indeed. This is the most formal dress code and, nowadays, mostly reserved for royal receptions and state banquets.
Men wear an unbuttoned black single-breasted tailcoat with satin peak lapels, a white low-cut waistcoat, black trousers with braids down the outside leg, a white shirt with wing collar and studs, patent or polished oxford shoes and a white bow tie. Any military decorations must also be worn.
Women wear long evening dresses.
Black tie is the most common formal dress code these days and one that you’re bound to come across at least once. It appears on invitations to formal dinners, weddings, award ceremonies etc.
A classic black tie outfit consists of a dinner suit, usually black, a white dress shirt, patent or highly polished dress shoes and a bow tie that comes free with all Aristocracy London tuxedos. If your outfit includes a waistcoat, you can purchase an additional cummerbund and bow tie set to replace the waistcoat and create a second look.
Some invitations call for a “creative black tie” look, which means that guests are encouraged to explore lively colours and add a personal touch to their outfit. If you want to know more about black tie, read our blog on How To Do Black Tie Events In Style
Women wear an evening dress, preferably long or at least down to the knee.
If you’ve ever been to Ascot, or even just seen photos, you know what a morning suit is. It’s another very formal dress code but it’s reserved for events that take place before 6pm such as weddings, daytime functions etc.
Men wear a morning suit, a dress shirt, patent or polished dress shoes and a tie or cravat. Our Aristocracy London morning suits include a matching cravat.
Although both the white tie and the morning suit dress code call for tailcoats, their style is different. In the former the coat is shorter in the front whereas in the latter the coat curves naturally towards the tail.
Women dress smartly and avoid revealing outfits. A hat is advisable and, in some occasions, mandatory.
Lounge or Cocktail Suit
From business events to weddings and christenings, you’ve likely come across this dress code before and you already have a suit in your wardrobe that you can wear to the occasion.
Men wear a 3 piece lounge suit, a dress shirt and a tie. Although the suit colour depends on the time of day, if you’re unsure stick to something safe like navy or grey. A 2 piece suit is also acceptable but slightly more casual.
Women wear a cocktail dress but the colour, accessories and amount of flesh showing will depend on the context.
This is the most difficult dress code to interpret and what you’ll wear depends on the occasion, venue and time of day. One thing’s for sure: the mere fact that the host specified a dress code suggests they expect you to take a look in the mirror before you leave the house.
A safe choice for smart casual is a pair of trousers with a shirt but you can also add a jacket which isn’t matching the trousers (so not a suit).
For women, things are equally complicated and the possibilities are endless. Try to extract as much information as you can from the invitation and even ask the host for details.
To be fair, dress codes aren’t as rigid as they used to be and some creative flair is now acceptable. The one thing guests are absolutely not allowed to do is completely ignore the dress code as this is rude and could be taken to indicate contempt towards the host or the occasion.