What to wear: For Black Tie

Fieldy’s top five:

– Consider a very midnight blue cloth for the suit. It will appear darker than black.

– Wear a real bow tie and avoid the ready tied versions.

– Only wear a cummerbund with a single breasted jacket.

– Always wear a double cuff shirt.

– Make sure the cufflinks correspond coherently with your studs if wearing them.


Black tie is dress code for formal evening events, although in recent years elements from its core ingredients have been snatched by the high street for various evening looks. It’s not unusual to see a play on a single breasted black barathea with thin satin lapel combined with jeans. Cool? Hmmm??

Here’s a thought. Black Tie should be black, right? A blue dinner jacket just doesn’t cut the mustard. Right? So here’s the thing:

TIP: To the naked eye a dinner jacket needs to appear black. But you will often find that a dark midnight blue will have more depth of colour than black. This makes the suit look even darker than black. Strange to think, I know, but black often has essences of grey making it seem less black! This, teamed with black facing looks fantastic. The tricks our eyes play. Extraordinary!

Dinner Jacket


Savile Row of course. The story goes that at around 1860, the then Prince of Wales had a short smoking jacket created for less formal functions as an alternative to White Tie.

In the spring of 1886, the Prince invited James Potter, a rich New Yorker, and his wife, Cora Potter, to Sandringham House, his Norfolk hunting estate. When Potter asked the Prince’s dinner dress recommendation, he sent Potter back to his tailor on Savile Row. On returning to New York in 1886, Potter’s dinner suit proved popular at the Tuxedo Park Club. It was copied by many at the club and it soon became their club informal dining uniform.

The evening dress for men now popularly known as a tuxedo takes its name from Tuxedo Park, where it was said to have been worn for the first time in the United States, by Griswald Lorillard at the annual Autumn Ball of the Tuxedo Club founded by Pierre Lorillard IV.

Legend dictates that it became known as the tuxedo when a fellow asked another at the Autumn Ball, “Why does that man’s jacket not have coattails on it?” The other answered, “He is from Tuxedo Park.” The first gentleman misinterpreted and told all of his friends that he saw a man wearing a jacket without coattails called a tuxedo, not from Tuxedo.

About two years later, it gained the name dinner jacket (DJ) in Britain. The name to which it should be referred.


The jacket

  • Single-breasted or double-breasted
  • Lapels can be peaked lapel, shawl collar, notched collar. Peaked looks the smartest and I’d give the notched a thumbs down for this particular scenario.
  • The facing which will make up the lapel can be satin or grosgrain.
  • The buttons should and will always be covered.
  • This jacket should come with no side vents.

The trousers

  • These will match the jacket cloth and will come with a single silk braid to match the lapel. N.B double braid is reserved for White Tie.

The waistcoat

  • Can be worn but, as with a suit, should not be combined with a double breasted jacket. Cloth overload!

The shirt

  • Should be white, and have either a Marcella or Pleated bib front. The collar can be either winged or turn down. If you are wearing White Tie then wing is a must.
  • Stud or fly front are acceptable. There is something quite smart about going for a studded front.
  • Double cuff is a must for this attire.

The bow tie

  • Don’t wear a ready tied bow tie. It just doesn’t look the same as knotting your own. Would you wear a tie that is already knotted? It might take a little effort on your part to learn how to do it, but it will look the business.

Other accessories

  • Cufflinks that correspond coherently with your studs is important. This is not the uniform to experiment with.
  • Cummerbund – if you are wearing a single breasted jacket.
  • Finish the look with an elegant splash of white pocket square sitting in the breast pocket.

Follow James at: www.twitter.com/MrJamesField


3 Replies to “What to wear: For Black Tie”

  1. Hi Murray,

    Great to hear from you.

    Father Of The Bride. What a classic!

    You’re right, Steve Martin completely fails to get away with it! The key is to get a VERY deep midnight blue.


  2. Hi James,

    I might need to you fix me up with a new dress suit… I’ll take one in midnight blue (if you insist that it really works). I can’t help thinking of Father Of The Bride when Steve Martin gets the blue tux and absolutely fails to get away with it….

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