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Formal (White Tie/Morning Suit) Dress Code

Evening For Her

(UK and Commonwealth)
     

Headwear

Tiara
Where 'state decoration' is called for, married ladies wear a Tiara.

Neck

Stole
A shawl made out of an expensive fabric.

Gown

Ball Gown
A full-skirted gown long enough to reach at least the wearer's ankles.

Normally with a decollete neckline.

Ball Gowns come in two lengths: Ballerina which is to the ankles and Full Length which reaches to the floor.

Appropriate materials include satin, silk, taffeta and velvet, with trimmings of lace, pearls, sequins, embroidery, ruffles and ruching.

Footwear

Formal Shoes
To suit your gown.
Sandals
To suit your gown.
Ballet Slippers
To suit your gown.

Coat

Cape
A short cloak which just covers the shoulders or extends to the waist.

Typically black.

Velvet, silk, or satin.
Cloak
A loose over garment which covers the wearer and their evening dress from shoulders to ankles, normally fastening at the neck. There are no arms.

Wool, cashmere, velvet, satin, silk and fur are all common materials for evening cloaks.

Good quality linings and trimmings.
Opera Coat

Accessories

Formal Gloves
White or coordinated to gown.

Opera length.

Normally removed only during dining.
Jewelry
Couture or Vintage. Show off your best.

Watches should be avoided unless jeweled and with a covered face to give the appearance of a bracelet.
Evening Bag
Clutch style.

Alternatives

Black Tie and Evening Dresses
White Tie or full formal dress is actually very rare in the modern era and only normally required at Royal events, high class opera or ballet, or by the wedding party at a marriage ceremony.

As a result, formal dress often means Black Tie and Evening Dresses in common usage (what was historically known as semi-formal dress).

Christmas dinners, award ceremonies, proms, and charity dinners, all commonly expect Black Tie, but may often be described as formal. This is often worth clarifying to avoid mis-understandings.
Traditional Dress
Traditional dress is always appropriate for formal events.

History

Formal and Semi-Formal
In high society, White Tie and Ball Gowns was the standard formal form of dress for social gatherings. It shows the wealth of the upper classes and their familiarity of etiquette, and is still expected at the very highest class of event.

However, such elaborate presentation is not very practical for frequent usage, and so the semi-formal dress code Black Tie, consisting of Dinner Jackets and Evening Dress or even the shorter Cocktail Dress was established, for dining in a sophisticated manner, without the impracticalities and lavishness of full formal dress. Overtime, this has become the more standard form of dress for most formal events.