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Semi-Formal (Black Tie/Evening Dresses) Dress Code

Evening For Him

(UK and Commonwealth)
     

In General

Evening Dress
The semi-formal dress for evening events is classic Black Tie dress code (shown here).

During the day the well dressed gentleman wears the Stroller dress code instead.

Headwear

Homburg Hat
While most modern people do not wear a hat with black tie, a black or midnight blue (to match jacket and coat) homburg hat was traditionally worn although this rule can be bent to allow a black or grey fedora to be worn.

Obviously it should be removed when indoors.
Bowler Hat
Black. An optional accessory, useful in winter.

Obviously it should be removed when indoors.

Neck

Tie
Black silk or satin bow tie.

Hand tied is best.
Scarf
White silk.

Jacket

Dinner Jacket
Black.

Midnight blue (with black trimming) is a recent innovation.

White can be acceptable in tropical climates.

Single or Double Breasted.

Satin, silk (ribbed), or grosgrain lapels which can be peaked, shawl collar, or the popular notch collar (which is less traditional).

Ideally no vents.

White is sometimes worn with a black cummerbund in the summer.

Waist Coat

Waist Coat
Ideally black.

Other colours can be acceptable.

Low cut.

Full satin back.
Cummerbund
Ideally black.

Other colours can be acceptable.

(Worn with the pleats upwards.)

(Worn instead of a waistcoat.)

Top

Formal Shirt
White.

Cotton, linen, or silk.

Shirts designed to be worn with a bow tie have a spread collar (which diverges more than a standard collar so that the bottom of the bow tie sits between the peaks of the collar). This is the more modern look favoured by Hollywood and James Bond.

Or alternatively a stiff winged collar adds formality.

Double cuffed with long collar if worn with a long tie.

Single cuffed and winged is the only option if worn with a cravat such as at weddings.

If not worn with studs the shirt often has a flap of material over the buttons.

Marcella, piqué or pleated front.

True traditionalists have detachable collar and cuffs.

Bottom

Formal Trousers
Black.

One satin, silk or ribbon seam on the outside leg to match jacket lapels.

No turn ups/cuffs. No belt loops (normally worn with braces).

Ankles

Socks
Black.

Knee length.

Silk (ribbed)

Footwear

Formal Shoes
Black.

Lace up.

No toe cap or decorative brogueing.

Patent leather in the evening, non-patent leather during the day.
Court Shoes / Opera Shoes / Formal Shoes
Patent leather.

Silk (ribbed) bow.

Coat

Chesterfield Coat
The ideal accompaniment to Semi-Formal wear.

Accessories

Cufflinks
Preferably black or gold.
Studs
Preferably black or gold.

Optional but recommended.
Braces
To support the trousers.
Handkerchief
White silk or linen.

Coloured with a white Dinner Jacket.

Dress Code Variants

Black Tie Optional?
If the invitation requests 'Black Tie Optional', then this means exactly that.

If you feel more comfortable in black tie or wish to convey your respect to your hosts or fellow guests, wear Black Tie. If you prefer not to dress so formally, a dark Lounge Suit will be sufficient.

Ladies also get a free choice of evening wear. Anything from Evening Gown to Cocktail dress would be more than suitable. Dressy separates could also be considered.

Obviously some guests will be wearing Black Tie, so all clothing should be of the highest quality.
Creative Black Tie?
If the invitation requests 'Creative Black Tie', or some other variation on the 'Black Tie' code, this generally means that, for him, more modern trousers and dinner jacket is acceptable. Maybe a black shirt, a long tie or some other local neckwear.

The key thing is that the suit and dinner jacket should be black and dressy.

For her, there's more creativity with her dress length, or even wear dressy evening separates.

Obviously, follow any themes requested in the dress code, but remember this is still intended to be a classy event.

Alternatives

Military Mess Uniform
A military mess uniform is suitable for a semi-formal event.

You must be entitled to wear the uniform.

In the navy 'Mess Undress' is worn for semi-formal events.
Scottish Dress
Scottish dress is suitable for semi-formal events, and is common in Scotland. However, you should be sure to have a claim upon a tartan before wearing it.

Scottish dress consists of a black jacket (Prince Charlie, Montrose, Sheriffmuir, Argyll), black waistcoat, kilt or trews (a form of high top trouser without side seams, and cut on the cross-grain), winged dress shirt (see above), black bow tie, kilt hose, black Ghillie brogues, flashes and sporran.
Traditional Dress
Traditional dress is always appropriate for semi-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.
Top Hat
The Top Hat was the standard hat to be worn with evening dress until the 1920s.

When the lounge suit became popular as everdayday wear in the 1910s, the formal homburg hat which was popular at the time was made 'old-fashioned' in the 1920s by more casual hats such as the fedora or trilby. As a result of this, the homburg replaced the top hat as the standard headwear to be worn with semi-formal dress.

Now of course, like all hats with formalwear, it is optional. A winter choice. Wearing any other hat with semi-formal dress is a fashion faux pas (with the exception of the bowler hat for semi-formal morning wear).