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White Tie Dress Code

Morning/Day For Her

(UK and Commonwealth)
     

In General

Normally Reserved for Evening
White Tie is normally reserved for evening occasions and rarely worn before 6pm. For ladies, daytime dress would normally be Cocktail Dress, and then a change into a Ball Gown for any reception or ball in the evening.
Cocktail Dress
A short gown.

Also known as a 'Dancing Costume' or a 'Cocktail Gown'.

Ranging in length from just above the knee to about two inches above the ankle (Tea length).

Popular materials include silk, satin and chiffon.

Headwear

Hat
Hats are conventional at weddings and outside summer events such as horse racing.

Coordinate with your outfit.

Hats tend to be modest at weddings, but extravagent at the races.
Tiara
Where 'state decoration' is called for, married ladies wear a Tiara.

Neck

Stole
A shawl made out of an expensive fabric.

Footwear

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

Coat

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.