What is white tie?

There’s a lot of mystery around what white tie means and what you should wear if you’re invited to an event with a white tie dress code. Put simply, this refers to the most formal dress code possible and is a sign you should dress your absolute best. There are strict rules around what’s considered appropriate for a white tie event, so it’s essential you know what is and isn’t acceptable.

The bespoke tailors at Phillip Alexander have put together this guide to ensure you look the part at your upcoming white tie event. We’ll cover:

  • What is a white tie event?
  • What is a white tie dress code?
  • White tie etiquette 
  • Black tie vs white tie
  • Can you wear white tie to a black tie event?

What is a white tie event?

Although white tie used to be the standard for many formal events, it’s now reserved for highly formal events and occasions. This includes royal weddings, award ceremonies, formal galas and balls, and state dinners. For example, the Nobel Prize banquet in Stockholm requires white tie. 

What is a white tie dress code?

Sometimes referred to as ‘evening tails’ or ‘full evening dress’, white tie is the most formal dress code. It’s usually reserved for events that royals or guests of high social standing will attend.

For women, this usually means an elegant floor-length gown, while men should wear a black evening tailcoat paired with the typical white bow tie. 

White tie dress code for women 

When attending a white tie event or ceremony, a floor-length ball gown is considered most appropriate, rather than cocktail-style dresses. The more formal and elegant the gown is, the more at home you will look. Fabrics such as satin or tulle are ideal. 

Women can wear colour to these events but try to avoid overly colourful or garish dresses. Neutral or muted colours are the safest option. 

In terms of accessories, it’s important not to over-accessorize but rather aim to look understated and sophisticated. Statement jewellery pieces are the way to go, and a simple and practical clutch. 

White tie dress code for men 

For men, this dress code should consist of an evening tailcoat with peaked lapels and matching trousers with two lines of braid down the outside. This should be paired with a stiff white dress shirt with a wing collar and bib, cufflinks, shirt studs and black patent leather dress shoes. Of course, no white tie outfit is complete without the white bow tie that gives the dress code its name. 

Your tailcoat should be worn unbuttoned and paired with a white waistcoat. The white bow tie should be hand-tied and made from cotton or silk pique. An optional top hat, white gloves or white pocket square are popular ways to accessorise your ensemble. 

For more information, check out our blog, ‘Top tips for a white tie dress code’.

White tie etiquette

As a man, you should ensure that your evening tailcoat fits impeccably. Whether you’ve hired one for the occasion or invested in one of your own, a well-fitting suit is essential to looking properly distinguished. The best way to ensure you look the part is to purchase a bespoke or made-to-measure suit from experienced tailors. Some tailors also offer luxury, tailored suits that you can rent for special occasions.

What’s the difference between black and white tie?

The terms white and black tie can quickly get confusing. Ultimately white tie is more formal than black tie. While black tie events are fairly common, white tie events are a rarity, which for many people are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend.

Black tie attire for men consists of a dinner jacket (tuxedo) and a black bowtie, while an evening tailcoat and a white bowtie are appropriate for white tie. For women, a floor-length or mid-length dress is allowed for black tie events, while only grand floor-length gowns are acceptable white tie attire.

We’ve got a more detailed comparison of the two dress codes in our blog, ‘What is the difference between white tie and black tie?’.

Can you wear white tie to a black tie event?

If you’ve already got an evening tailcoat or gown that you’ve worn to a white tie event in the past, you might be wondering if you can wear the same outfit to a black tie event. Although technically, you can wear a white tie to a black tie event; you’ll likely look and feel too formal for the occasion. 

Remember that wearing black tie to a white tie is never considered acceptable, and you’ll be considerably underdressed for the event. 

Luxury evening tailcoats by Philip Alexander 

If you’ve been invited to a white tie event, it’s an occasion for you to dress your absolute best and show off your sense of formal style. If you’re a man, that means investing in a beautiful evening tailcoat that reflects the gravity of the occasion. 

At Phillip Alexander, we specialise in crafting elegant tailored suits for formal occasions and special events. With over a century of experience tailoring bespoke suits and evening coats, we can guarantee that you look the part at your formal event! Our world-class tailors will ensure you look and feel impeccable.

We have locations in Cheshire and Savile Row in London, where we offer a range of professional tailoring services, including bespoke suits, made-to-measure suits, and tailored wedding suit hire

Bespoke tailcoats 

Attending a white tie event is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and what you wear should reflect that. A bespoke tailored suit is the gold standard in British tailoring. Handmade from the finest materials using expert craftsmanship, a bespoke evening tailcoat is a work of art.

Bespoke tailoring is a unique experience involving comprehensive measurements, expert precision and multiple fittings to ensure the perfect fit for your white tie event. Your tailcoat can be tailored around your personal preferences, and our master tailors will be on hand to offer styling advice and guidance to ensure you look stunning. 

This is the best choice if you want to look completely at home at your upcoming white tie event. 

Made to measure tailcoats 

If you need an evening tailcoat for an event and don’t have the time to wait for a bespoke suit, our made-to-measure suits are the perfect choice. 

We use a combination of machine work and handcraft to produce beautiful made-to-measure suits in a shorter timeframe and at a lower price point than our bespoke service. Our made-to-measure suits involve fewer fittings, but you can still be assured that you’re getting a well-fitting suit made with care and precision that will look elegant at your white tie event. 

Luxury tailored tailcoat hire

White tie events are rare, which means it might not make financial sense for everyone to invest in their own evening tailcoat. This is why we created our luxury tailored suit hire service. 

Phillip Alexander offers a range of expertly crafted tailcoats available to hire for white-tie events. Our hire suits are made using the same high-quality materials as our bespoke and made-to-measure suits. So you can guarantee that you’re still getting a beautifully tailored evening coat that will look distinguished and sophisticated at your white tie event. 

Unlike some other suit hire companies, we include several fitting sessions to ensure the best possible fit. 

Book an in-person or telephone consultation as soon as possible to talk to us about hiring or purchasing an evening coat for your white tie event.