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The differences between white and black tie made simple

Ever wonder what the difference is between white tie and black tie dress codes? Well wonder no more! We’ve got it broken down for you, making it much easier to dress to impress at your event!

White tie is the most formal style of dress. White tie style is usually reserved for state dinners, formal balls and evening weddings. It is typically considered only appropriate after 6 p.m., but some etiquette authorities say that it is permissible any time after dark. The daytime equivalent of white tie dress is called morning dress.

White tie dress for men consists of:

  • Black or midnight blue dress coat with silk facings, horizontally cut-away at the front
  • Trousers of matching fabric with one single wide stripe or two narrow stripes of satin or braid and are worn with suspenders
  • White plain stiff-fronted cotton shirt
  • White stiff wing collar, preferably detachable
  • White bow tie
  • White low-cut waistcoat matching the bow tie and shirt
  • Black silk socks or stockings
  • Black court shoes


White tie dress is generally less regulated for women. Women are expected to wear full-length dresses, such as evening or ball gowns. Bare shoulder may or may not be permissible depending on the event, so shawls and long gloves are common accessories. If worn, gloves should be white and elbow-length.

Black tie dress is less formal than white tie dress. Again, black tie is reserved for social functions and evening events. It is less regulated than white tie dress and has even been considered “semi-formal” at times throughout history.

For men, black tie dress consists of:

  • A jacket with ribbed silk facings on a shawl collar or peaked lapel
  • Trousers with a single silk or satin braid covering the outer seams
  • A black cummerbund or a low-cut waistcoat
  • A white dress shirt, French cuffs and cufflinks, and a turn-down or detachable wing collar
  • A black ribbed silk bow tie matching the lapel facings
  • Shirt studs (optional) and cufflinks
  • Black dress socks
  • Black shoes—highly polished or patent leather Oxfords, or patent leather court shoes

Again, for women, the options for black tie dress are more varied. Cocktail dresses that come below the knee are acceptable, as well as full-length gowns. Shawls and clutches are again permissible and updo hairstyles and glamorous evening makeup are accepted.

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