From White Tie affairs to Black Tie Optional,
we’ve got you covered no matter the occasion

by Kelsi Trinidad

Another invite and another attempt to
decipher the sometimes daunting dress code. With categories like White Tie,
Black Tie, and Lounge, it can be overwhelming and confusing at times. Whether
it’s charity gala or a formal wedding, dressing the part doesn’t have to be a
cryptic task. Take a good look at our thorough infographic and rule guide below
for your edification.
Also known as “full dress,” the White Tie
dress code is the rarest and most formal of them all. Even the White House only
has a couple White Tie events in a year. Though for most people, an invitation
to an event that has a White Tie dress code is a pretty unlikely one, it is
great to know the rules if you’re ever given the honor. First, you should know
that this dress code the most strict. The required parts of a White Tie
ensemble include a white waistcoat (style of vest) worn over top of a white
full-dress stiff bosom shirt with a detachable white pique wing collar. This
shirt is secured white shirt studs and white cufflinks. A matching white bow
tie is an absolute essential, hence the name of this dress code. On the bottom
half is worn black pleated trousers with a black satin strip that covers the
outer seams (known as the tuxedo stripe). These formal trousers can either be
tightened with adjustable side tabs or held up by white suspenders that are
worn under the waistcoat.
We should note that proportions are very
important when it comes to full dress. The trousers are high-waisted (by
today’s standards) and the waistcoat must cover the waistband of the trousers
but cannot extend below the front of the tailcoat. Although this is this
strictest code, you can add a subtle touch of your personal style with your
choice of formal cufflinks (silver, mother of pearl, etc.), adding a
boutonniere, or maybe integrating a white pocket square.  Proper footwear is either the more
traditional black patent court pump with grosgrain ribbon or black patent
leather oxfords. The most common events that call for White Tie attire are
charity galas, official ceremonies, government ceremonies, and the opera.
Black Tie

The words “Black Tie” may conjure up memories
of high school dances, but now that you are all grown up, this type of affair
is a bit more involved than renting the generic polyester tux set from your
local suit emporium (gross). When you attend the company awards nights, your sister’s
formal wedding, or charity event that calls for Black Tie, it’s important abide
by the rules to look your best. You don’t want your peers to get the impression
that you’re as clueless as a pimply teenager. A classic black tuxedo is still
the standard at these events. The typical tuxedo jacket has a single button and
is single breasted with a satin peak lapel and no vent. A black bow tie and
black patent leather oxfords are a must. Optional additions to the basic tuxedo
include a simple (usually white) pocket square or an elegant opera scarf if
you’re feeling a bit spry.
Black Tie is the most commonly used dress
code for any polished event and knowing how to dress for it is a great weapon
to have in your arsenal. A variation on the traditional Black Tie dress code is
Warm Weather Black Tie which features a white jacket instead of black and is
sometimes called upon for summer formal events. Formal or evening weddings,
company awards dinners, and some private dinners are all occasions that may
require you to don a tuxedo.
Black Tie Optional

The fact that the word “optional” is in the
title is only begging for confusion. A host may choose this dress code if they
want to be considerate of the fact that not all guests may have a tuxedo. At
these events, it is acceptable to forgo the tuxedo (if you absolutely must) and
opt for a polished black suit. However, if you have the means, we still
encourage you to wear a tuxedo of some sort. Because of the precarious nature
of the word “optional,” we suggest you to contact the host if you need
A Black Tie Optional event is still formal in
nature but it has slightly more relaxed rules for attire. A tie is still
necessary and so are your polished black shoes. Accessories can be used to
express personal style. Instead of a bow tie, you can opt for a necktie with a
handsome tie bar or a classy lapel flower. Tie bar placement is key, so if you
are a tie bar rookie, check out our ultimate guide to tie bars. You’re most
likely to run into this category at weddings, stylish events, formal dinners,
and galas.
Black Tie Creative

This variation on the standard Black Tie
category allows the party to get started with a little festivity. Black Tie
Creative is an opportunity to showcase your personal style in terms of color,
accessories, and collar and lapel style. You may opt for the uncommon shawl
lapel or a slim cut tuxedo in a dark saturated color like midnight blue or
maroon. A colored jacket, colored wingtips shoes, or a brightly colored bow tie
are all fair game in this category. Even going with a black shirt instead of
white can add subtle creative flair. Although this dress code offers
flexibility, it is important to keep in mind that if the event is “Black Tie”
at all, no matter how festive or creative it is, it is a formal event and your
sartorial modifications should still honor a the formal atmosphere of the
event. Keep in mind that wearing a standard tux or an ensemble with “black tie
optional” qualities is also perfectly acceptable.
A variant of the Black Tie Creative dress
code is Festive Black Tie. How you should dress to this occasion depends on the
given situation or theme of the party. The most common example of a Festive
Black Tie event is a company Christmas party, but there are infinite ways to
twist it and that depends on the host. Fun themes like “Black Tie and Boots”
call for wearing a bolo tie with a tuxedo or sporting a Western-themed tie or

A Lounge dress code event maintains formality
while allowing for the integration of more color and options into your look.
Tuxedos are totally out of the picture for this dress code. A suit in a dark,
neutral color such as classic black, navy, or gray is recommended. Take a
little liberty with your lapel and collar style as Lounge attire is less strict
than the other formal dress codes. Polished shoes are not necessary and both
black and brown shoes work. If you are feeling adventurous, mix in a pastel
colored shirt or a subtly patterned tie to give your suit character. Pairing a
skinny tie with a nice tie bar can give your Lounge outfit a modern edge. This
category can be worn to daytime formal parties or business dinners.

Gone is the dread of another invitation with
a dress code! Now that you are seasoned in formal dress codes, take a little
liberty when you can and remember when you shouldn’t. The age-old rule of thumb
has not changed, it’s better to be overdressed than under-dressed.
dress code, white tie, black tie, creative,
lounge, tuxedo
Kelsi Trinidad
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.