White tie is the most formal, and rare, of dress codes, worn in the evening for royal ceremonies and balls. It may also be specified for formal evening weddings.
White tie is also known as ‘full evening dress’, ‘full dress’, ‘evening dress’ or, informally, as ‘tails’.
Traditional white tie for men consists of:
- Black single-breasted tail coat in black wool (barathea) or ultrafine herringbone with silk peaked lapels, often grosgrain, worn unbuttoned. The coat is shorter in front than a morning coat.
- Black trousers with a natural taper and two lines of braid down each outside leg.
- White marcella shirt, worn with a starched detachable wing collarand double cuffs.
- Cufflinks and studs. the shirt will usually be closed with studs rather than buttons. These may be plain white or decorative.
- Thin, white, hand-tied marcella bow-tie.
- Low-cut, white marcella evening waistcoat - double or single-breasted.
- Highly polished or black patent lace-up shoes with black laces (traditionally ribbon) and black silk socks.
- In winter, a black overcoat and white silk scarf can be worn.
Top Tip: White tie is no longer seen at the theatre and opera and opera cloaks and silk top hats, along with canes and white gloves, are now only seen on stage.
- Full-length, formal evening dress. It is traditional, but not essential, to show décolletage. Shorter dresses or trousers, no matter how smart, are not acceptable.
- Jewellery can be striking, and tiaras may be worn (traditionally by married women only).
- Evening bags should be small and elegant.
- Long evening gloves are no longer compulsory at many events.
- A smart evening coat, cloak, pashmina or wrap.