The ins and outs of festive black tie – The Free Weekly – The Free Weekly
Q. I have a party coming up that has the wording “black-tie/festive attire.” What exactly does that mean? Do I just buy a red bow tie to go with my own tuxedo?
A. This is a common confusion. Classic black-tie dressing has a rather strict set of rules, and I have always advised following them faithfully. However, adding “festive attire” to an invitation allows you to be as creative as you like.
As always, I am pleased to hear of any man NOT planning to rent a tuxedo. I have never understood what would prompt a man who has arrived at the level of achievement where he is invited to black-tie events to rent his outfit for the evening. His wife or date is resplendent in her most elegant gown or newest cocktail dress. She wears the finest jewelry she owns (or can borrow), and he comes in a third-rate rental getup that some high school senior might have worn last week to his prom.
When planning to adjust your traditional tuxedo to create a less formal and more festive version, you need to know what defines the formal one.
For a classic black-tie combination, the suit is always black and the shirt is always white with vertical pleats and with French cuffs.
In summer, the jacket may be white, all else remains the same. Suits are fashioned in one of three different collar and lapel styles: shawl, peaked, or notched. Lapels are either made of satin, a silk-like, smooth, glossy fabric, or of grosgrain (also known as faille and pronounced“file”), a heavy, ribbed fabric resembling a twill.
There are two types of closings – single-breasted and double-breasted. The dapper double-breasted jacket is kept buttoned at all times; it should not be your first and only evening suit, because it will come and go in style. It does have one advantage, though, that many men like: the necessity to wear a cummerbund is eliminated. With or without a cummerbund, do not wear a belt. Trousers (made of fabric that matches the jacket) have a ribbon down the outside of the leg that matches the lapel material.
An important note on formal trousers: they never have a cuff.
SO, how does this become festive? Your idea of wearing a red bowtie, though somewhat on the obvious side, is perfectly acceptable. Still, I think you can depart a bit further and choose an accessory or two that will make more of a fun, and sophisticated, sartorial statement. Here are a few possibilities.
Don’t go overboard. That is, only one or two special items, not several at once. And, do not confuse festive with inappropriate. Actually, for festive attire, all a man really needs is one interesting item that shows that he tried.
Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net