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White Tie Dress Code

Posted on Dec 04, 2014 by Paul Tiernan

White Tie is the most formal of evening dress codes. Usually seen at official ceremonies and formal evening weddings. Even the most social chap may only wear White Tie on a handful of occasions during his lifetime. Thankfully, vintage pieces have have tended to remain in excellent condition for just the same reason, and are easily affordable. Our stock of vintage White Tie attire will ensure that you look and feel '1st class' when 'passing the port'. Savvy Row customer, Edward Werner Cook, demonstrates correct White Tie (above).

Evening Tailcoat

Black or midnight blue. Barathea wool (wool mix or lightweight mohair may be acceptable in tropical climates). Pure silk, (grosgrain or satin), lapel facings. Buttonhole to lapel, ideally with stem holder to reverse (though, this can be added later). Bespoke detailing may also include; working cuff buttons, silk facings to buttons, quilted linings (sometimes pure silk), pockets fitted to top of one or both tails (for a chap to have somewhere to discreetly store his white gloves).


White marcella finish. Single or double-breasted. Shawl lapel. White mother of pearl buttons or, ideally, removable mother of pearl studs. Better examples will have a small elastic loop near the hem that attaches to the inside of the dress trouser to ensure that the waistcoat does not ride up to expose the waistband.


In the same colour and material as the tailcoat. The high-rise 'English-Cut' is not essential, but strongly recommended; single or twin pleats (forward facing), cut for braces (curved waistband, notch-back, high waisted / rise), gently tapered leg, no turn-up / cuff. A twin-stripe (in the same material as the lapel facings) to the leg is considered most correct, but a single stripe will not be frowned upon. Use white silk braces.


Wing collar. White marcella front to match waistcoat, or plain stiff front. Accepting studs (one or two of which will be visible, see 'fitting notes' below). Studs should be mother of pearl (or genuine pearl) or a discreet precious stone. A properly washed and starched detachable collar will look most elegant but may be more difficult to source, especially in larger sizes. Better quality modern (attached collar) shirts will have a taller collar than a regular dress shirt and the wings should be clearly pronounced, not just small tabs. This is one occasion where we recommend a single cuff (tailcoat arms are narrower than average and the additional bulk of a french cuff is not desirable here), though still made to accept links (white gold is ideal).

Bow Tie

White marcella to match shirt and waistcoat. Pre-tied might appear convenient but, once learnt, self-tied will give an obviously superior result.


Patent leather slippers are most formal and striking, though patent leather lace-up dress shoes are most popular. Even the most highly polished black Oxfords don't really quite make the grade in this company.


Pocket watch or slim, discreet dress watch
Pocket square in white linen or silk
Boutonniere - white carnation or small gardenia
White kidskin gloves
White silk scarf with tassle ends
Black silk top hat
Evening cloak / opera cape

Fitting Notes & Etiquette

The tailcoat tails should fall just below the back of the knee. This creates an elegant silhouette as you 'sweep' into the room. A tailcoat that is too short will make you appear as a penguin!

Sleeves should be short enough to reveal a half to one inch (depending on your height) of white shirt cuff.

A higher waistline will will make a short chap look taller.

The waistcoat should be long enough to cover the trouser waistband but not so long as to extend below the tailcoat fronts. Wearing a high-rise trouser will make it much easier to achieve both requirements.

If you are taller than average, wear a dress shirt that has two visible studs. If you are shorter than average, a dress shirt with only one visible stud will give the illusion of height.

The bow tie band should not be visible above the back of the tailcoat collar. Some better quality shirts feature a loop that is used to keep the bow tie band hidden.

Do NOT tuck the collar wing tips behind the bow tie. This practice has only become widespread because it is virtually necessitated by the inadequate tabs that pose as wing tips on some modern shirts.

Shirt studs and cufflinks may or may not be expensive, but must always be discreet.

Black silk socks work satisfyingly well with formal dress slippers.


  • The gentleman who replied regarding the shirt collar was wholly wrong.
    a white boiled (starched) shirt is worn.A stiff starched collar a half size larger than the shirt is attached.Ivory or ivorine collar studs are correct-not gilt metal as with a day collar.
    the marcella tie never goes over the collar-indeed this would be impossible with a correctly starched collar.
    an evening shirt has a single cuff always-the cuffs to be starched as the shirt front.Fancy(amusing) cufflinks to be avoided.
    A pocket handkerchief is not worn-especially not in a cheery colour.
    the evening tie can be obtained the correct length for the wearers collar-to avoid any adjuster showing-and thus not appearing as a head waiter in a provincial hotel.
    neither gloves or silk hat are worn these days.
    to carry them would be an affectation.
    great care to be taken to ensure the trouser band is not below the vest.
    a flower -even if a gardenia is not worn these days unless the wearer is seeking to look over dressed.
    evening slippers are easily obtained and are worn with long silk socks.Oxfords (polished or scuffed from the office) are not correct.
    if these simple rules are adhered to elegance will be achieved.
    high waisted trousers are crucial for all but the most slender of wearers.

    Posted by Neil Logan Green
  • Hello:

    I read your article on White tie and tails and it is very informative. Thank you.

    I’d like to make a comment, if I may. I noticed your reference to not tucking the wings of the collar behind the tie. I disagree. I have vintage shirts and detachable wing collars with very adequate tabs, and I always put the wings behind the tie. You will notice this even in the old movies with Cary Grant etc. The tie should NOT be underneath the wing tabs.


    Posted by David
  • Style has little regard for fashionable trends. Style, like class had nothing to do with a plethora of money more irrefutable taste.

    Posted by Risteard Sinclair

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