White tie: Wikis

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Western dress codes

The Founder of Modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in a top hat and white tie. Black waistcoats were initially a popular alternative to the standard white pique; near the middle of the 20th century they waned in popularity and white became the most used color of waistcoat to be worn with white tie.

White tie (or evening dress, full evening dress) is the most formal evening dress code. It is worn to events such as balls, the opera, and banquets. The chief components for men are the dress coat, white bow tie and waistcoat, and starched shirt, while women wear a suitable dress for the occasion, such as a ball gown.

As evening dress, white tie is only worn after dark or after six o'clock pm, whichever occurs first. Before then, the daytime equivalent called morning dress is worn. The semi-formal counterparts of white tie are black tie in the evening and, rarely worn, semi-formal morning dress during the day, a code in between an informal lounge suit and full morning dress (cf formal wear definitions). The dress coat worn with white tie is a descendent of the coat worn at all times of day in the Regency period, so is also part of other related codes, such as civilian day court dress in the Royal court (in the UK). However, these alternatives are now being replaced by standard white tie for formal state occasions, such as for ambassadors at the State Opening of Parliament.

Contents

Elements

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Men's clothes

Formal evening dress is strictly regulated, and properly comprises:

  • Black tailcoat with silk (grosgrain or satin) facings, horizontally cut-away at the front
  • Black trousers with a single stripe of satin or braid in the US or two stripes in Europe; trousers are fish-tail back, thus worn with braces instead of a belt.
  • White plain stiff-fronted cotton shirt (usually cotton marcella (US: piqué))
  • White stiff-winged collar
  • White bow tie (usually cotton marcella (US: piqué))
  • Black (in daytime) or white (in evening) low-cut waistcoat (usually cotton marcella (US: piqué), matching the bow tie and shirt, which should not extend below the front of the tailcoat)
  • Black silk stockings (long socks)
  • Black patent leather pumps or velvet Albert slippers
  • White Gloves

The front of the dress coat is cut as if it were double-breasted, but is never buttoned. It is, in fact, cut so that it cannot be closed. The front cut-away is squared, in contrast to a morning coat, which has a diagonally-angled cut-away. Both dress coats and morning coats are tail coats, the former for evening dress, and the latter for day wear. Since the waistcoat must not extend below the coat front, it must be high; the waistcoat must cover the trouser waistline (which should never be seen) so this must be also high.

Additionally, it is common to wear medals, sashes, and other decorations with white tie dress, especially if the man has some military, political, or royal background.

At some state and heraldic occasions in Britain, black buckled pumps, knee-breeches and silk stockings are worn instead of trousers.[citation needed] This is particularly necessary where the garter of the Order of the Garter is intended to be worn.

The waistcoat and bow tie are usually made of cotton marcella, although plain white or off-white silk bow ties and waistcoats are sometimes worn. The shirt should have a detachable stand up collar, with a plain but stiffly starched front. Shirts with marcella fronts were traditionally frowned on but during the course of the twentieth century have gained in acceptability. Shirt studs and cufflinks should be silver or white. A white chest pocket handkerchief and boutonnière may be worn (in France, both may not be worn simultaneously, and the boutonnière traditionally should be a gardenia). At occasions of state, and in the presence of royalty, state decorations are worn by those who have been awarded them: miniature medals plus up to four breast stars, a narrow neck riband and a broad riband (sash). If a Knight of the Garter wears breeches, he wears his garter under his left knee. Ladies of the Garter wear theirs above their left elbow.

The hat should be a black silk top hat which may be collapsible — a tradition which arose from the fact that opera houses traditionally lacked a cloak room to hand in a top hat. The overcoat should be a dark Chesterfield overcoat, Inverness cloak, or an opera cloak. White gloves were traditionally considered essential. A silk scarf and cane are optional extras.

Women's clothes

Although female dress is not as formally codified as that of men, where white tie is prescribed women are generally expected to wear full-length dresses such as ball gowns. Depending on the formality of the event, bare shoulders may or may not be acceptable. Shawls and long gloves are common accessories. At the most formal balls, ball gowns are often required to be white. At hunt balls, gowns are often required to be black, white, silver or gold.

Where state decorations are worn it will usually be appropriate for married women to wear tiaras.

Variations

Military mess dress may also be seen at a white tie event on appropriate occasions. At hunt balls (run by Fox Hunting clubs) members who are entitled to may wear a scarlet tailcoat. This hunt attire is colloquially known as "Drinking Pinks", to distinguish it from the "Pinks" intended to be worn while riding. A hunt ball invitation in America would generally specify the dress code as "Black tie, or scarlet if convenient".

National dress

National costume may also be worn to white tie functions.[1]

Scottish Highland dress

As a specific example of national dress, Scottish Highland dress may also be worn by men at white tie events.

The traditional white tie version of Highland dress consists of:

  • Black formal kilt jacket — the Prince Charlie coatee, Montrose doublet, Sheriffmuir doublet, Kenmore doublet or regulation doublet is suitable
  • Black barathea (or velvet, with a velvet doublet) or white marcella waistcoat; no waistcoat is worn with the Kenmore doublet
  • Kilt
  • White marcella shirt with white studs and cufflinks
  • White marcella bow tie with the coatee or regulation doublet; white lace jabot with the other doublets
  • Black Ghillie brogues; black buckle brogues ("Mary Janes") may be worn with the Montrose, Sheriffmuir, or Kenmore doublet
  • Tartan or red and white, red and black or blue and white diced kilt hose
  • Flashes
  • Sporran - formal type with a silver-mounted cantle-top and fur pouch or a full fur and animal mask type
See also: Scottish apparel

Appropriate occasions

President of the United States Gerald Ford, First Lady Betty Ford, Japanese Emperor Hirohito and Empress Kōjun during a state dinner, 1975

Like black tie, evening dress is generally worn only after 6 p.m. (see note 1 for an exception). Occasions include:

The situation is similar in the United States, though for many formal occasions (such as weddings and the Academy Awards, for example) the white-tie-and-tail suit was replaced by the standard black-tie tuxedo, after the 1950s. The white-tie had sometimes informally been known as the "soup-and-fish" suit, because it was worn for formal many-course meals which began with soup, then fish, before meat dishes[3][4]. In America white-tie is still occasionally seen at:

In some Nordic countries, both male and female doctors wear doctoral hat, instead of opera hat, as part of white tie at all outdoor occasions requiring white tie.

In Austria and elsewhere in Continental Europe there are many balls where white tie is worn; a notable example is the Vienna Opera Ball. In Finland, Norway, Sweden as well as The Netherlands many academic traditions (disputations, commencement ceremonies, and academic balls) still require white tie, even during day time. In these countries, academic traditions require a black waistcoat for day-time ceremonies. If no ladies without doctoral degree are present, it is customary to use black waistcoat even in evening.[5] In formal academic balls of student unions, student nations, and other student organizations, couleur is worn with the white tie. In Finland, Norway and Sweden many weddings are white tie as is the Nobel Prize ceremony and dinner occasions with the head-of-state. Doctors may use their doctoral headgear instead of opera hat as part of their white tie even in non-academic occasions. In some universities (most notably Helsinki University of Technology), doctoral regalia includes a black tailcoat with facings bearing the insignia of the university, embroidered in gold or silver. Doctors from these universities may wear this regalia at all occasions requiring white tie. On the other hand, doctoral swords are not usually worn in normal white tie occasions.

In Japan, white tie, or a variant combining the bow tie with a black lounge suit, is worn for school graduation ceremonies by the school principal and the teachers of the graduating students; and also for certain government functions.

Related forms of dress

White ties were historically worn by clerics and in the professions that formerly were filled by priests and minor clerics. In various forms they are still worn as part of:

White ties are not usually worn with military mess dress, where black ties are most often worn even with the most formal variants, though there are exceptions. In the Royal Navy, mess dress requires a white waistcoat but a black tie.

References

  1. ^ Canadian Heritage (1985). "Protocol — Dress". "Diplomatic and Consular Relations and Protocol" External Affairs. http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/ceem-cced/prtcl/vest-eng.cfm. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  2. ^ Moore, Matthew (2007-11-13). "Gordon Brown gives in to Lord Mayor's dress code". Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/11/12/ntie112.xml. Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  3. ^ "Soup & Fish". http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/12/messages/1148.html. 
  4. ^ "Soup & Fish". World Wide Words. http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-sou2.htm. 
  5. ^ Sillanpää, M. Karonkkaperinne. University of Turku. (Finnish)

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