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What is white tie attire?

White tie, or full evening dress as we know it today, first started to evolve in the 18th Century, ironically as a more casual alternative to evening dress. At the time of its progressive arrival on the social scene, aristocrats, landed gentry and male courtiers would attend exquisite dinners and evening social events dressed in elaborate clothing, featuring richly festooned coats, shirts decorated with eye-catching lace or frills, and breeches, which were high waisted and knee length, and worn with stockings which were often fastened with ribbons.

By the end of the 18th Century, a new fashion began to emerge as upper class men started to appear donned in much less flamboyant clothing than their predecessors, taking on a more minimalist approach in tailcoats that were dark in colour with simpler designs. There were two types of tailcoat regularly featured in high society at that time, namely, the morning coat which curved from the front of the body to the tails at the back, worn mostly to daytime events and then the more formal dress coat, strictly restricted to evening wear and was cut horizontally at the waist, but knee length at the back.

Over the years, white tie attire has evolved, firstly, in how it was designed- from elaborate and colourful to monochrome and simple. Secondly, who could wear it; it is no longer restricted by class or position in society, but there remains a strict protocol on how to wear it!

White tie has regularly featured in many genres of film over the years, and perhaps the most notable being in the 1997 academy award winning film Titanic, where Billy Zane (Caledon Hockley) and his fellow upper-class gentlemen sported white tie attire, epitomising the huge divide in class that was aboard the grand ‘unsinkable’ vessel. White tie also featured in the 2021 film Nightmare Alley, starring Bradley Cooper looking debonair and handsome. The Baftas have also been a perfect platform for white tie attire, and it is indisputable that it is the very epitome of elegance, guaranteed to turn heads. In the 2016 Met Gala, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Tom Ford, Bradley Cooper and many others donned white tie attire, highlighting that, so many years later, it still emanates stylishness and grace. Conductors of large orchestras will often wear white tie for its impactful style to compliment the performance and to intensify the experience for the audience. White tie is frequently worn to particular formal occasions, such as state banquets, where royalty or dignitaries are present, weddings, university balls and other reputable dinners, but it is not limited to such events. It is attainable for anyone, so if you are planning to host a dinner with friends, or an event where you require the guests to attend in white tie, here is our ‘go to’ list.

What does white tie consist of?

  • Black evening tail jacket with satin lapels.
  • Black dinner trousers- flat fronted with two satin side stripes and adjustable waist buttons.
  • White Marcella waistcoat with adjustable neck and waistband, cut to a deep v shape to reveal the shirt. The waistcoat should never sit longer than the jacket at the front, but should just cover the waistband.
  • White wing collar Marcella shirt with fly fronted button fastening.
  • Patent black leather dress shoes with black socks.
  • Adjustable white Marcella bow tie.
  • Top hat (available in dove grey or black)
For more information on how to measure up for your white tie hire or any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us in store at Shepherd and Woodward, where our team of expert and willing staff would be happy to help.

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