Saturday, November 1, 2014

Luxarazzi 101: Dress Codes - White Tie

With the the incoming state visit from Germany - see here for schedule details - around the corner, we thought it would be great to delve a bit deeper into the dress code question. For the first night, there is a state banquet planned and let's keep our fingers crossed that the dress code will be White Tie. It's the most formal of all western dress codes and usually also includes tiaras for the ladies.

The white tie dress code is believed to have originated with George Bryan “Beau” Brummel. Brummel, a close friend of the Prince Regent of Great Britain (later King George IV) was famously fashionable and established a new dress code for the fashion elite. Regarding evening dress for men, Brummel placed previous traditions into a social code that determined the appropriate color choices – that is, what parts of white tie dress are white, and what parts should never be white – as well as the appropriate coat, trousers, waistcoat, and so forth. Most of Brummel’s recommendations are still part of the modern white tie tradition. Today, wearing white tie, like wearing black tie, is generally restricted to events after six in the evening.

In all reality, the term "white tie" is specific to men's evening wear, but women who attend white tie events are also subject to certain sartorial expectations, even if these expectations are not quite as stringent. For women, white tie means a ball gown, full-length with no ankles showing. A short dress, or a smart trouser suit, is never acceptable on women for white tie events. Tiaras are appropriate for royals (and anyone who owns them, really) at white tie state events. However, as always, there are exceptions to the rule and there were White Tie occasions where ladies did not wear tiaras. (An example being the wedding of Princess Nathalie of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg.)

Whether or not the woman’s shoulders may be bare is a question of how formal the event is. Décolletage is always welcome. In most cases, it is not acceptable for women to have bare shoulders at white tie events if they are not also wearing white upper-length gloves and/or a shawl. If a woman is wearing gloves, the gloves are expected to remain on unless the wearer is at the dinner table. Once the meal is over, the gloves go back on. A woman may carry an evening bag, as long as it is small and suitably matched for the gown.

The white tie dress code for men is considerably more complicated. The dress coat, or evening tailcoat, must be single-breasted and black or a deep shade of midnight blue. It fits closely to the body and has silk facings that fold away from the body. The coat is worn to hang open and not be buttoned, in spite of the three decorative buttons that adorn each side. The trousers must match the coat in fabric and have one or two braided strips down the side of each leg. Socks should be black and made of silk. The shoes should always be black, patent, and lace-up.

The shirt, collar, bow tie, and waistcoat must all be white. The shirt must have a stiff front, while the stiff wing collar and cuffs must be detachable. The cuffs are never buttoned but are instead fastened with cufflinks. If possible, some cuff should be visible, but not much more than a half-inch. Wearers may elect for decorative cufflinks, in addition to shirt studs. The waistcoat may be either single-breasted or double-breasted, and the white tie should be hand-tied. The shirt, waistcoat, and bow tie are usually made of, or with, a material known as piqué, or cotton marcella. A boutonniére or white pocket handkerchief may be added to the ensemble (though seldom simultaneously), and a pocket watch can be an acceptable extra touch. A wristwatch, however, is always inappropriate but still often worn.

For state events, sashes and medals are appropriate. Sashes are worn over the shirt and waistcoat, but under the evening tailcoat. For the more traditional white tie attendee, a black silk top hat, scarf, cane, and white gloves may be added. These additions, however, are more likely to be extras used for individual events. Of course, men can also wear military dress uniforms for White Tie occasions.

White tie events include state dinners, evening weddings among European royals, and balls. Unique variations for white tie dress occur around the world, but in general these standards are universal for all international white tie events.

No comments:

Post a Comment