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How to Wear a White Tie

Although rare, white tie events do appear, and when they do, knowing how to dress for them is essential. As a very formal style of dress, white tie demands a perfect ensemble and great attention to detail. Therefore, putting on any old costume just won’t work. Instead, you must adhere to strict dress rules and follow them to the letter. Of course, that doesn’t mean your look can’t be exciting. With sleek finishes and plenty of confidence, your white tie outfit will appear enviably elegant. Want to know more about nailing that polished and proper look? Follow our guide to white tie dressing for men.

White tie dress code

White tie is the most formal of all dress codes. It is specified for very special occasions, such as balls, galas and weddings, where even a black tie is not enough. Like all dress codes, it involves a series of dress rules that you must adhere to. These rules include wearing a black tailcoat, white tuxedo shirt and waistcoat, and high-waisted black tuxedo pants. When it comes to accessories, black leather shoes are a must with a white bow tie. Other accessories you can wear include white gloves and a top hat. However, they are not essential.

What is a white tie outfit

White tie versus black tie

Regarding formality, the white tie is higher than the black tie. Although both are meant for special occasions, the former is more prestigious. When it comes to gear specifics, there are key differences between the two. While a tuxedo is ideal for both, it only requires tails for a white tie occasion. Also, while white tie requires a white waistcoat, black tie requires a black waistcoat or belt. Similarly, as the name suggests, a white bow tie is worn for white tie events while a black bow tie is suitable for black tie functions.

Black tie versus white tie

White tie outfit

white tie tailcoat

One element that distinguishes white tie from black tie is the jacket. While black tie requires a standard tuxedo jacket, white tie requires a tailcoat. As a stylish take on the traditional tuxedo jacket, a tailcoat features a similar design. However, it also includes elongated tails in the back, which are a standout feature. Traditionally, most tailcoats also feature a cutout section at the waist. Together, the tails and the cutout elongate the appearance of the wearer’s legs and achieve a refined aesthetic. When choosing a tailcoat for a white tie ensemble, make sure it is snug, sitting comfortably without feeling too tight against your waistcoat. The shoulders should also fit snugly while still allowing movement. Sleeves should end at the wrist bones, exposing a small portion of your shirt cuffs, while tails should end at or above the back of your knees.

White Tie Jackets


White tie pants

When you dress for a white tie event, your pants should be high waisted tuxedo pants. They should be black to match your tailcoat and provide a neat, slim aesthetic. Also, your pants should complement the fit of your jacket and vest. The hems should touch the top of your shoes. As tradition dictates, your tuxedo pants will likely feature a side stripe along the outseam. They are unlikely to have belt loops as belts are not usually worn for such formal events. Therefore, you need to make sure your pants fit snugly enough to stand up and stay comfortable.

White tie pants


White Tie Shirts

As for your shirt, you need to make sure that it is well polished. As such, you should choose a shirt designed to be worn with a tuxedo, such as a bib or pleated front style. Your shirt should also be a clean shade of white, as drab, off-whites will appear out of place. It should be of high quality and thick fabric. Like all dress shirts, your white tie shirt should fit perfectly, snug against your body without being too tight. You also need to make sure the shoulders are snug, the sleeves are the perfect length, and you can tuck it into your pants.

White Tie Shirts


White waistcoats to tie

A waistcoat or jacket is an essential part of your white tie look. Ideally, it should be white, matching the material and hue of your shirt for a formal appearance. However, you can select a style in a more luxurious fabric like silk, if you prefer a bolder, more modern aesthetic. You also have the choice of a standard waistcoat or a backless model, which is a style often worn for white tie events. Whatever you choose, make sure it fits snugly, hugs your body without feeling restrictive, and covers the top of your pants.

White waistcoat to tie


White tie accessories

White bow ties

The dress code isn’t called “white tie” for no reason. As such, a white bow tie is an essential accessory to complete your ensemble. When choosing a bow tie, remember to keep it simple and classic, avoiding any other colors or patterns. If you like a traditional look, you should choose a pique cotton pattern to match your waistcoat. Also, be sure to opt for a proper bow tie instead of a clip-on version for a really polished appearance. If you choose to wear a clip, you need to make sure no one can tell.

White bow ties



Don’t think you can get away with just any shoes for a white tie event. This most formal dress code calls for the most formal shoes. Thus, black patent leather dress shoes are a must. In particular, oxfords with a low heel are ideal for infusing your look with pure elegance. However, if you’re a daring man, you can mix things up with black patent leather loafers, derby shoes or oxfords. But be aware that you might look underdressed in the shoe department if the event is very traditional. Whichever style you choose, be sure to avoid embellishments and other bold design features. The sheen of patent leather will add enough pizzazz on its own.

White Tie Shoes


Optional white tie accessories

A bow tie and dress shoes aren’t the only accessories you can wear to a white tie event. Gloves are a great way to enhance your outfit even further. They’ll give your look a traditional finish and plenty of polish for chic occasions. Just be sure to choose a high-quality white pair that fits your hands properly. Likewise, a top hat can also add something special to your look. However, make sure you wear it correctly as there is a fine line between looking dapper and looking like you are in a period costume. To do this, make sure your hat fits snugly on your head, a few inches above your ears. Then be sure to project plenty of confidence as this traditional hat makes a bold statement in today’s world.

White tie accessories

Tips for White Tie Events

  • Select a well-fitting black tuxedo with tails.
  • Add a white tuxedo shirt, like a bib style, and a white waistcoat.
  • Be sure to wear a white bow tie.
  • Complete your outfit with black patent leather dress shoes, like Oxfords.
  • If you really want to impress, consider adding white gloves and a top hat.


What does it mean to wear a white tie?

The white tie dress code is the smartest and forces you to look your best. Women should wear long evening dresses or ball gowns, while men should wear a black suit, white tuxedo shirt and waistcoat, black tuxedo pants, white bow tie and black leather shoes. Some men may also choose to wear a top hat and gloves. This is a strict dress code and you will need to pay attention to detail.

What is the difference between white tie and black tie?

Both white tie and black tie are worn on formal occasions, but white tie is the more formal of the two. A strict dress code must be followed, with impeccable tailoring and attention to detail. There is little room for freedom of expression or for wearing something that reflects your personality. In both dress codes, men can wear tuxedos, but for a white tie, you’ll wear a white bow tie, white tuxedo shirt and waistcoat, black tailcoat, black tuxedo pants, and black shoes .

Which events have a white tie dress code?

It’s not common to be invited to a white tie event, but there are functions like balls, stately dinners and the opera that would require this dress code.

What can I wear with a white tie?

White-tie events don’t give you much freedom of expression, and there are a number of ways to add your flair to your outfit. This is part of the appeal of this dress code as it creates a very uniform appearance. You can add white gloves or a top hat to your look if you want to accessorize.


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