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Formal party, no time for a tux

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

I wish I could say I was a long time lurker, but I'm pretty new here. I found SF while browsing for a solution to my problem last night. Hopefully one of you guys can help.

 

Tonight I have to attend a "Formal Party". It's a sudden thing, and I have no time to get a tux. This is going to by the first of many Formal Parties to come due to a career change. 

 

I think purchasing a tux will be my end game, but for now I need to know what I can do tonight to keep from looking like the total noob I am. :)

 

I own a black suit. That's it. No really nice shirts, I hate my ties, etc.

 

So this morning, I need to go shopping for at least a shirt and tie.

 

I have some shiny black shoes, but they're not "tux" shiny. They're a pair of square toe'd Steve Maddens. They're the only dress shoes I have.

 

I've been reading the SF forums for a couple hours trying to find a solution, and finally decided to just ask. 

 

From what I've read, I need to get a "Formal Dress Shirt" and a black satin tie. Am I close?

 

I realize my closet is pretty pathetic, and I'd like to start improving it. I'm guessing SF can help me over the next couple months. My new career will demand I dress better anyways. But I could really use some direction just for this morning. I have to keep my costs down, so I can't spend a ton of money on new clothes. I'd like to use my black suit (The hostess said a suit was fine). Just need some friendly advice on where to go from here.

 

I appreciate your patience.

 

Rob

post #2 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Q Smith View Post

I wish I could say I was a long time lurker, but I'm pretty new here. I found SF while browsing for a solution to my problem last night. Hopefully one of you guys can help.

Tonight I have to attend a "Formal Party". It's a sudden thing, and I have no time to get a tux. This is going to by the first of many Formal Parties to come due to a career change. 

I think purchasing a tux will be my end game, but for now I need to know what I can do tonight to keep from looking like the total noob I am. smile.gif

I own a black suit. That's it. No really nice shirts, I hate my ties, etc.

So this morning, I need to go shopping for at least a shirt and tie.

I have some shiny black shoes, but they're not "tux" shiny. They're a pair of square toe'd Steve Maddens. They're the only dress shoes I have.

I've been reading the SF forums for a couple hours trying to find a solution, and finally decided to just ask. 

From what I've read, I need to get a "Formal Dress Shirt" and a black satin tie. Am I close?

I realize my closet is pretty pathetic, and I'd like to start improving it. I'm guessing SF can help me over the next couple months. My new career will demand I dress better anyways. But I could really use some direction just for this morning. I have to keep my costs down, so I can't spend a ton of money on new clothes. I'd like to use my black suit (The hostess said a suit was fine). Just need some friendly advice on where to go from here.

I appreciate your patience.

Rob

You really don't want to mix tuxedo stuff with non-tuxedo stuff, so don't buy a formal shirt or patent leather shoes.

Since you have no time, just wear the black suit. Since this is an evening event, this isn't horrible. Buy a regular white shirt and a dark solid tie and you should be fine. I also recommend a decent pair of shoes. Get a pair of black balmoral plain toe shoes if you can find them. If not, black cap-toe balmorals will be fine.
post #3 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by msulinski View Post

You really don't want to mix tuxedo stuff with non-tuxedo stuff, so don't buy a formal shirt or patent leather shoes.

Since you have no time, just wear the black suit. Since this is an evening event, this isn't horrible. Buy a regular white shirt and a dark solid tie and you should be fine. I also recommend a decent pair of shoes. Get a pair of black balmoral plain toe shoes if you can find them. If not, black cap-toe balmorals will be fine.

This. The first purchase that you make should be a better pair of shoes. Typically, the obligatory first purchase of many is the Allen Edmonds Park Ave. Personally, I prefer something sleeker with a 270 welt as opposed to the 360. Given your time constraints, though, you might have to settle. Even if you're wearing Kiton, bespoke, or Rubinacci, if you're wearing crap shoes, you'll look out of place. The difference between a bad shoe and a good shoe is significantly larger than the difference between a bad suit and a good suit. I've seen people wear H&M suits with a good shoe and they look better dressed than most of the people with the opposite: a nice suit and poor footwear.

As for what you can wear tonight, msulinski stated it best: buy a new white shirt with a classic and simple tie. You don't necessarily have to go dark, but it should not be light.
post #4 of 20
I agree with the above suggestions. Your black suit will be OK, assuming that it has been tailored and fits well. If not, than a bit of quick tailoring will be better than buying something new.

White shirt (again, one that fits or is tailored to do so), solid black tie, shoes and a pocket square and you will be good to go.

By the way, a "formal party" = white tie and tails (or morning dress), semi-formal = tuxedo, in-formal = suit & tie, casual = smart, but not sloppy. If it truly is a "formal party" than a black suit just won't do.
post #5 of 20
+1. Having a black satin tie and a black silk knit tie will always come in handy, as will black balmorals, as will a beautiful white French-cuffed shirt. You'll always look great at night in that.
Quote:
Originally Posted by msulinski View Post

You really don't want to mix tuxedo stuff with non-tuxedo stuff, so don't buy a formal shirt or patent leather shoes.
Since you have no time, just wear the black suit. Since this is an evening event, this isn't horrible. Buy a regular white shirt and a dark solid tie and you should be fine. I also recommend a decent pair of shoes. Get a pair of black balmoral plain toe shoes if you can find them. If not, black cap-toe balmorals will be fine.
post #6 of 20

Hope you enjoyed the party.

 

Solid advice, but I would recommend some additions in future.

 

First off 99% of the American public has no idea what a real black tie rig looks like, so I actually recommend you do mix some things up. Also black tie rig has been an in-formal manner of dress since day one. And that was it's purpose, to get away from the one size fits all form of white tie, which is very restrictive or formal as regards what is corrects dress

 

To re-create and re-model black tie rig into a strict form to mirror white tie would be counter productive and against the founding principles of black tie wear.

 

1. The advice on the shoes is solid. This is an immediate upgrade that can carry over to other outfits. Buy some nice black captoe oxfords or balmorals and you will feel and look much better. However, very, very few would consider it a flaw if you wore any really nice black shoe with relatively sleek styling, such as a punch cap oxford or balmoral, penny loafers, strap loafers, apron loafers [aka, "Venetians"], or *gasp* black tassel loafers. I have worn all of these successfully with what was otherwise standard black tie rig; an even been complimented on my "non-standard" shoes by people that were wearing a "correct" dinner suit. For nearly a decade I worn black tassel loafers with everything this side of canvas sailing shorts, and it worked for me and in all the best ways.

 

If you deviate ever so slightly from form, even a fashionista might take it for an affectation of yours and not a faux pas, as long as you maintain the form of color; or black and white.

 

2. Do buy a black self tie bow tie in barathea or grossgrain and wear it with a turndown moderate spread collar white shirt with double cuffs, barrel cuffs or whatever. Nothing defines "black tie" more than the black bow tie, itself. This purchase is crucial to achieve the look of a tuxedo. As long as you do not wear a button down oxford cloth, again, no one will notice. And if they do, who cares. Because you will at least have the black and white form correct, even if the pieces as relatively non-standard.

 

3. If your suit has a vest, do not wear it, since it does not have the right shape of a formal waistcoat to fool anyone and it really is not as flattering it could be compared to a proper waistcoat. Instead, find if you can a black formal waistcoat that does not look like a vest for a suit, in barathea or grossgrain to match your bowtie and wear it. If you can only find a cummerbund in the same material [matching your bowtie] wear that instead and it will cover your belt. It doesn't matter that a cummerbund is summer wear. This is esoteric knowledge for 99% of your acquaintances. In fact, if you cummberbund is satin and your tie barathea; no one will notice, especially if you keep your jack buttoned except when seated.

 

If you cannot source a waistcoat or cummerbund, just keep your jacket buttoned when standing and seated, and no one will notice your omission, even if you wear a belt an not suspenders/braces.

 

4. If you can source and wear proper white silk braces with woven white silk or goatskin tips or ends, you can leave the belt at home and your belt loops be damned. Because with a waistcoat or cummerbund; no one can see them

 

If you wear really nice shoes, a black bow tie, and a black cummerbund with a turndown medium spread white shirt [even with barrel cuffs] and a black two piece two button single breasted suit; 99% of the world, and probably all of your friends, will assume you are wearing a tuxedo, because it will look correct even with the notch lapels.

 

And if you only upgrade your shoes and wear a just the black bow tie with your suit and a clean white shirt; no one will notice.

 

In fact, it will look more correct than some bozo wearing a matching red silk bowtie and waistcoat with a real live bespoke tuxedo or dinner suit with peak or shawl lapels and $5000 worth of gem encrusted gold studs.

 

Seek the look or form first which is in this case' black and white. Then get the correct pieces when you can. The purchase of a tuxedo jacket with pants can be the last step of creating your black tie outfit.

 

Just my opinion. Good luck.

post #7 of 20

^ Why are you recommending that he go out of his way and do black tie incorrectly? You are recommending he wear penny loafers with a tuxedo. The fact that "no one will notice" is not a reason to do it. Also, if he is attending formal parties with a degree of regularity, there is a good chance many of the people present will notice.

 

OP, since you mentioned that this will be the first of many parties of this nature, you will probably want to buy a proper black tie rig (or 2). Consult this site for more information:

http://www.blacktieguide.com/

post #8 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by msulinski View Post

^ Why are you recommending that he go out of his way and do black tie incorrectly? You are recommending he wear penny loafers with a tuxedo. The fact that "no one will notice" is not a reason to do it. Also, if he is attending formal parties with a degree of regularity, there is a good chance many of the people present will notice.

 

OP, since you mentioned that this will be the first of many parties of this nature, you will probably want to buy a proper black tie rig (or 2). Consult this site for more information:

http://www.blacktieguide.com/


Let me be clear: black tie is in-formal, or not formal or with form, as opposed to white tie which is formal or with form by definition, do you understand what that means?

 

I have attended formal [white tie] and in-formal [black tie] events for over forty years on several continents and many countries, so I think I may have a slightly different perspective than you.

 

Please describe in detail for me the differences you perceive between the notch lapel dinner jackets below and a jacket from a black lounge suit:

 

 

 

 

 

And describe in detail the differences between this peak lapel dinner jacket with self faced lapels and black lounge with peak lapels:

 

 

FYI; "black tie" can done "correctly" with maroon tie or cummerbund, do you know when? I do.

post #9 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by recondite View Post


Let me be clear: black tie is in-formal, or not formal or with form, as opposed to white tie which is formal or with form by definition, do you understand what that means?

 

I have attended formal [white tie] and in-formal [black tie] events for over forty years on several continents and many countries, so I think I may have a slightly different perspective than you.

 

Please describe in detail for me the differences you perceive between the notch lapel dinner jackets below and a jacket from a black lounge suit:

 

 

 

 

 

And describe in detail the differences between this peak lapel dinner jacket with self faced lapels and black lounge with peak lapels:

 

 

FYI; "black tie" can done "correctly" with maroon tie or cummerbund, do you know when? I do.

 

Black tie is not "informal." At worst, it is considered semi-formal, so there is still a set of rules to follow, they just aren't as strict as white tie. There is no allowance in those rules for penny loafers. I really don't care what you wear, but telling others just learning about black tie that penny loafers are fine is somewhat irresponsible.

 

Also, given that white tie is basically dead, black tie is pretty much the most formal event a person is likely to attend. This is especially true in the US, and mostly true in the UK. Chances are, the OP is from the US, so he is best served by following the rules for black tie.

post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by msulinski View Post

 

Black tie is not "informal." At worst, it is considered semi-formal, so there is still a set of rules to follow, they just aren't as strict as white tie. There is no allowance in those rules for penny loafers. I really don't care what you wear, but telling others just learning about black tie that penny loafers are fine is somewhat irresponsible.

 

Also, given that white tie is basically dead, black tie is pretty much the most formal event a person is likely to attend. This is especially true in the US, and mostly true in the UK. Chances are, the OP is from the US, so he is best served by following the rules for black tie.

 

Edit - I noticed you failed to distinguish between a dinner jacket with self faced notched lapels and black lounge. No worries, I can't figure it out either, except for the fabric covered buttons and lack of vents typically, but not universally associated with with formal wear.

 

Show me the "rules" and I will get it. There is not one "rule" for "black tie" that is not routinely ignored, broken, or twisted at every event styled as "black tie", "semi-formal", or "formal" today or that I have attended in the past.

 

I think it is a sign of the times and hilarious to the extreme, that anyone would try to persuade someone that rules actually exist for something where none have been expected since the beginning, much less where there is no enforcement. No doubt some preferences look better than others, but as for rules, they do not exist in the way you wish.

 

Black tie events have always been a place to experiment with personal preferences and affectations since the beginning, In fact, the entire idea of a tuxedo was one WASP thumbing his nose at a roomful of other WASPs attired in white tie rig. And they all got it, had a great laugh,and took up the style as fashion for any place they would rather not wear a stiff fronted boiled shirt and tails, which while elegant, can be annoying.

 

Yes, white tie wear is almost extinct in most circles. But it is high comedy to take the rules of form for a largely obsolete form and seek to apply them to a form where personal preference was included by design; e.g. in certain situations such as dinner or evening wear in a private residence during summer; a peak lapel sb, peak lapel db [true "tuxedo" jacket], shawl lapel sb, shawl lapel db, notch lapel sb, in white, black, midnight blue or tartan with self or silk faced lapels, or even velvet smoking jacket, are all "correct".  Compare this to white tie dinner or evening wear in a private residence in summer where the only acceptable form for the jacket is a tailcoat in black or midnight blue, end of story. Calling black tie rig, in the US at least, "semi-formal" simply doesn't recognize the reality of black tie wear in the US.

 

Note I am not even including military dress mess where each service and country have their own forms or what would pass for black tie wear in Scotland or Germany, which used to be quite unique and more formal to a degree, but any and all of which would be acceptable for evening wear in the a US residential setting in summer.

 

The rules you wish to apply simply do not exist and they are in no way universal.

 

Here are the only real "black tie" rules that are universal as far I can tell both inside and outside the US:

 

1. wear a black bowtie. A rule that is broken without fail, and often the first to fall within the US in this day and age. You could pay each person that shows up in black self bowtie $20 at a "black tie only" event in the US and never be out more than few hundred dollar at any event worth attending.

2. cover your waist that no one wants to see. Again, broken without fail everywhere.

3. "formal" black shoes, pumps, or slippers. Interestingly enough, rarely broken, but more often than you might think, or universally broken if one considers ugly shoes to be a failure of form.

4. White dinner jacket only acceptable as summer or resort wear. Broken all the time in US, including the practice of wearing a hideous white tailcoat.

 

Any other rule, you might wish to apply to black tie rig, just simply doesn't exist in a manner that would be accepted universally much less so in the US, although there might be more rigid forms within certain cultures like the UK and Germany or within certain enclaves like a peculiar private club or other organization.

 

If you like rules, then put together a white tie rig and wear it religiously to any event that begins after six. The rules for white tie are rigid, more or less, but don't be surprised when someone shows up in midnight blue tailcoat and trousers, at even an exclusively "white tie" event.

 

In the mean time, you may certainly apply rules to your black tie rig as you see fit.

 

I do; e.g., only fly front shirts after Labor Day.

 

Cheers!


Edited by recondite - 1/20/13 at 9:46am
post #11 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by recondite View Post

 

Edit - I noticed you failed to distinguish between a dinner jacket with self faced notched lapels and black lounge. No worries, I can't figure it out either, except for the fabric covered buttons and lack of vents typically, but not universally associated with with formal wear.

 

Show me the "rules" and I will get it. There is not one "rule" for "black tie" that is not routinely ignored, broken, or twisted at every event styled as "black tie", "semi-formal", or "formal" today or that I have attended in the past.

 

I think it is a sign of the times and hilarious to the extreme, that anyone would try to persuade someone that rules actually exist for something where none have been expected since the beginning, much less where there is no enforcement. No doubt some preferences look better than others, but as for rules, they do not exist in the way you wish.

 

Black tie events have always been a place to experiment with personal preferences and affectations since the beginning, In fact, the entire idea of a tuxedo was one WASP thumbing his nose at a roomful of other WASPs attired in white tie rig. And they all got it, had a great laugh,and took up the style as fashion for any place they would rather not wear a stiff fronted boiled shirt and tails, which while elegant, can be annoying.

 

Yes, white tie wear is almost extinct in most circles. But it is high comedy to take the rules of form for a largely obsolete form and seek to apply them to a form where personal preference was included by design; e.g. in certain situations such as dinner or evening wear in a private residence during summer; a peak lapel sb, peak lapel db [true "tuxedo" jacket], shawl lapel sb, shawl lapel db, notch lapel sb, in white, black, midnight blue or tartan with self or silk faced lapels, or even velvet smoking jacket, are all "correct".  Compare this to white tie dinner or evening wear in a private residence in summer where the only acceptable form for the jacket is a tailcoat in black or midnight blue, end of story. Calling black tie rig, in the US at least, "semi-formal" simply doesn't recognize the reality of black tie wear in the US.

 

Note I am not even including military dress mess where each service and country have their own forms or what would pass for black tie wear in Scotland or Germany, which used to be quite unique and more formal to a degree, but any and all of which would be acceptable for evening wear in the a US residential setting in summer.

 

The rules you wish to apply simply do not exist and they are in no way universal.

 

Here are the only real "black tie" rules that are universal as far I can tell both inside and outside the US:

 

1. wear a black bowtie. A rule that is broken without fail, and often the first to fall within the US in this day and age. You could pay each person that shows up in black self bowtie $20 at a "black tie only" event in the US and never be out more than few hundred dollar at any event worth attending.

2. cover your waist that no one wants to see. Again, broken without fail everywhere.

3. "formal" black shoes, pumps, or slippers. Interestingly enough, rarely broken, but more often than you might think, or universally broken if one considers ugly shoes to be a failure of form.

4. White dinner jacket only acceptable as summer or resort wear. Broken all the time in US, including the practice of wearing a hideous white tailcoat.

 

Any other rule, you might wish to apply to black tie rig, just simply doesn't exist in a manner that would be accepted universally much less so in the US, although there might be more rigid forms within certain cultures like the UK and Germany or within certain enclaves like a peculiar private club or other organization.

 

If you like rules, then put together a white tie rig and wear it religiously to any event that begins after six. The rules for white tie are rigid, more or less, but don't be surprised when someone shows up in midnight blue tailcoat and trousers, at even an exclusively "white tie" event.

 

In the mean time, you may certainly apply rules to your black tie rig as you see fit.

 

I do; e.g., only fly front shirts after Labor Day.

 

Cheers!

 

Sure, black tie is not one strict set of rules, but more of a set of guidelines and options. Despite the fact that black tie offers options to the wearer, some options are still wrong and some are only partially/situationally correct. It doesn't mean that anything goes.

 

Your example of wearing a burgundy bow tie is generally only allowed in tropical climates, generally with a white dinner jacket. It is also on the very fringe of black tie rules/guidelines. Smoking jackets are also permitted in black tie wear, however are generally only for parties in someone's home, not in public.

 

Oh, and if you want a list of rules, here is a link to the site that I posted earlier in the thread: http://www.blacktieguide.com/

 

For the OP, it sounds like he will be going to many of these events in the future, and that they are for work. I think he is best served with a proper black tie outfit that fits firmly inside the guidelines.

 

Regarding the self-faced black dinner jacket with notch lapels (does this even exist?) and black lounge suit, I suppose there is technically no difference, assuming the black lounge suit does not have belt loops. There is really no structural difference between a dinner suit and a lounge suit anyway. The difference is all in the details.

post #12 of 20
Ah, the details! There the devil be!
post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by msulinski View Post

 

Sure, black tie is not one strict set of rules, but more of a set of guidelines and options. Despite the fact that black tie offers options to the wearer, some options are still wrong and some are only partially/situationally correct. It doesn't mean that anything goes.

 

Your example of wearing a burgundy bow tie is generally only allowed in tropical climates, generally with a white dinner jacket. It is also on the very fringe of black tie rules/guidelines. Smoking jackets are also permitted in black tie wear, however are generally only for parties in someone's home, not in public.

 

Oh, and if you want a list of rules, here is a link to the site that I posted earlier in the thread: http://www.blacktieguide.com/

 

For the OP, it sounds like he will be going to many of these events in the future, and that they are for work. I think he is best served with a proper black tie outfit that fits firmly inside the guidelines.

 

Regarding the self-faced black dinner jacket with notch lapels (does this even exist?) and black lounge suit, I suppose there is technically no difference, assuming the black lounge suit does not have belt loops. There is really no structural difference between a dinner suit and a lounge suit anyway. The difference is all in the details.

 

I think we are close to an agreement.

 

In my mind, the main difference between formal wear and a lounge jacket of similar design; e.g., single button sb notch lapel, would be fabric covered buttons. This is because the presence of vents on the jacket, although less than desirable for formal wear,  are not a reliable indicator that the jacket is lounge wear. Likewise, I have sometimes, but more rarely, seen fabric covered buttons on a lounge suit.

 

However, I myself once commissioned a midnight blue 4x1 db lounge suit for traveling with fabric covered buttons and self faced lapels to be a do it all suit that could function as dinner suit, lounge suit, or separate blazer and odd trousers. It worked like a charm when worn as black tie rig or as casual wear with khaki chinos, a white T, and boat shoes. I would sometimes pair the trousers with a camel hair sport coat or a black and white herringbone cashmere jacket and cover all the bases short of white tie. For summer evening wear, I would often pair the trousers with an ivory 4x1 db dinner jacket with self faced lapels and black tie and for summer daywear, pair the midnight blue db jacket with summer weight cream flannels cotton shirt and tie. It was a sweet outfit.

 

I have seen more than a few formal wear jackets with self faced lapels in black and ivory, including notch, peak, and shawl shapes.

 

Typically, formal trousers would have a silk ribbon on the outside seams, but I have seen those for summer wear, and have a pair myself, that do not. I have seen all manner of formal trousers that closely resemble those made for lounge suits, including pleated and un-pleated, cuffed and uncuffed. Although you would expect, formal trousers to be uncuffed and sans belt loops.

 

With waistcoat or cummerbund in place, you would never be able to distinguish in practice "correct" formal trousers from those constructed for black lounge worn with a belt except for an absence of a silk ribbon on the outside seam; but who is looking for that?

 

I seriously doubt anyone would consider the lack of silk ribbon on trouser seams a faux pas of the same class as the wearing of a matching bowtie and cummerbund in any color other than black.

 

Then you have the modern practice of wearing a black four-in-hand tie with what would otherwise be a formal dinner suit, which makes the dinner suit look like black lounge at best, never mind silk faced lapels, silk ribbons, lack of cuffs and belt loops, fabric covered buttons, lack of vents, or any other feature that you think might be a hallmark of true formal or dinner wear,

 

Match a black four-in-hand tie with a black silk six or seven button sb waistcoat as is a currently popular fashion, and I believe the lines between black tie/dinner wear/tuxedo and black lounge to be so blurred as to be meaningless in the same way I can use the word "love" to describe how I feel about a chocolate soufflé, my children, my parents, my friends, and my paramour.

 

 

But maybe you are correct, and I am wrong. I am fine either way.

post #14 of 20
I totally agree. I also love chocolate soufflé.
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 

First off, thank you all so much for the feedback! I also received a few PMs with great advice. 

 

I ended up getting some "cheap" oxfords that looked really nice. They're not Allen Edmonds, but I'm saving for those right now. I also found a great fitted white shirt with french cuffs at Macy's (again, I needed to act fast and keep it cheap. In this case, $25 got me a shirt that looked infinitely better than anything I already own) and a pair of cuff links. I also found a solid black tie.

 

My wife may not have your eye for style, but she still about fell over when she saw me. That was more than I needed. :)

 

I am a long way off of looking "SF good", but thanks to your advice I walked into that party with a huge pile of confidence, and I don't doubt that made me look good too. We had an incredible time. Turns out there were a ton of guys in black suits, but none looked as good as me. lol

 

Sincerely, thanks for the help guys. I'm setting up a budget to start building my business and formal wardrobes and SF will be at the top of my list as I learn to dress better.

 

Thanks so much!

 

Rob

 

 

PS Thanks msulinski for the link! I'll spend some time reading through it later today.

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