Originally Posted by msulinski
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.
Edited by recondite - 1/20/13 at 9:46am