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The state of white tie

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by marcodalondra, Nov 11, 2013.

  1. Persephone

    Persephone Active Member

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    Yes, I've been to the Opernball once -- many years ago. The main ballroom, i.e, the converted auditorium, is amazing, but it is incredibly crowded, and the whole ball has become a media spectacle with some questionable attendees including the infamous Mr Mörtel Lugner. Therefore, I tend to agree with your friends that this is not the most fun event.

    I love to dance, dancing being my primary motivation for attending balls, and found the dance floor to be far too busy to actually dance until around 2 o'clock in the morning. Food and drinks are very overpriced, which is the case at all balls, but even more so at the Opera Ball. Of course, ticket prices have always been fairly high, even back in 1999 when the Schilling still ruled, and the £ had a favourable exchange rate. I had a quick look and can now state that a 2014 ticket, required to enter the opera building, costs 250€ which does not include a place to sit, a bite to eat or a glass of champagne. Two seats somewhere on the upper storeys, far away from the music, will add an extra 180€ whilst a box will run anywhere from 9,000€ to 18,000€. However, the box prices shan't concern us mere mortals as they are sold out years in advance.

    Having said that, it was a unique experience, and I have no regrets. I still watch the ORF (Austrian TV) live broadcast whenever possible, and enjoy the opening ceremony, the comments, the interviews, and the dresses displayed on the famous staircase.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2013
  2. David Reeves

    David Reeves Affiliate Vendor Affiliate Vendor

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    I am making one up now.....in 4 weeks! So this is my crunch project this year. Tomorrow I am measuring a lady up for one, which is quite interesting.
     
  3. UncleNed

    UncleNed Active Member

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    Where is the best place to purchase a tail coat in New Orleans? I would consider bespoke if someone has a recommendation.
     
  4. marcodalondra

    marcodalondra Senior member

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    I posted this recently on my blog, but here an example of wearing a black low cut waistcoat with white tie (required when meeting the pope in private audience).[​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  5. David Reeves

    David Reeves Affiliate Vendor Affiliate Vendor

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    Just finished this one.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. blackbowtie

    blackbowtie Senior member

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    Just attended the Techniker-Cercle Ball in Vienna a couple of weeks ago, and I'm happy to report that the state of white tie in Vienna - if there was really any doubt - is, to a large degree, alive and well.

    Some remarks on white tie:

    - I was told that this was supposed to be one of the more formal balls of the season. While the vast majority of the men were in white tie, it was obvious that the dress code was not strictly enforced as I saw a few black tie-clad men (and no, they were not waiters) though these were admittedly far in between. In contrast, all the ladies were in floor-length gowns - if any came in a cocktail dress, I didn't see them.

    - Compliance with the "gold standard" varies. What was probably surprising was the prevalence of pre-tied bowties, even among men who have been attending these balls for decades, and whose fathers and grandfathers had done the same for decades before them. The same goes with the length of the waistcoat relative to the front of the tailcoat.

    - Encouragingly, there were many very enthusiastic young people who attended in generally correct white tie attire. As a matter of fact, the handful of self-tied bowties that I saw that night were worn by young men in their twenties (perhaps a reflection of the fact that young people are more amenable to learning new things e.g. via Youtube compared to their parents)

    And some notes on the ball itself:

    - The ball took place at the Musikverein, the venue of Vienna's New Year's concert, and is easily the most sumptuous venue of a ball I've been to to-date, though that's probably not saying much. The main dance hall, in my opinion, is just the "right" size: it was large enough to make a satisfying circuit when you waltz, but "intimate" enough that you don't lose your friends in the crowd. There were a few other dance rooms in the lower levels

    - Everything that's been said before about the balls in Vienna are true: people tend to attend in groups and only dance and mingle with the people they come with and the people they know. We had the good luck of being hosted by someone with a box, and I have to say that it was nice to have a "home base" to gravitate towards as you take a break between dances.

    - The quadrilles - one at midnight and one at 2 a.m. - were utter chaos, in sharp contrast to the neat and precious way in which quadrilles are done in the U.S. The moves were all called out in German, which was a bit challenging if you don't speak any, and even if you did, would not help if you hadn't done them before. But everyone approached matters with such a fun attitude and good grace that it made up for the chaos and the lack of skills of some of the participants.

    - Not all Viennese know how to dance the Viennese waltz. Or at least, not how to do it well.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2014
  7. poorsod

    poorsod Senior member

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    [​IMG]

    Quadrille Ball NYC 2014, photos courtesy of Bill Cunningham NYTimes
     
  8. poorsod

    poorsod Senior member

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    I went to 2 white tie balls in the past month or so. Virtually all men in the first ball wore tailcoats, though the majority were probably rented. There were 1-2 men who wore tuxes. At the second ball, there was a good 10-20% of men who wore tuxes. the second ball was bigger and I've been to it before perhaps 7-8 years ago and I thought at that time, most men wore tails.
     
  9. Persephone

    Persephone Active Member

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    The Musikverein is indeed a nice venue, and I had attended the Philharmoniker Ball in the past. I am very glad that you enjoyed it, as I have deep ties to Vienna and the ball season, having debuted at the Officers' Ball in the 1990s. I also attended many of Vienna's most famous balls as a teenager and uni student thanks to discounted tickets and vouchers.

    Regarding your sartorial observations, I am afraid that the rebellious 60s and 70s interrupted the chain of knowledge, which caused many members of my parents' generation who were teenagers then to miss out on instructions and good examples. Of course, you cannot pass on what you've never learnt, and that in turn partly explains the current situation. Fortunately for me, my parents did receive a proper upbringing, and my grandma and mum ensured that I attended finishing classes and dance lessons.

    Like you, I view the young people in their 20s and 30s as style saviours in some ways, because a growing number appears to care very much about refind and classic details, as evidenced by the popularity of this forum, the Black Tie Web site and blog, etc. Whilst I have seen some true shockers in the last few months -- though fortunately not in Vienna -- including a white polyester tailcoat worn with a red cummerbund and bow tie and a white dinner jacket in the midst of January, the wearers were men in their 50s and 60s -- in other words my parents' generation.

    Please allow me two brief comments about the dancing in Vienna: Unlike in the US, where only the last Fledermaus quadrille is danced, the Viennese dance all six quadrilles with many more people and at much greater speeds. There are no prior practice sessions. The resulting chaos is part of the fun as is the galop that follows the last quadrille usually to music from "Orpheus in the Underworld". True, not all Viennese know how to dance, but in defence of the city where I spent a significant part of my youth, I believe the proportion of social dancers is far higher than in any city in the US, and this despite the fact that there is no shortage of American dances (foxtrot, Charleston, various versions of swing).
     
  10. poorsod

    poorsod Senior member

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  11. Persephone

    Persephone Active Member

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    Thank you for posting the NY Times pictures, Poorsod. Some of the captions are, probably unintentionally, funny: e.g., the reference to waltz dresses. I am fairly knowledgeable about ladies' wear, but I have never heard of a waltz dress. I call these full-skirted frocks ball gowns. There is no need to invent a new word.

    I had a brief look at the NY Web site, and the stated dress code said white tie, yet I see several men in black tie. Having been to the original Opernball in Vienna, black tie will not get one past the front doors. It doesn't matter who it is, and there's an interesting anecdote about some Arab prince who arrived in a dinner jacket, and had to return to his hotel where they helped him find a proper tailcoat at the last minute. Perhaps I am alone in this, but I find it quite disrespectful to blatantly ignore a stated dress code. I highly doubt that a lack of funds is responsible, as tickets for this event cost $1,000 per person.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2014
  12. blackbowtie

    blackbowtie Senior member

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    Thanks for your insights. We virtually flew into Vienna just to attend the ball, and beyond a pre-ball cocktail reception and a brunch the day after, we didn't really get much opportunity to sample the Viennese social scene and check out much of the local activity and attractions.

    But what is certain is that the ball that we went to was no stuffy affair. It was very obvious that everyone was out to have a good time - though of course there was a healthy mix of seeing and being seen going on, as well as exchange of gossips among the old-timers - and there was no shortage of very enthusiastic dancers. And the level of energy on the dance floor didn't seem to wane at all, even up to 5 a.m. when the ball ended (where do these Viennese find the energy?) I'm told that at the work place, you would inform your boss and colleagues in advance that you would be attending a ball on such-and-such a night, and there was a tacit agreement that no one would be looking for you in the earlier part of the following day. How absolutely civilized, though the first quarter of the year can't be a very productive period for the Austrian economy!

    Having said that, the opening of the Techniker-Cercle ball was very solemn, with stately music and solemn processions. What became clear to me also was that, while "Viennese balls" in places like Washington DC are indulged in by mostly "hobbyists", for the Austrians, the balls are a way of life and a way to preserve their identity as a people. At the risk of sounding overdramatic, it felt as if in the first few minutes at the opening the empire lived again - or at least memories of it - and as non-Austrians, we both felt a bit like interlopers intruding on an intimate, and dare I say, sacred ceremony. I wonder if any other non-Austrians attending a ball in Vienna ever felt the same way?
     
  13. Persephone

    Persephone Active Member

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    Very nicely written. I am, of course, delighted that you enjoyed yourself. Dancing in Vienna is an all-night affair, but I think that can be said about all of Europe including the UK. I am always wondering why balls and galas in the US end so early? I'd love to know the history and reasons...Labour laws? Remnants of the Prohibition Era?

    The ball scene in Vienna is very much influenced and guided by Austria's imperial heritage. I learnt that the current ball culture goes back to the Vienna Congress of 1814/1815, and Prince von Metternich's decision to enliven the lengthy political negotiations and meetings with soirees and balls that featured the newly popular waltz. Throughout the 19th century, court balls, receptions and soirees were not just entertainment, but important tools that displayed social status and provided what we would now call networking opportunities. Attendance was by invitation only. The citizenry, especially those who had acquired a certain wealth and were upwardly mobile, jumped on the bandwagon, and organised their own balls. Soon, various guilds and trade groups had their own events. As this was a time when people wanted to appear sophisticated and refined, unlike today where vulgarity rules, and royalty/aristocracy were seen as the epitome of sophistication, the bourgeoisie modelled its behaviour/traditions on the Imperial Court. Hence, the stately processions, debutante presentations, strict dress codes, etc. Thus, your observation that it felt a bit like a return to the days of the Habsburg Empire is quite accurate.

    The ball season also continues to be an important source of revenue for Austria and Vienna: hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers, hair dressers and many others benefit from tens of thousands of visitors, and important deals are still struck in the halls of the Hofburg Palace, the Musikverein, Rathaus, etc. Perhaps that can explain the laissez-faire attitude of employers who graciously overlook delays and absences following a long night of dancing.

    In the case of the Vienna Opera Ball, which took place last Thursday, that connection is even more pronounced. It is the official ball of the Austrian State and Austria's president occupies the former imperial box. Of course, it is a bit ironic that a socialist government should follow in the monarchy's footsteps, but that's Austria - a socialist country where pomp and circumstance rule, and the love of titles and courtesies continues despite the abolition of aristocratic titles and rank :nodding:.
     
  14. poorsod

    poorsod Senior member

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    Yes I too was surprised at the % of men in black tie. I estimate about 10-20% were in black tie. At the Quadrille Ball in NYC, there was only 1 man in black tie (ironically the scholarship recipient). My friends who went to the VOB in NYC so much, they want to go to the real event in Vienna next year.
     
  15. Van Veen

    Van Veen Senior member

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    Just took a look at the NY Times gallery from the Met Gala. Do people think white tie means white jacket? Warning: a whole lot of fail in that gallery.



    Only a few solid examples of white tie.

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    Quite a few honorable mentions (including Mr. Cumberbatch above):

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    Just ignore the sunglasses and everything from the waist down, and it's not too bad:

    [​IMG]



    And finally, the complete failures:

    [​IMG]

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    [​IMG]
     

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