White in November? Not even for your wedding

White in November? Not even for your wedding

Q. Our original July wedding was delayed to November by health concerns (and then venue timing). Originally. I was wearing a white tuxedo. Will this still be okay in the fall?

A. Few occasions in a man’s life are so full of questions as his wedding day. “What do I wear?” is high on the list. The bridegroom’s dress code is specifically prescribed; it is a strict set of rules with only a very few variations allowed. Do it right.

In formal attire, the white tuxedo you mentioned is a contradiction of terms, unless what you meant is a separate white dinner jacket. This dapper garment is one of the few variations/alternatives permitted in black-tie attire. A nice summer-time-only substitute for black tie’s formal black jacket, it is worn only from Memorial Day to Labor Day. If you already bought yours for your earlier planned wedding, you should not wear it in November.

The groom’s clothes are determined by the formality of the wedding, the time of day, and the time of year. Even today, the degree of formality of the wedding is designed more by the bride than the groom. The bridegroom should definitely OK what he’s planning to wear with his fiancée well in advance. This is neither the time nor the place for surprises.

Traditionally, weddings are either daytime formal, evening formal, black tie, or informal.

For a daytime formal wedding, the bridegroom wears a cutaway coat of dove gray wool (known as a morning coat) and formal black-and-gray striped trousers, accompanied by an ascot. For an evening formal wedding, he wears a long black tailcoat, matching trousers, white waistcoat (vest), formal white wing-collar shirt, and white cotton piqué bow tie (the most formal combination a man can wear, known as white tie and tails.) Most men have so few occasions to wear either of these two outfits that it’s wise to rent them from the most conservative rental agency in town – one that does not go in for innovative or “creative” pretensions.

At informal weddings, the bridegroom wears a beautiful, well-cut dark suit, most often navy blue, a fine white broadcloth cotton shirt, and a silvery-toned heavy silk “wedding necktie,” tied in the standard long four-in-hand or half-Windsor knot. An informal summer garden wedding with natty Ivy League overtones might involve a dark blazer and well-cut white trousers.

At all times of the year, the most popular category of wedding wear is the one between these two, known as black-tie attire. The black-tie suit is often referred to as a “tuxedo,” although this term is not considered elegant in elite social circles. It’s been said that a man dining on New Year’s Eve in a grand restaurant is wearing black tie, while the waiter is wearing a tuxedo . . . even though they are both dressed the same. These days, weddings called for after dark are usually black tie-affairs – for the bridegroom and for the male guests, as well. Here are some useful guidelines.

The most important point about black-tie dressing is that it makes a man look wonderful. If he has even one occasion every year or two to wear it, he should strongly consider owning his own, rather than renting. Essential to black-tie dressing: all the details (lapel type, trouser type, shirt, bow tie, accessories, etc.) should correspond and be appropriate. Knowing the rules helps.

A black-tie suit need not be expensive. But it should be classically cut, tailored to fit well (currently, on the trim side), and ideally made of 100 percent lightweight wool. Stay with the basics in the suit; leave the whimsy for the accessories.

Black-tie suits are fashioned in three collar and lapel styles:

  • Shawl (traditional curve cut, used only on formal wear)
  • Peaked (most dashing, usually found on double-breasted) or
  •  Notched (least formal, a daytime-business-suit cut).

Lapel fabrics are either:

  • Satin, a silk-like, smooth, glossy fabric, or
  • Grosgrain (pronounced “grow’-grain”), a ribbed twill fabric, also known as faille (pronounced “file”).

Jacket closings are one- or two-button single-breasted, or double-breasted. Probably a double-breasted model should not be your first and only evening suit, because it will come and go in style.

Trousers, always black, have a ribbon that matches the lapel material – satin or faille – running down the outside of the leg. They are cut slim and straight, not tapered. Traditionally, they are worn with braces (button-on suspenders), not a belt, and accompanied by a cummerbund or a waistcoat (vest). Many of today’s young grooms prefer to skip the braces, cummerbunds, and waistcoats; instead, they choose trim trousers with a waistband that matches the lapel fabric. Incidentally, no matter which trousers you choose, formal dressing is the one time when cuffs are never worn.

Shirts are white with either a standard turn-down point collar or a wing collar. Historically, the wing collar was correctly reserved for the more formal white tie and tails, but it is so dapper and flattering that it has become widely accepted with black tie.

Shoes and socks are black. So is the bow tie. That’s what makes it black tie.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

Categories: Male Call