A glitzy tux for a wedding, maybe…

A glitzy tux for a wedding, maybe…

Q. I was invited to my friend’s wedding with the wording “Dress: Fun Black Tie.” What does that mean? The wedding is at a high-end place, so I don’t imagine a tuxedo printed on a T-shirt fits, but what does?

A. It sounds as if this event is what is often called “Creative Black Tie.” Sometimes, it is referred to as “Festive Attire.” Basically, this means some slight – or not-so-slight – variation on standard black- tie dressing.

You didn’t mention whether you already own a tuxedo; if you do, wear it and then add a special touch or two to move it into a more fun category. If you don’t, I would strongly suggest you buy rather than rent.

If you rent, do not do so at the same place as a sweaty teenager attending a prom would. High-end formalwear rental places understand the importance of following protocol and adhering to the elegant rules of black-tie attire. They don’t deviate far from the basics.

On the other hand, “creative” CAN mean any of the many tasteful variations on traditional black-tie attire that are acceptable in elite social circles. These allow you to showcase your personal style, and include a wide range of possibilities, such as:

  1. a white dinner jacket in summer,
  2. black watch plaid trousers or bow tie in winter (especially at holiday time),
  3. a waistcoat/vest in a matching or contrasting color/fabric,
  4. a midnight blue tuxedo,
  5. a double-breasted dinner jacket,
  6. a wing collar formal shirt (not as strictly correct for black tie as a turn-down collar, but the wing collar designed for white tie is so flattering it has become widely popular),
  7. colored enamel or glittery gems as studs and cuff links.

“Creative black tie” does NOT mean colored or ruffled formal shirts, band-leader powder blue dinner jackets, or any of the equally garish jackets with contrast-colored lapels. If your teenage son wants to wear these to match his girlfriend’s prom dress, you should discourage him, but allow it. But this sort of dressing is not for an adult.

At the recent New York Fashion Week (NYFW) that I attended, I saw a unique take on festive black tie dressing at the Randi Rahm Fashion Show. This designer, known for her spectacularly beautiful evening gowns, featured a male model wearing a white sequined shirt with black sequined collar and cuffs. Such an unexpected look might be a great choice for your event. It is certainly festive and fun party-wear. On the other hand, a look I saw at one of the shows – a black dinner jackets paired with a long black flowing skirt and layered over formal trousers – is not, in my opinion, appropriate for a man in this or really any setting.

Many of my readers are often surprised when I mention Fashion Week in a column regarding men’s clothes. Women’s clothes are generally the focal point, but many of the shows have a sprinkling of men’s styles. This was true of three of the more special runway shows I attended: those by Randi Rahm, Libertine, and Anna Sui. Fashion Week always takes place two seasons ahead, so I was seeing clothing theoretically for the upcoming Fall, 2020 season; however, in many cases (as with the men’s skirts) I would say it was not really for any season.

While no one takes the clothing shown on the runways at Fashion Week as absolutes or realistic choices for the masses, there were way too many combinations that I cannot imagine anyone ever wearing even in “Fun,” “Creative,” or “Festive” settings. Not only were the colors often wild and clashing, but the multiple patterns in many of the styles were so jarring as to make no sense whatsoever.

These are concerns that should be recognized when you are making playful adjustments to tradition. Black-and-White formal clothing can add one item or perhaps two coordinated pieces of color or pattern, but every addition risks jumping from enjoyable to painful to look at.

The overall theme of NYFW seemed to be glitter, glitter, and more glitter. It came in the forms of women’s clothing with an elaborate use of sequins, beading, swinging fringe, and occasionally all three of these together in one outfit. In contrast, and despite the invitation’s description, your goal is not to be flashy; it is someone else’s wedding where the couple will shine (I’m hoping without glitter). Add a tasteful, amusing, and/or colorful touch that accents your look, and it’ll be just right.

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

Categories: Male Call