Black Tie. An invitation that generally excites or intimates, depending on how sartorially prepared (or comfortable you are) to navigate it. As the height of timeless sophistication, it conjures a certain Hollywood elegance where male dress codes are concerned. And for most mere mortals, this is as formal as it gets. So despite perhaps the infrequency of occasions to don such an ensemble, we can’t help but wonder, if you only invest in one made to measure suit in your life (either as a groom or a wedding guest) a tuxedo may be the perfect one to commit to. So what exactly does having a bespoke suit made, involve? As no experts on these subtleties ourselves, we deferred to our friends at Oscar Hunt, to help demystify this most-loved wedding attire.
Read on for best advice on nailing the do’s, the don’ts and the must-avoid at all costs tips, following a Black Tie invitation.
Let’s start at the beginning…for an invitation requesting a Black Tie dress code, what are the non-negotiable items, from head to toe?
Despite Black Tie being a very formal dress code, it is surprising how often guests don’t quite grasp the level of formality required and opt for more casual options. For a strict Black Tie dress code the non-negotiable items are:
- Jacket with silk or satin (although silk is preferred) lapels. You cannot simply wear a black suit jacket.
- Shirt – this should have a turn-down collar (a wing collar is more formal – more appropriate for white tie occasions). The shirt should have a bib with either pleats or a Marcela (textured cotton) finish.
- Trousers – Typically no turn-up cuffs and where possible avoid belt-loops!
- Accessories – Bowties are obligatory. Avoid black ties. Think about suspenders as well.
- Patent leather shoes (or very well polished formal shoes)
However for a contemporary twist on tradition, grooms or guests might consider…
- Velvet jackets (as they should be) are being seen again as a more interesting alternative to a standard wool (or wool/silk/mohair) jacket.
- Our clients are also opting for double-breasted suits and 3-piece suits.
- Also consider a midnight navy fabric as opposed to just black.
Besides an incredible fit, what are some of the lesser known perks of having a bespoke suit crafted, specifically for you?
- Performance – Given the suit is made especially for you, it will look and perform a lot better. This is because the suit will be cut the right way so you won’t be constantly adjusting it or trying to neaten the look.
- Comfort – Again, is it is cut for the individual, it is made for the body type. Therefore whilst being a great fit, it won’t be too tight, or rub or do any of those things that can typically occur with and off-the- rack suit.
- Unique – With tailored suiting you have the choice of thousands of fabrics as well as design features (lapels, buttons, pockets etc). This means that you will have a suit that is uniquely yours.
- Built for purpose – On top of the above, you can have a suit made that is specific to your practical requirements. The suit may be for a warm location – so you can have a suit made in a lighter wool with lighter construction.
- Fit – You cannot beat the fit of a tailored garment. This will give you the confidence that the suit looks exactly as it should.
For the uninitiated, what is the overall process of having a suit, bespoke made? At Oscar Hunt the process of crafting a suit takes place over three separate fittings in our showroom.
The first fitting involves sitting with our fitter and discussing the client’s personal requirements for the suit and their overall vision. The fitter will then recommend a number of fabrics suitable for your look. Once the fabric is decided upon, the client will then design their suit. Again the fitter will offer his advice in terms of which options are appropriate given the specific needs. Finally the measurements are taken as well as trying on a number of garments so the fitter can better understand how the client likes to wear their suit. This process takes about an hour and is enjoyed over a whisky or two Roughly 4 weeks later the client is invited back to the showroom where the client will try on their suit for the first time. The fitter will go over the suit, top to bottom, and make any minor adjustments where required. This fitting takes about half an hour. Roughly two weeks after the second fitting the client is invited to the showroom for the final fitting. This fitting involves trying the suit on again, and making sure that the result is 100% to the client’s liking. Grooms can expect excellent knowledge and expertise from the fitters, a collaborative effort to achieve their perfect look as well as a really fun experience!
With so much choice, what is your best advice for men navigating ‘decision fatigue’?
A good fitter should be able to help with making this task incredibly simple, as well as enjoyable. We often tell our clients to jump online and seek a bit of inspiration and then we can help explain the smaller details of the look. But that being said, the best advice is to talk to a good tailor/fitter and go on a journey of discovery!
Let’s talk lapels…
- Lapel widths (unless expressly stated otherwise by the client) should be in proportion to the size of the client.
- For formal suits we recommend a peak lapel or shawl collar. Peak lapels broaden the shoulders and create that nice “V” shape through the silhouette. Shawl lapels create a softer finish and are an elegant touch. We recommend depending on the circumstances.
How about accompanying shoes. What is and isn’t appropriate?
- For a formal look, the shoes need to be consistent with this. Therefore think patent leather shoes or more formal oxfords or derbys.
- If the feel of the day is less formal, think well-polished brogues in dark-brown as well as double monks.
- If in doubt stick with your classic oxford toe cap.
- Avoid white shoes at all costs!
For those attending a Summer Black Tie wedding, any tips on keeping cool?
- Fabric choices are key. Think lightweight wools or cooler fabrics such as cotton and linen. Consider a lighter construction as well such as minimal canvasing and less lining in the jacket.
- Removing the jacket helps and this is generally appropriate once the formal part of the wedding is over.
- A good tip for a groom is to invest in a second shirt. This will mean that the groom will have a fresh shirt for later in the evening after an afternoon of potentially perspiring under a jacket!
The devil is all in the details. Some possibilities for finishing touches to personalise the traditional dress code are…
- Whilst the fit is always the most important point when it comes to a great suit, subtle finishing touches can make a difference. Ways to personalise the traditional dresscode include:
- A nice set of cufflinks to wear with French cuff shirts
- A cotton white pocket square
- A silk scarf (that’s not too over-the- top)
We’d love to see more of…
We’d love to see a touch more adventure when it comes to formal dressing. And this doesn’t mean moving away from tradition. Velvet jackets are a very traditional form of formal dressing. As is midnight navy fabrics. 3-piece suits are also great as well as interesting accessories such as well chosen pocket squares and shoes.
And less of…
But most of all, remember…
The suit is meant to be enjoyed! A black tie event is a party after all!