The new rules of the dinner suit

The new rules of dinner suits. How to avoid a black tie faux pas: un-complicating the world of evening dress

We are now in Christmas party and awards season and you’ve been invited to a black tie event. You just dust off your black suit, bow tie and white dinner shirt and some black dress shoes and its job done, right? Not exactly. Here we show you what you should be wearing and what you really shouldn’t!

What is black tie?

When first in fashion in the Victorian era, the dinner jacket was worn as a less formal alternative to the tailcoat, but was worn with traditional evening accompaniments of a white tie and white waistcoat. During the Edwardian era, the current practice of wearing a dinner shirt, black waistcoat and black bow tie with the dinner jacket became the convention for semi-formal evening occasions, with the strict white-tie dress code of the Victorian era reserved for the most formal occasions.

What to do to when wearing black tie

  • Wear black tie if the invitation (or your host) requests you to: stick to the dress code out of respect.
  • Wear a black, satin bow tie. If it isn’t new, ensure it is clean from the last time you wore it.
  • Wear plain, black shoes – Patent Oxfords are appropriate. Make sure they are clean and polished.

What not to do when wearing black tie

  • Feel you have to stick to traditional dinner shirt styles. A plain white or black shirt is perfectly acceptable but should have French cuffs to keep it formal. We have some lovely options in our online shop including the Feeling all White dinner shirt, the Shirt Noir or the Classic White Double Cuff which are all appropriate.


  • Wear any old plain black suit. A dinner suit (or black tie dress) is quite different from what you’d wear to the office. It should have a shawl or peaked lapel (never notched) and will include satin or silk trims.
  • Wear a navy version to an exceptionally formal event.

Black tie terminology

Self-tied bow tie: Comes un-tied. It does take practice to get it right but can look fuller and classier if done correctly.

Pre-tied bow tie: Self-explanatory, but the bow has already been tied and is sewn together. Generally, it has an adjustable neck-band.

Marcella: The type of fabric traditionally used on classic dinner shirts. It is a dimpled fabric which is only used for dinner shirts and creates texture inside the jacket.

Types of dinner shirts:

  • Concealed buttons: an additional placket on the shirt conceals the buttons so they are not visible under the jacket. Our Feeling all White dinner shirt features this style of buttons:

  • Stud buttons: these are removable studs that come in a variety of styles that allow you to personalise the look of your shirt. Usually, they are only used in place of the top three or four buttons so that they are visible under the jacket when fastened.
  • Bibbed dinner shirt: a ‘bib’ of contrasting fabric (pleated or Marcella) that runs from the collar down the shirt to ensure that anything visible under the dinner jacket is bright white rather than see through. The bib can end half-way or the full way down the shirt.
  • Pleated dinner shirt (large and small pleats): pleats run either side of the placket from collar to the bottom of the shirt front. Pleats are usually made from the same fabric as the shirt for a seamless look and can be wide or narrow.

Dinner suits are also called: DJ’s, tux’s, tuxedos and black tie. They all essentially mean the same thing. Dinner suit and black tie is most commonly used in the UK, with tux and tuxedo being more common in the U.S.

With all of this vast information, you may just want to opt for a night in instead! However, don’t despair if you are in doubt; speak to the experts (us) and keep it simple in the Bond Black Dinner Suit we offer as part of our hire wear range (below).

Dark dinner suit