A Complete Guide To The Do’s & Don’t Of The White-Tie Dress Code

the complete guide to the white-tie dress code

A white-tie dress code is considered to be the most formal of all of the dress codes and is widely considered to be the epitome of elegance. With an invite to a white tie event comes a long list of strict dress regulations you must follow. There are no gray lines or options to bend. 

White-tie demands the perfect ensemble and attention to detail. With all the dapper finishes, white-tie attire will give you a look of ultimate sophistication. 

Given the set of strict rules for the white-tie dress code, we understand that it can get confusing. At Jaxson Maximus, we are here to help. Our team of professional custom clothiers and cloth masters have put together this fantastic guide on how you can nail the white-tie dress code. 

What Is A White-Tie Dress Code?

White-tie, also known as “full evening dress,” or more informally known as “tails,” is the most formal dress code there is. Although having a white tie dress code is not commonly found today, you might have seen it on period dramas on television or a formal state dinner at the White House. Before WWII having a white tie dress code was the standard for formal evening dress. 

Unlike black-tie and other dress codes, you are not allowed to deviate from the set dressing guidelines that white tie has, most importantly being to wear tails and a white formal shirt, waistcoat and bowtie made form from the same white cloth. 

what is why tie dress code

What Events Would Have A White-Tie Dress Code?

White tie is worn to events that are most commonly found in the evening. You might see a white tie dress code on invitations to stately dinners, the theatre or opera, royal ceremonies, formal weddings, balls or other formal gatherings. 

What events would have a white tie dress code

White-Tie vs. Black-Tie

Think of the various dress codes like various levels with different degrees of formality and dress restrictions. At the top of the list with the most rules and strict regulations is white tie. For an event to have a white-tie dress code, the event must be very important or indicate the caliber of the guests that are attending, such as royals and heads of state. 

Just below white-tie is the black-tie dress code. A black-tie dress code gives you a few formal options to consider wearing, such as a traditional tuxedo or dinner jacket outfit. Even though black-tie is less restrictive on what you can wear, it still demands this degree of formality. 

You can still wear white-tie to a black-tie event since both white-tie, and black-tie is part of the formal evening dress category. It just cannot be the other way around. 

white-tie vs black tie formal dress code

What To Wear To A White-Tie Dress Code

When it comes to a white-tie dress code, there are strict rules that you must follow; this includes wearing a black tailcoat, white formal shirt, waistcoat and bowtie from the same white cotton cloth, black patent leather lace-up shoes and black formal trousers. Here we explain each necessary component of the white-tie dress code. 

Tail Coat

The one item that sets white tie apart from black-tie is the tailcoat. A tailcoat is a stylized version of the tuxedo and features extended tails on the back of the jacket. Your tailcoat should be in black and match the exact color and cloth of your trousers. 

white-tie formal dress code white tailcoat

Formal Dress Trousers

When dressing for a white-tie event, your trousers should be formal. They should be in black to match the color and cloth of your tailcoat and be perfectly tailored to you. As with a traditional tuxedo, your trousers should feature a grosgrain or satin side stripe on the outseam, waistband and pocket piping. 

white-tie formal dress code white formal trousers

Formal Shirting

When it comes to formal shirting, you should be wearing a formal white shirt, not a sport shirt or dress shirt. These would be shirts that you would traditionally wear with a tuxedo. Your shirt must be stark white as off whites and creams can make you look out of place. The cloth can be plain or textured. A white pique is one of the common selections. 

white-tie formal dress code white formal shirts
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Cufflinks & Studs

The studs are worn down the front of the shirt’s placket and match the cuff link set to be worn in the turn up French cuffs. Common dressy selections are silver with a white mother of pearl stone, black onyx or solid sterling.

white-tie studs and cufflinks


Wearing a waist coast is an essential part of a white-tie dress code. Your waistcoat should be stark white and match the shade of white and cloth of your shirt. 

white-tie formal dress code waistcoat

Bow Tie

White-tie is not called this for no reason. Wearing a white bow tie is an essential component of your white-tie outfit. When choosing a white bow tie, remember to keep it simple and classic. Avoid getting a bowtie in any other color and pattern. We recommend getting a solid white bowtie in the same material and color as your shirt and waistcoat.

white-tie formal dress code white bowtie

Shoes & Socks

Having the most formal dress code demands the most formal level of footwear. For white-tie, we suggest sticking to patent black leather lace-up dress shoes. You might already own a pair if you have a tuxedo in your closet. At Jaxson Maximus, we recommend these black patent leather formal lace-up shoes from Di Bianco. 

We strongly suggest avoiding shoes that have embellishments, perforations, or any lines on them or other bold designs. This could make you look underdressed at a highly traditional event. 

To pair with your formal patent leather shoes, we recommend wearing over-the-calf formal socks in black to match your trousers. Opt for socks made out of silk or a silk blend as wool or cotton are more appropriate for daytime wear. 

Other optional white-tie formal accessories that can be worn to help finish your look include white gloves, top hat, a white lapel blossom or boutonniere, and a formal walking cane. 

white-tie formal dress shoes

What Not To Wear To A White-Tie Event

Being the most traditional and formal dress code, there are a lot of items that could make you look out of place at a white tie event. Remember, the idea of white-tie is to adhere to the rules set by the host, not to deviate to make a fashion statement. Here are some items we recommend avoiding all together at a white tie event:

  • Regular business suit 
  • Neckties 
  • Sport coats 
  • Standard tuxedo without tails
  • T-shirts
  • Blazers 
  • Open collared shirts 
  • Shorts 
  • Polo shirts 
  • Loafers
  • White dinner jackets
  • Informal or opened toed shoes 
  • Black shirts 
  • Stud-less shirts 
  • Dinner jackets 
  • Embellished shoes
  • Brightly colored socks
  • No socks 
  • Brightly colored/patterned shoes

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Do you have any further questions about custom clothign or what you should wear to an event? Give us a call at ‭(305) 262-5747‬


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