July 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts July 1998 Current Issue
July 1998
Short Cuts:

Black Tie
Lighten up: Wear white.

The invitation calls for black-tie dress. But what exactly does that mean?

A guy can't go wrong with the traditional dictates of men's evening formalwear: black tuxedo, crisp white tux shirt (although, thanks to designer Giorgio Armani, black shirts are now almost a uniform in entertainment circles), bow tie and cummerbund. If you don't own the outfit, it's easy enough to rent.

But why take the dress code so literally? There's choice involved; it's all a matter of local custom. And no need to be a native of the region to dress like one; this is a "when in Rome" situation.

Here's where men can get away with something other than black and white, says Santa Barbara, Calif.-based event specialist John Daly.

Hawaii: Aloha shirts, white pants and floral leis are considered de rigueur for even the most formal events.
Texas: The Texas Tux consists of a black tuxedo jacket, bolo, jeans, boots and cowboy hat.
Caribbean/Florida: In the tropics, appropriate formalwear might mean a white dinner jacket, black bow tie and black pants.
California: Wild, colorful bow ties and matching cummerbunds, or tuxes with nehru jackets (no lapels, bandless collar), no tie.

Women have it easier.
Black tie "used to mean long gowns, period," says Dee Seline, proprietor of The Seline Company, a Houston-based special events firm. Although long dresses are still in vogue at formal events, she says, short cocktail dresses are also acceptable. And no, the dress need not be black (although many black-worshipping New Yorkers would argue the point); any color the wearer desires is fine.

One final tip: If long gloves (which should only be worn with strapless or sleeveless gowns) are part of the ensemble, they should be worn only for the beginning of the event and removed when dinner is served. (For advice on planning the gala itself, see "To the Nines" on page 90.)


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