Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts July 1998
Short Cuts:BLACK TIE, REDEFINED
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"
Here's where men can get away with something other than black
and white, says Santa Barbara, Calif.-based event specialist John
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
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
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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