Formal Dress? Pink Dinner Jacket? Tux?
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 7 Jan 99 17:53:09 -0800
Subject: Formal Dress? Pink Dinner Jacket? Tux?
Excerpted-from: Seasttle Times, 1/1/99 page E2
DEAR MISS MANNERS:
When the invitation says formal dress, what does that mean? I could not
believe my eyes at the odd assortment of dress being worn under the "formal
What is a tuxedo? What is black tie? White tie? Single-breasted or
double-breasted? And don't forget "tails."
When does one wear a bow tie, a four-in-hand, an ascot? How about a
cummerbund, one of those deals that looks like a bib, or braces? How about
the shirt, studs, cuff links?
What place in the scheme of things does a white, powder blue, plaid or
pink dinner jacket occupy?
You may well ask what "formal" means in a world where such a thing exists
as - Miss Manners shudders but takes your word for it - a pink dinner
To some, it apparently signifies a costume party. To others, "formal"
signifies that an additional garment is expected to be placed over the
T-shirt, and thus also signals an opportunity to declare such expectations
to be an abridgment to freedom and an insult to masculinity.
Even in what now passes for civilization, the terms have been watered
down. Full evening dress (the evening tailcoat), now called "white tie,"
was, before that, merely formal dress, and it didn't need to be specified
on an invitation, because gentlemen would know to wear this in the evening
to dinner, if there were ladies present, and to the opera.
When "black tie" was invented (the very strict never use the word
"tuxedo," calling it a dinner jacket, but all three terms refer to a black
suit with satin lapels and trim down the trouser leg) it was demi-toilette
or informal evening wear; now black tie is considered formal wear unless
white tie is specified.
Both are worn with bow ties, whose respective colors Miss Manners trusts
you to figure out. It is their daytime equivalents that feature a gray ascot
(with the tail-coat, gray striped trousers and gray waistcoat that
constitute formal morning clothes) and a gray four-in-hand tie (with the
less formal, tailless sack coat or stroller, also worn with striped
Because the dinner jacket was invented before there was a shirt to go
with it, the stiff shirt with winged collar that goes with white tie was
used. Now that it does have its own shirt, a pleated shirt with a fold-down
collar, there seems less excuse for this. Miss Manners will stop short of
saying it is wrong, and confine herself to saying that gentlemen with their
black ties exposed all around their necks look silly. White tie calls for
gold or platinum cuff links and pearl studs; with the black-tie shirt, black
jewelry may also be worn.
Now we enter Liberty Hall. You can wear a single- or double-breasted
dinner jacket, whichever makes you look prettier, and with it, either a
black waistcoat or a black (and black does not mean red) cummerbund,
although if that's what looks like a bib, you're wearing it in the wrong
place. And yes, you do wear braces. But Miss Manners promises you she is
not going to check.
She is, however, going to bar the door, even of Liberty Hall, against
all those people who are trying to be funny with their evening clothes. This
is not Anarchy Hall.
© 1999 Peter Langston