What Is Proper Evening Attire?

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Proper evening attire for a woman ranges from dressy separates to full length evening gowns, while men’s wear varies from a dark suit to white tie, with a black dress tailcoat. Attire choices depend on the category of the event, from “black tie optional” to “white tie.”

For black tie optional events, women can choose dressy separates, a “little black dress,” a dressy cocktail dress or a full-length evening gown. Men choose between a dark suit with white dress shirt and conservative tie, with leather shoes and dark dress socks, to a tuxedo. Black tie events require the same choices for women, sans separates. Men wear a black tuxedo jacket and pants, formal white shirt, black bow tie, black cummerbund or vest and black patent leather shoes with black dress socks.

During summer, on a cruise, or in the tropics, men can substitute a white dinner jacket for black. The white tie event for women leaves the full-length gown as the only dress choice, with long gloves optional. Men wear a black tail coat with matching pants containing a satin stripe in the United States or two stripes in the United Kingdom with a white formal shirt with pique wing collar, white vest, white bow tie and cuff links. Add the same shoes and socks as black tie, plus white or grey gloves.