White tie with decorations is a very specific dress code. Also known as full evening dress with decorations. For men, it is perhaps the most specific dress code there is. It is certainly the most formal, at least as far as I know of in the civilian world (the equivalent in the military would be the dress uniform). And likely the least common. I only know of two events in Philadelphia that require such dress. I am sure the number is far greater in New York, one such event this year was the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala (or just known as the Met Gala) which was held Monday May 5th. The Met Gala is organized by Anna Wintour, as such she is the one who sets the dress (as far as I know) and after last year’s ‘punk’ theme debacle it seems she wanted to put some elegance back into the event. So I applaud her for dictating the dress be white tie.
Through experience I have come to learn that many men do not even know what white tie is and how to dress for it. As one would guess, celebrities and designers are no different. So before I get critical let’s review a few of the finer points of white tie dress.
-White tie means WHITE TIE. A white (preferably pique which is also referred to as marcella) bow tie at that. Nothing more and nothing less. No long neckties and no black bow ties that would otherwise be used for black tie.
-The jacket worn for white tie is different than the jackets worn for morning dress and black tie. For starters, it has tails and a high cut out in the front – thus why white tie is often referred to as ‘tails’. The lapels must be peaked and the jacket is not meant to be worn closed.
-A white (preferably pique) waistcoat must be worn. Said waistcoat should not extend below the front of the jacket and will have a deeper cut than a normal waistcoat or vest.
-No wrist watches. However, pocket watches are acceptable.
-The shirt should have a wing collar and a front bib (preferably white pique). The shirt should also take studs (ideally mother of pearl, white gold or silver; not gold or onyx) and cufflinks.
-Shoes should be black patent leather opera pumps. Although admittedly, I would wear some Belgians or plain black velvet slippers; that would be my one deviation from the rules.
-‘Decorations’ refer to medals and other regalia that a man has been awarded or earned the privilege to wear. It does not refer to superfluous accessories or decorations.
-Canes, top hats, silk scarves, white gloves and formal overcoats, cloaks and capes are all appropriate accessories.
-Wear clothes that fit.
There are, as you can imagine, numerous other nuances to white tie which you can read more about here, among other places. But anyway, let’s check out what the celebrities brought to the red carpet. As per usual it is a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly.