Yes, it’s that time of year when you find yourself preparing for galas, black tie affairs, and holiday soirées. If you’re like most gents, finding the perfect attire for these occasions can be quite daunting. Unfortunately, some of you wind up on the “what not to wear” list, so let’s review what to wear to your next gala.

The Basics

First, let’s consider the overall look that needs to be accomplished. For any of these events, the typical look consists of dark-hued evening attire. This actually makes the selection process a bit easier when it comes to building your ensemble. Unless… the attire is white tie. Just in case, here’s a quick guide to the various formal looks.

One commonly used method in style pairings is to identify your statement or staple piece. From here, you can build up from your shoes or flow down from a jacket, vest, etc. Since these evening gatherings are typically held in mild to dimly light ballrooms, your shoes are not a focal point (excluding the red carpet). That leaves us to focus on the jacket as the statement piece and building block.

Jacket

Tuxedo, dinner or smoking jackets are all viable options for such an occasion. The classic tuxedo is the go-to for most black tie events. These days gents are including modern hues like midnight blue, and the omission of the classic cumber bun. In North America, the dinner jacket is the inverse of the standard tux, found in white, mother of pearl, or variations of off-white. The smoking jacket, which was typically worn over the suit after dinner has now been modified, cut down and worn especially for these events. Jacquard and brocade fabrics emerged as go to pieces in the recent years. These options provide a more ornate look to your selection. Overall, you will want these jackets to have a shawl or peak lapel and made with satin or silk facing.

                         

Shirt

Keep it simple when it comes to your shirt pairing. Whether it be white or black, stick with more formal looking cotton fabrics. A solid twill or royal oxford will be your most formal choices for the best look. If you want a classic look, you can always opt for a pleated or ribbed front; and French cuffs should be your go to.

Pants

Keep it simple! Black or midnight blue with or without a satin strip will certainly do the trick. Remember, it’s a formal affair; no need to get too crazy. Remember, your pants should not have belt loops. Instead, they should be purchased or made with a front tab extender and waist adjusters. The absence of a belt helps to achieve a streamlined and clean transition.

Shoes

When it comes to footwear with these style options, try to resist the urge to wear your everyday work brogues. Two options that will suit you well are the ever-present patent leather oxfords/wholecut, or velvet slippers. Both give off a refined look which says that you know what you’re doing in these scenarios.

When in doubt, reach out for assistance. You don’t want to embarrass yourself and your date by being the only guy at a black tie event in a grey business suit!