The difference between a dress suit and black tie

Have you ever been invited to a party or gathering where you’ve not quite been sure what to wear? What do the expressions “black tie” and “morning dress” mean? Can you just turn up in a smart suit, or is there more to it than that?

Dress codes exist to make life easier for the gentleman – but it can often be difficult to work out what’s right and what’s wrong.



Let’s start with the difference between a smart suit, or dress suit, and a dinner suit, which is also known as a tuxedo.

The dress suit is generally a suit made up of two or three garments in a matching colour and made of the same fabric – a jacket, trousers, and possibly a waistcoat as well. Wearing a tie or bow tie with a dress suit is always stylish but leaving your shirt open at the neck can also work if the event is less formal.

The dress suit jacket is usually single-breasted – that is, it has a single row of two or three buttons. On the other hand, double-breasted jackets with two rows of buttons (four or six) are also available.

A dinner suit is technically a dress suit designed to be worn after 5pm. This formal dress was worn by the English aristocracy, and the gentlemen put it on after dinner.

The dinner suit is characterised by a satin lining, satin buttons on the jacket and a satin side stripe. Where dress suits are often available in lots of different colours and patterns, dinner suits are generally black, white or midnight blue. The trousers are always black.

The dinner suit is always accompanied by a white shirt, a black bow tie and polished black shoes, and is usually worn for galas, weddings, balls or other very formal occasions.


The main differences between a dress suit and a dinner suit

Design
As described previously, suit design can vary widely. The design of a modern dinner suit is generally very consistent.

Colour
There are absently no restrictions or limits on what colours are available to choose from when buying a dress suit. A dinner suit is usually black, white or midnight blue.

Fabric
Dress suits are available in nearly all kinds of fabric. Dinner suits are typically made of wool, satin or polyester.

Shirt
You can wear any shirt you like with a dress suit, with or without a tie. It’s even acceptable to wear one with a T-shirt nowadays, but for that the occasion mustn’t be too formal. A dinner suit is always worn with a white shirt and black bow tie.



When to wear a dress suit

Job interviews
It’s important to be dressed correctly when attending a job interview. It’s often possible to form an impression of the dress code at the company even before the interview, but if you’re in any doubt it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

Networking
Just as with the job interview, first impressions define the boundaries when it comes to networking.

First date
When you’re on a first date, you need to wear a dress suit – or at least a blazer. You can start to adopt a slightly more casual approach as the evening progresses.

Visiting a restaurant
Even if you’re not on a date, a dress suit is required when visiting a fine restaurant.

Attending church (or any other religious ceremony)
When participating in a religious ceremony, it’s very important to show respect, particularly if you’re an atheist, and wearing a dress suit shows respect for the people around you and the religion itself.



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When to wear a dinner suit

When specifically asked to do so
When your host specifically requests morning dress, you have to wear a dinner suit.

For a special event (ball, gala, casino visit, opera, cocktail party etc.)
The dinner suited is intended for very special and formal events, so get in touch with the organiser if you’re not sure.

Weddings (but NOT in church)
People often wear dinner suits to weddings, but that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. As stated previously, the dinner suit is worn after 5pm, and it’s definitely a no-go in church. That is to say, if the wedding isn’t taking place in church and it’s being held after 5pm, then fill your boots! Otherwise, you have to weight to put on your dinner suit until after the ceremony is over.


All in all, the safest thing to do is ask your host/the organiser if you’re in any doubt about the dress code.



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