Shopping for White Tie


When it comes to attire intended for society’s most exclusive occasions, it won’t do to “make do”.  If your social calendar is auspicious enough to merit the acquisition of a full-dress kit then you would do well to judge each potential purchase by its ability to enhance the evening's cachet rather than to reflect the wearer’s thrift.

 


Evening Tailcoat & Trousers (Dress Suit)


The ideal tailcoat and trousers would be custom tailored for the individual buyer.  There is no better way to ensure the perfect fit that is required to give the full-dress suit its proper regal air.  Prices range drastically depending on the level of customization: online tailors charge as little as US$285 for a made-to-measure tailcoat and trousers while a bespoke ensemble can cost over $5,000.  The only common factor is that qualified full-dress tailors are few and far between.


Less ideal, but far more pragmatic, is to purchase a ready-to-wear ensemble.  Take some time to find a make that suits your body type then employ a skilled tailor to alter the garments for the best fit possible.  When shopping, look for superior brands and upscale sellers like the ones listed under Quality Retailers or Specialty Retailers.  This is not the time to be shopping for bargain-basement discounts at formalwear retailers that categorize tailcoats as a type of tuxedo.  


Prices can be as little as US$200 for a Ralph Lauren tropical wool set online or as much as $3,500 for a Canali make at an upscale haberdasher.  However, the best bargain of all would be a well-preserved vintage tailcoat providing unmatched old-world tailoring for less than the cost of a cheap suit.



Specialty Retailers


Even if you decide to rent your tailcoat – a perfectly respectable option for a once-in-a-lifetime event – it would still be wise to purchase the remaining garments.  This will allow you to source items that are as correct as possible rather than settling for the renter’s limited inventory.  (It will also avoid the ignominy of attending the most prestigious social occasion of your life dressed entirely in borrowed clothing.)


As with tailcoats, it would be wisest to seek out quality brands and retailers when shopping for white-tie accompaniments.  Even then it can be extremely difficult to source a truly authentic ensemble in today’s world. The following list has therefore been compiled to assist you in locating some of the harder-to-find items.

 

Full-Dress Shirt & Collars

 

  Darcy Clothing (formerly The Vintage Shirt Company), specialist offering authentic collarless shirts and detachable collars
  Ede and Ravenscroft, specialist offering collarless shirts and detachable collars
  Toastmaster Clothing aka Court Case aka LegalWear.co.uk, legal wear and eveningwear retailer offering Frederick Theak collarless marcella shirts
  Luke Eyres, manufacturer & wholesaler of detachable collars that supplies most other UK retailers (minimum order of 6)
  Brooks Brothers, offering full-dress detachable collar shirt (with collar)
  DanceShopper.com, supplier of detachable collars and collar stud

 

Full-Dress Waistcoats

 

  Oliver Brown, upscale retailer offering premium evening wear 
  Ede and Ravenscroft, retailer offering premium evening wear 
  Toastmaster Clothing aka Court Case aka LegalWear.co.uk, legal wear and eveningwear retailer offering Frederick Theak collarless marcella shirts
  Clermont Direct, inexpensive online formalwear retailer offers sized waistcoats complete with waistcoat studs
  eHorseEquipment.com, retailer of formal riding apparel
  Hansen's Clothing, retailer that offers the Robert Talbott full-dress waistcoat 
  Direct Clothiers, retailer that offers the Robert Talbott full-dress waistcoat 
  Uniformalwearhouse.com, online retailer offering 100% cotton Lord West piqué waistcoats for $50

 

Self-Tie Full-Dress Bow Ties

 

  A Suitable Wardrobe, online retailer of quality formal accessories (when ordering please let them know you found them here to help support The Black Tie Guide!)
  Shepherd & Woodward, retailer of sized full-dress bow ties
  Toastmaster Clothing aka Court Case aka LegalWear.co.uk, legal wear and eveningwear retailer
See also US retailers Hansen's Clothing, Direct Clothiers, Paul Stuart, David's Formalwear and TuxedosDirect.com as well as UK retailers Ede & Ravenscroft (sized and single-ended models), Pakeman Catto & Carter and Bromley's (sized models) listed under Specialty Retailers: Self-Tied Bow Ties.

 

Accessories, Top Hats

 

  Lock & Co. Hatters, mail order shop for new and restored vintage top hats
  Oliver Brown Top Hats, London shop for new and restored vintage top hats
  Charles Gale Clothing,  retailer of Christy top hats
  Darcy Clothing (formerly The Vintage Shirt Company)
  Clermont Direct, inexpensive online formalwear retailer offering waistcoat studs
  Toastmaster Clothing aka Court Case aka LegalWear.co.uk, legalwear retailer offering shirt collar studs and  waistcoat studs
  Ede and Ravenscroft legal wear, specialist offering sterling silver shirt collar studs and leather storage boxes for detachable collars (just how much do British lawyers make anyway?) 
    Shops of Provence Etcetera, retailer of imported kid gloves
  Florentine Gloves, retailer of imported kid gloves
Farthingales, supplier of gold/brass collar studs