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Black Tie Versus Tuxedo


Hall of Shame

Ladies' Evening Wear

Morning Dress (Formal Day Wear)

Myths & Merits

Orders, Decorations & Medals

Professional & Cultural Formal Attire:



   Scottish, Irish, Welsh

Red Carpet Black Tie:

   Celebrity Lessons

   Red Carpet Reviews

Weddings (Formal Evening)

Women's Tuxedos


Formal Facts: Rosette

Rosette representing Society of the Sons of St. George.

The lapel rosette originated with a Legion of Honor award created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.  It was later reduced to button size for wear on civilian clothing and today it is awarded to members of both public and private organizations.  It is made from the silk used for the band of the related medal and is worn in the lapel buttonhole.

► Remembrance


The wearing of artificial poppies is discussed under Classic Accessories to best dispel any misconception that they are mere dress accessories.


Orders, Decorations and Medals   



General Guidelines


It is acceptable to wear military and civil decorations at state and other prestigious ceremonial functions providing the invitation specifically calls for them.  The traditional wording in North America is White Tie - Decorations or Black Tie - Decorations.  The British Commonwealth equivalents are Evening Dress - Decorations and Dinner Jacket - Decorations or Black Tie, Miniatures

Protocol for wearing decorations is governed by the various bodies which issue them.  Generally speaking, most organizations in English-speaking countries follow the same basic guidelines shown below.  In all cases, if a man has more orders than the guidelines permit to be worn at once, he should wear the most senior orders.

White Tie (Evening Dress)


broad riband (sash) with badge may be worn over the appropriate shoulder or replaced by a shortened riband (see photo on right); either type is positioned over the waistcoat and under the tailcoat

up to four stars may be worn on the left breast of the tailcoat

one neck badge suspended on a miniature ribbon of an order may be worn just below the bow tie

miniature badges of orders, decorations and medals are worn on a metal bar on the coat's left lapel


Black Tie (Dinner Jackets)


one star may be worn on the left breast of the jacket

one neck badge suspended on a miniature ribbon of an order may be worn just below the bow tie

miniature badges of orders, decorations and medals are worn on a metal bar on the jacket's left lapel


Morning Dress


According to Debrett's New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners, decorations are today rarely worn with morning dress and are largely restricted to special official public functions, religious services connected with the orders of chivalry or grand memorial services.  In these cases whoever is organizing the event should indicate whether decorations are appropriate.  If so, the following protocols generally apply:



up to four stars may be worn on the left breast of the coat

one neck badge suspended on a full-width ribbon may be worn under the shirt collar 

full-size badges of orders, decorations and medals are worn on a metal bar on the coat's left lapel


European Variations


Throughout much of Europe white tie is the only attire considered formal enough to display one’s honors.  That is why in countries such as Italy, Germany, France and Spain it is generally considered gauche to adorn a tuxedo with a sash, star or neck badge.  To avoid being taken for an arriviste, visiting Anglophones may want to consider the custom of confining one's black-tie decorations to a rosette (see sidebar) or, less traditionally, a maximum of six miniature medals. 


Daytime affairs grand enough to warrant full decorations will specifically call for Court Dress, High Uniform or even White Tie.  If a man chooses to wear morning dress to such an occasion it would be prudent to limit himself to two miniature medals.    



Further Information


Following are links to selected protocol guides which provide further detail on the wearing of decorations, including instructions for women.



The Hereditary Society Community of The United States of America

United States Marine Corps Uniform Regulations PDF (paragraph 5203, clause 5)

United States Navy Uniform Regulations (paragraph 5303)

Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia PDF (chapter 30-6)

Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel PDF (chapter 11)


Royal Air Force Uniform Dress and Appearance Regulations (chapter 8)

Spink’s Manual for the Wearing of Orders, Decorations and Medals by Andrew Hanham (civil)

The UK Honours System: Order of Wear


Wearing of Orders, Decorations and Medals PDF (military and civil) updated 2013


Wearing of Honours, Awards, Medals and Decorations PDF (military and civil)


The Dutch Honours System PDF in Dutch, English, French and Spanish



Vestire gli Onori by Fabio Cassani Pironti and Michele D'Andrea.  A

complete guide to the wearing of decorations in the Italian peninsula.





Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at a White House white-tie dinner in 2007.  Note shortened riband.

Australia Governor General Jeffery (left) and Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange wearing decorations with black tie.



Canadian protocol for honours insignia worn on a director's coat (stroller).



From top: miniature medal, ribbon bar and full-size medal.  Bars are rarely worn with civilian attire. 


Neck badge (left) and breast star (right) for a Grand Officer of the Order of the White Eagle, Serbia.

revised October 2011




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