Black Tie – Formal Dress Code

It all used to be so easy back in the day. We knew what to wear to an event by the wording on the invitation. All we needed to know was whether it was Black Tie or White Tie. A black tie denotes formal evening wear and is the highest level of dress other than a white tie, which is the even more formal dress code reserved for weddings, balls, and the like. That’s for men anyway, and the tie is, of course, a bow tie and one you must tie yourself and not one on a piece of elastic. Meanwhile, ladies attending these events must steer their way between ballgowns and cocktail dresses. Confused? Do not worry; you are not the only one.  The formal dress code has hardly evolved over the years but is less strictly enforced and expected in fewer places. Most wedding guests now wear lounge suits or smart-casual clothing.

Theatre dress code

Fortunately, most of us are no longer restrained by formal dress codes, and we have a much more relaxed attitude to what we wear for big social events. While it is no longer de-rigueur to dress up formally for the theatre, some shows still expect the audience to don a uniform. For example, people going to The Rocky Horror Picture Show would often be dressed more outlandishly than the cast. An audience at a British pantomime might come wearing sparkling bonce-boppers and light-up fairy wands.

Casino dress code

In the 1950s and 1960s, visitors were expected to wear formal clothing to be allowed entry into a Las Vegas casino. However, if you wanted to place a bet at the casino in Venice in the 1700s, you had to have a special three-cornered hat and a mask. Ironically, while these two examples seem worlds apart, they both come down to the same thing.  Money. The Venetian casino might have nominally been open to everyone, but only the wealthy could afford the special clothing. The same can be said of evening suits. Now even the most luxurious casinos are happy to accept guests in casual attire. Meanwhile, the popularity of online casinos in several states means that players can cash in their latest casino bonuses from home in their pajamas if they so wish.



Seeing one band in one night is not enough for many music fans. Music festivals offer a broad range of events over days. These festivals started at the upper echelons of society with events like Glyndebourne offering opera and polite picnics in a beautiful country house. Ticket prices were high, and the dress code was formal. However, there is now a music festival for every genre of music, from country to death metal and somewhere in between. The dress code at these events usually reflects the music and the fanbase. However, outlandish costumes have been a trademark of the Burning Man Festival since its inception. While it is fun to dress up in the harsh sun and playa dust in Black Rock City mean that hats, goggles, parasols, and dust masks are essential elements of the wardrobe. 

Night Clubs

Nightclubs probably have the most paradoxical dress codes out there. Each club has its rules determined by the management and enforced by fashionistas. New York’s infamous Studio 54 was no exception. Now most clubs have very relaxed dress codes and anyone can wear what they like.

Fashion History

As with all things to do with fashion. There is never a single answer to why what we wear changes over time or even wear clothes. Social anthropologists and fashion historians have debated that last question for decades. Is it protection of decoration or a whole load of other factors?

The essential evolution over recent years. However. Seems to come from the people who are doing the going out or staying in. In the past. Dress codes might have been dictated by the establishment. As people had access to more venues. The venues had to relax their dress codes. 

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