Black Tie – What Does That Mean, Really? (Inaugural Ball, Pt. Two)

In the meantime, I started researching black tie and what that actually meant.  I had an inkling, but no real facts.  I found this site:  Thus began my detailed education on “black tie”.  For instance, black tie is often required for state dinners.  The Inaugural Ball seemed to be in that category for me:  raising the bar in what to wear for elegance and to show respect for the host and the occasion.

While I sent this information to my husband on about Wednesday, January 16, so that he would also be education and know what to look for in a tuxedo, he didn’t read it before going out shopping/scouting on his own.  Not knowing what to look for or where to find it, he spent an hour and hour trudging through the local mall with no success.  His feet hurt, and he was getting tired and hungry.  Not a good place to be to be able to make rational choices.

He texted me to try to get more information on what was available at the mall.  I didn’t know that was where he was at the time; I thought he was still at his office.  Anyway, I texted back that Joseph A. Banks had a store there and they rented tuxes.

He walked in there and told the salesman that he was going to the Inaugural Ball.  The salesman got excited and promised to “set him up right” and they found the only tuxedo in the store that fit my husband.  At least, that’s how I heard the story.  Unfortunately, my expectations of JAB fell flat at this point.  I thought surely they’d know correct black tie attire.  No, they did not.  And, since neither did my husband at this point, he bought a tux for $350, on sale, that is incorrect on at least two points.

They say that “ignorance is bliss”.  In this case, it probably was.  But now we’re no longer ignorant and I find it hard to ignore what I now know.

The best, most correct tuxedo jackets have what’s called a “peaked” lapel.  If you go to, you’ll find out what that means.  I won’t retype it here.  The next lapel that’s considered almost as good is the “shawl” collar lapel.  The far-distant, last-resort, choice is a notched lapel.  It’s the same lapel as found on most suits.  The tuxedo my husband bought has a notched lapel.

The best, most correct tuxedo jackets have no vents – no side vents, and, especially, no back vent.  The reason for this is twofold:  One, it comes from riding jackets and, more importantly, it exposes one’s derriere and shirttail to the world.  Not an elegant look.

I actually got into an argument with the salesman over this.  He got defensive and had to check with “two other gentlemen” who assured him that it was and has been okay since about the mid-1980s.  It’s still wrong.  It’s like saying the word “irregardless” is now accepted.  No it isn’t.  It’s just still out there being used.

What I don’t really understand is that JAB does know what correct black tie is and they make a “signature” tuxedo that is absolutely correct – peaked lapel and no vents or pocket flaps, cloth-covered sleeve buttons, and one button in front with a deep V opening.  They charge just as much for the correct one as the horrible incorrect one.  Why don’t they only make the correct one and educate their clientele?  What a teachable opportunity!  And at least properly educate the sales staff so they don’t get into arguments with said clientele.

But, it’s done now.  Hubby needs the tux and the tailor has it to alter and it’s a bit of a rush job.  It is now Friday, January 18, and we need to pick it up from them on Sunday, the 20th.  The tailor did not close the back vent.  I guess the message didn’t get through.

In the meantime, we went shopping for a dress and found one in less than two hours.  It was actually the first dress I tried, but I did have to try all the rest just to make sure.

The plan was to get a dress long enough to cover warm, comfortable shoes.  It’s going to be cold with a lot of walking and standing outside in the cold.  Unfortunately, “the best plans . . .  oft times go awry”.  The best dress has a kind of split in the front that exposes the feet.  Oh well.  Carry the fancy shoes and change when I get there.

Okay, now to try to find the right shirt, tie, and waistcoat for the tux.  The shirt needs to be pleated and the tie should be a self-tie bowtie.  Off we went in search.

No other stores really had anything but it was kind of interesting to look.  Burberry didn’t have anything that was even remotely correct in jackets and the rest didn’t exist.  Even Ralph Lauren can’t get it right.  His offering had peaked lapels but also had pocket flaps.  So much for the sleek, clean lines intended for that elegant look of a tux.  You can tuck the pocket flaps inside the pockets, but why put them there in the first place?  It’s actually harder to put a pocket flap on a pocket than leave it off.  Why go to extra effort and expense to get it wrong?  The same thing applies to vents.

We did go into Neiman Marcus and found a few things there.  The most interesting was a salesman who actually knew his stuff – waistcoats are a “lost art” as well as non-adjustable self-tie bowties.  The pleated tuxedo shirts however almost caused heart failure!  $700 and $900 each!  Egads!  No wonder no one gets black tie right.  It’s so danged expensive!  At last in Neiman Marcus!  Duh.

We found a suitable shirt, tie, and cummerbund at Nordstrom and suspenders at JAB.  I did have to alter the suspenders a little just to get them on the pants, but such is life, I guess.

I did get my nails done (first time ever!) and thought about getting a boutonniere and corsage, but the florist was closed for the day.  I did my own makeup as usual and borrowed a necklace from a friend and a bracelet from my daughter.  I can’t wear earrings as I’m allergic to most metals.

I started to wonder if I was making too much of the whole thing.

Still more to come.  Link to Part Three:


About Laurie Higgins

I play with clicker training - with my horses, dogs, and cats. I also attempt to grow vegetables with the hope of one day being able to feed my family from my garden. My daughter and I are learning ballroom dancing. Well, we were. But she left me for a paying horse job, so now my husband and I are learning ballroom dancing. I'm also now helping Peggy Hogan, of Clicker Training Horses (and The Best Whisper is a Click) to teach people how to train their own horses using "clicker training".
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One Response to Black Tie – What Does That Mean, Really? (Inaugural Ball, Pt. Two)

  1. Pingback: Inaugural Ball 2013, Part One | Core Connexxions – Laurie Higgins

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