Our Assistant Store Manager and dress etiquette specialist and enthusiast, Christopher Mundy, has put together a few tips for White Tie dressing.
Time. Plenty of time is the best advice to any gentleman. Prepare leisurely and enjoy the evening; try to dress quickly and nerves will make everything that little bit slower.
Ideally no white line between tailcoat and trousers. The rule is that the lowest tip of the tailcoat frontage must fall below the lowest tip of the waistcoat - which can be played upon yet looks less than elegant. The dark cloth makes a gentleman look slimmer, so waistcoat showing reduces the effect; the light lines, which expand around the chest - hence pocket square or flower - broaden the appearance of the upper body.
If dressing oneself: Put the back of the collar on first, before slipping the shirt on. Place cuff links through the outer holes (pulling them through the inner holes is far easier than fiddling - oft-sweat-ridden - with both sets of holes: this is a great general tip for dress/formal shirts).
Dressing oneself, continued: As a tip, you dress upwards - bending over to pull on opera pumps (or, if necessary, to tie laces) will be an implausibility when a stiff shirt is fastened, with studs. The shirt can then be basically buttoned (at the bottom, below the bib) to enable the trousers to be fastened without the discomfort and untidiness of the shirt digging into the torso/creasing. From here, you add the studs. You may still wish to go from under, my notion is to lean against a wall to keep the trousers at the waist whilst manipulating the studs from below or above. Before putting on the waistcoat, fit braces (suspenders). Braces should not be tight - they are there to keep trousers at a constant level. Now fit the waistcoat; just below the middle button will usually sit on the trouser waistband. Please note: the shirt has a little tab with two buttonholes on it. This will be threaded through the waistcoat loop and then fastened to a button that is usually sewn onto the inside of the trousers. This simple piece of cloth keeps everything together; stops the lines of symmetry being broken.
The waistcoat that we provide can be (carefully) slotted through the ribbon on the yoke - but the finish to it means it is not offensive in the way that a metal clip would be, should it creep above the lapel. A white bow tie does not have to be threaded through the loop - it would have been, historically; but collar studs are now gold or silver coloured (as opposed to bone or ivory); so a white bow tie is a better solution. Historically, collar meets lapel as a perfect white/black contrast - a coloured stud is more noticeable (thus, less elegant) than a white bow tie.
White Tie is all about elegance through simplicity - noticeable flamboyance makes you less well dressed; keep things subtler and the outfit will stand out better.
A coat is better replaced by an opera cloak - but not out of the question; but one must simply not enter the event with it on (as per a cloak and top hat). Ordinarily, a white scarf and white gloves would provide sufficient appendages, should a gentleman wish to venture outside. Tailcoats usually have a small pocket in which to conceal gloves. Also note, as a generally unknown fact, that cigars are equipped with a, usually metallic, label - this is so that one's white gloves are not marked by the cigar - finger and thumb pinch the label to prevent discolouring.
Pocket square or flower, please; both draws too much attention and makes the eyes ache a little - it is inelegant and draws attention from the face - which is to where it should be drawn.