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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello All,

I have finally cobbled together my white tie ensemble for the Vienna Opera Ball. It took some work, but here are the details.

Trousers and Jacket:Clermont Direct, London, £240

Meermin Black Patent Shoes: $175

Brooks Brothers Silk Socks 2 pair: $80

Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece Tuxedo Shirt w/ detachable collar (comes with 3 collars): $225

Extra Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece Formal Collar: $20

Dobell White Bow Tie: $24.95

Dobell White Tie Pique Backless Vest: $59.95

Dobell White Gloves: $7.95

Cuff Daddy Mother of Pearl Studs: $44.99

Albert Thurston White Braces: $92.95

So all in, around $1000 + shipping for a 100% proper OTR ensemble. Not an inexpensive proposition.

The Opera ball is next Thursday. I will also be attending the Bon Bon Ball on Friday and Juristen Ball on Saturday in Black tie as well. Photos to follow.

Cheers,

BSR
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
A few additional comments prior to the event itself. I learned a great deal about purchasing and wearing white tie and I think my experience might be of benefit to our small brotherhood.

As always, this is my personal experience. Your mileage may vary. At the outset, I knew virtually nothing, and I faced a large learning curve. Hopefully, if I can help make the process a tiny bit easier for others starting down a similar path, these postings will be of some small worth.

I decided to buy vs. rent, which is an option, because I enjoy searching out items and putting outfits together and I will certainly have this one for the rest of my life. It's an addiction I mask as a hobby. Y'all know what I am talking about, I am certain. :)

Bottom Line: What does it cost?

A basic OTR white tie full fig outfit is going to run north of $1000. I shopped around a great deal and tried to find the best value for money. Given that white tie is a very small market, there are not many options for items of decent quality. For instance, Brooks Brothers was one of the few places I could locate a proper white tie shirt in the US and I paid a premium for their Golden Fleece offering.

Buyer Beware: There are some cheaply made items available on the market, but why settling for rock bottom quality in an outfit that is supposed to be a bit special?

My Journey, Vintage vs. OTR vs. MTM

Vintage: Raphael on "The Gentlemen's Gazette" has a nice vintage tail coat and trousers white tie ensemble he says is over 50 years old which he purchased vintage in Germany. I shopped around for vintage online and it was like searching for a needle in a haystack. Try finding a vintage tail coat in a 44 R with a 38"X 30" trouser combo where the jacket and trousers are both in excellent shape and the material matches. If given two years to search, I might find one or two examples, maybe. I will certainly keep searching in an effort to upgrade, but I don't think the vintage route is realistic unless one is a dedicated vintage hobbyist. There simply isn't much quality product on the vintage market and virtually no demand.

Of course, one could look to purchase used from a formal rental company, but this option just wasn't for me. There's something about buying a rented wedding suit that has been worn dozens of times that gives me the heebie jeebies. And I didn't see anything coming close to what I was looking for in terms of quality and style on the online market.

Raphael's Full Fig Vintage White Tie Tails and Trousers
Suit trousers Footwear Hat Dress shirt Neck


OTR: There are a handful of OTR retailers in the UK that sell a reasonably good product at moderate cost. For folks in the US, Brooks Brothers sells a white tie jacket and tailcoat for $2100. If one chooses Brooks Brothers as a one-stop-shop for white tie, expect to pay well over $3500 for all the items seen in the photo below. A smart OTR shopper can easily cut that cost in half.

Brooks Brothers White Tie Tails and Trousers $2100
Suit trousers Face Trousers Shirt Arm


MTM: I stopped by my tailor in Bangkok, and of course, they said they could make the outfit for about $600. Given that I would not have time for proper fittings and if things didn't work out, I wouldn't have time to execute a "plan B" OTR purchase, having something made wasn't practical. MTM or bespoke might be a good option for some who have access to a tailor with whom they have a good relationship, but given the limited amount of wear I will give this outfit and the time issue, I would rather choose to invest my money in a tailored business suit I can wear to work and get far more value per wear.

The bottom line for me: Why pay a MTM/bespoke premium for an outfit that gets worn so rarely? In my job, I wear a tuxedo 3-4 times a year. I have never needed white tie until now.

In the end, I chose to purchase my tail coat and trousers from Clermont Direct. (https://www.clermontdirect.com). Their tail coat is made of Barathea wool and sewn in the UK. It fits well and hits all the marks. However, finding a high rise trouser is problematic. High rise, high back white tie trousers are historically part and parcel of the white tie outfit. See Raphael's outfit above and the benefit of the higher waistline becomes apparent. Clermont's white tie trouser has a standard rise. The problem created by a regular rise trouser is that the waistcoat needs to come down low enough to cover the waistband of the trousers, yet the waistcoat shouldn't protrude well below the bottom of the cut away of the tail coat. (More on this issue later!!).

I can use my braces to pull the standard waist trousers up to maximum height, but one certainly does not want to feel and look as if they are straddling a barbed wire fence all night at the ball. I initially decided to send the outfit back, but after giving it further thought, I determined to try to make the trousers work. I asked Mr. Ed Jones at Clermont Direct about their trouser and here is his reply:

"Historically the trousers would have risen higher, but the demand is so low nowadays, we only sell one rise of trouser. I would just say that it is perfectly acceptable for the waistcoat to show below the front of the tails and indeed the cut of the tails at the side is intended to show the waistcoat here and at the front. The waistcoat should be low enough to just cover the trouser waistband."

I can understand the impact of a market based approach to trouser manufacture and this might be one of the reasons that the white tie "look", in relationship to waistcoat length, appears to be forming into two camps. And on to....

The Great Debate:

So what is a "proper" white tie outfit supposed to look like? There is a raging online debate on this subject on various clothing forums. At the 2014 Met Ball, Anna Wintour singled out Benedict Cumberbatch as the only man attending who hit all the marks with his outfit.

Benedict Cumberbatch at the 2014 Met Ball
Trousers Shirt Suit trousers Gesture Flooring


As seen in the above photo, Mr. Cumberbatch has a good 2" of waistcoat protruding below the cut away of his tail coat. For contrast, refer back to Raphael's vintage white tie gear which displays the bottom of his waistcoat just at or above the cut away of his tail coat. One reason Raphael is able to achieve this effect is due to his higher rise, high back trousers. The rise in Mr. Cumberbatch's trouser, to my eyes, appears to be standard fare sitting just at or below the navel in the front.

There are many white tie aficionados who argue that a well put together white tie outfit will show no waistcoat below the cut away and that those who allow their "white to show" are Philistines who don't know how to properly wear white tie. Others say this doesn't matter in the least and purveyors of fine formal wear around the world display white tie examples with the waistcoat boldly showing below the cut away. Yes folks, from what I have read, this is an actual online argument with accusations being thrown, hurt feelings expressed, friendships ended, challenges to duels being made with seconds present...the entire drama, over 2-3" of exposed waistcoat.

From my own outfit, this "difficulty" appears to be is caused by an OTR market driven movement toward standard rise trousers and away from high rise, high back trousers for white tie outfits. In order to cover the waistband of standard rise trousers, the waistcoat MUST be worn lower and, as a result, it pops out under the cut away of the tail coat. With the slow demise of the high rise traditional white tie trouser, the waistcoat issue comes to the forefront. I have looked at hundreds of white tie photos from past Vienna ball seasons and variation in waistcoat length are all over the map.

Maybe the gulf between the "White Tie Illuminati" and "The Philistines" is more of an issue of bespoke vs OTR? Or maybe this argument is as pointless as that of "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" and eventually becomes so ridiculous as to reach almost fetish proportions. Maybe what is "right" is being rapidly displaced based on the limitations of what is available in the OTR marketplace, a marketplace where the vast majority of men who will ever buy white tie will shop?

Back to Mr. Cumberbatch: Given that Mr. Cumberbatch was educated at Harrow and was trained at LAMDA (an organization of which he is now President), he certainly could be given the benefit of the doubt as to his knowledge of what is"proper" white tie. I think falling on the side of Mr. Cumberbatch and Ms. Wintour is as strong a team as can be established when looking to determine what is "proper" in a contemporary context.

I belabor this point because I find it to be one of those items that are so hilariously unique to our small fraternity, and one which many people become rather heated when discussing. For me, I will try not to "show my white" but until the day I can acquire bespoke, I may find myself sitting by the fire in the camp of my brother Philistines, Mr. Cumberbatch included.

A big shout out to Raphael at Gentlemen's Gazette for his video on white tie. I don't necessarily agree with everything in his presentation, but it is an excellent resource for a beginner looking to get started.

Cheers,

BSR
 

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Thank you for that absolutely fascinating monologue chronicling your recent sartorial quest into uncharted territories for some of us. Your characterization of the quest as evidence of an addiction-cum hobby struck uncomfortably close to home for many dallying here-in. Admittedly, I am a Philistine (and certainly not a legitimate member of any sartorial Illuminati), but your post(s) reminded me of a personal quest so many years back, involving a cross country road trip to a small, dusty and arguably geographically isolated Southern Arizona town, in search of a pair of ultimately comfortable, custom western boots (an addiction, for sure!). Reading great posts and enjoying good memories...is there any better way to start your day? Thanks again! ;)
 

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Good read, I have the equivalent in a blue and white mess for the army. For me it had to be made to measure and luckily living in korea there is a fairly big demand with all the balls so there is a tailor that does hundreds a year.
The biggest thing is, can you make it fit well? These outfits are so form fitting I would be terrified to go otr.
 

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As you say, there are two stubborn camps...
I wear mine without any white showing, but since you can only satisfy one camp anyway, you might as well go with what you find most practical.

There are other subtleties:
To be 'correct' a tuxedo shirt can't be used for white tie. White tie shirts must have a marcella 'bip' (which a tuxedo shirt can also have) but the cuffs are 'singles', i.e. French cuffs but they don't 'fold over' like on a tuxedo shirt.
I doubt anyone will notice though...

At least the persons in these photos keep their collar wing tips behind the bow tie, which is the correct way. Often you see the opposite... I can't rule out of course that they may pop out in the heat of the moment...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
As you say, there are two stubborn camps...
I wear mine without any white showing, but since you can only satisfy one camp anyway, you might as well go with what you find most practical.

There are other subtleties:
To be 'correct' a tuxedo shirt can't be used for white tie. White tie shirts must have a marcella 'bip' (which a tuxedo shirt can also have) but the cuffs are 'singles', i.e. French cuffs but they don't 'fold over' like on a tuxedo shirt.
I doubt anyone will notice though...

At least the persons in these photos keep their collar wing tips behind the bow tie, which is the correct way. Often you see the opposite... I can't rule out of course that they may pop out in the heat of the moment...
You are absolutely correct on the shirt. The White Tie Brooks Brothers shirt I purchased is spot on with the proper marcella bib and single cuffs. From the price, it is very clear that BBs is rather proud of this item. It took me a few attempts to understand how to properly attach the removable collar, but once I sussed it out, it was simple.

I tried on my outfit again today, thinking it wise since I have lost about 15 lbs over the past two months. The vest/jacket cut away issue seemed to self resolve due to my having lost over an inch in my stomach allowing the trousers a bit more room.

Cheers,

BSR
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Great write up. For the benefit of U.S. readers, I will note that Hickey Freeman also offers a ready-to-wear tailcoat, available directly from them or via Nordstrom.

https://www.hickeyfreeman.com/black-tasmanian-full-dress-tails/61398200b078/product
Thanks for the additional information. $1900 beats BBs, but is still a bit dear. I am sure HF makes a good product.

My UK offering from Clermont cost me $350. It's 100% wool and will certainly allow me to blend with the 2000 other male penguins in attendance! :)

I will do a close survey and report if I can discern any noticeable differences in quality from my field observations in the wild.

Cheers,

BSR
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
How strange that they call it 'full dress tails' in the headline, but both a 'morning coat' and a 'tuxedo coat' under Details...
Yes, good catch. The tail coat is clearly neither and anyone purchasing this ensemble for morning wear or as a "tuxedo" will spend almost $2000 on the entirely wrong outfit.

It is always disconcerting when those writing the text for clothiers clearly lack the basic knowledge needed to properly advise customers on what is a major sartorial purchase. It pays to do ones own research!

Cheers,

BSR
 

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I feel your struggle intently. I myself decided to go with the 'straddling the wire fence' method. That being said, I didn't have enough time (nor did the tailor understand what I was talking about) to have a tab sewn into my waistcoat to attach them to my trousers to keep them from separating. In the photo below, I had be up and moving around for a few hours and didn't notice that either my trousers had sagged down a bit or that my waistcoat had ridden up, resulting in the unsightly appearance of my shirt.
 

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I thought that freemasons always wore white tie with a black waistcoat?
Or is that only certain 'branches'?
Every lodge is different. There are other lodges that meet in our same room with drastically different dress codes. In our case, it's traditional white tie. But, as you mentioned, other lodges can be different.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I feel your struggle intently. I myself decided to go with the 'straddling the wire fence' method. That being said, I didn't have enough time (nor did the tailor understand what I was talking about) to have a tab sewn into my waistcoat to attach them to my trousers to keep them from separating. In the photo below, I had be up and moving around for a few hours and didn't notice that either my trousers had sagged down a bit or that my waistcoat had ridden up, resulting in the unsightly appearance of my shirt.
Thanks for the information Bro. Hanson. You look great. I am a Traveling Man myself (Carroll Lodge 69, F&AM, GL of Ga, USA), but have never had the pleasure of visiting a lodge where the officers wear white tie dress. Just getting our brothers out of jeans and tshirts is a challenge. :(

Cheers,

BSR
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
The Vienna Ball is complete. My feet are recovering!

After spending 5 hours in a large room with at least two thousand men in white tie, I can say with confidence that the waistcoat showing below the cut away is not only common, but at least 50-50 among the men and had absolutely no bearing on who looked well put together.

It all centres on the cut of the coat and the length of the waistcoat. There were literally dozens of cut combinations present, and the Viennese men appeared to know what they were doing and wore their chosen outfit with a high level of confidence.

If one has a white tie ensemble where the waistcoat sticks out, don't sweat it and simply enjoy yourself. Many of the gadflies who critique have probably never owned white tie or attended a society white tie event.

There is simply no substitute for first hand experience gained in Vienna. Get out and enjoy and feel good in looking your best!

Cheers,

BSR
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