Lounge suit vs. tuxedo: Navigating the distinction for formal events

Over the past decade or two there has been a profound blurring of the lines when it comes to the conventions of formal attire. While once upon a time, the delineation was clear cut with ‘formal’ almost always calling for black-tie, today dress codes like lounge suit, cocktail or formal are increasingly common and navigating them can be tricky.


Here, we give you the Oscar Hunt guide on how to navigate these dress codes and, more importantly, what you should wear for each.


If you receive an invitation to an event and it mentions ‘black tie’ or ‘dinner suit’ it means one thing in the sartorial world and that is a tuxedo.


A wardrobe staple for any discerning gentleman, a tailor made tuxedo is classic, elegant and undeniably flattering for the wearer. And if you’re in the market for one, there are a couple of key things to look for. 


Firstly, a tux generally comes in one of two colours: black or the traditional inky navy. While both make for a knockout suit, our preference is black as it’s ever so slightly more versatile and also makes for a crisper contrast with a dinner shirt.


Next is fabric. Traditionally a custom made tuxedo is made with a heavier Barathea wool which is then contrasted by a satin lapel and occasionally a satin stripe down the side of the leg. It’s worth discussing this with your fitter as if you’re planning to wear your suit in warmer climates, you may want to opt for a slightly lighter fabric that’s more breathable.


Finally - the finishing touches. Black tie dressing truly is greater than the sum of its parts and in most cases that means a white dinner shirt, shirt studs and cufflinks (either in onyx or mother of pearl), a satin bow-tie and patent dinner shoes. Once you’ve got that list checked off, you are ready to roll.


Less clear cut than black-tie is the ‘formal’ dress code. While it’s open to some interpretation, based on our experience this generally calls for a tailor made lounge suit. Think of your classic two piece suit with either a peak or notch lapel.


While it sounds easy enough to pull off, the trick is in distinguishing it from a standard office ensemble. For us, this comes down to three key things: the shirt, the tie and the pocket square. Whether you’re looking to dress up in a tailored suit for a dinner date or you're heading to a wedding, considering this holy trinity will always hold you in good stead.


So, where to begin? Let’s start with the foundations; your shirt. While it’s totally permissible to opt for a classic white cotton shirt it does mean that the other elements of your outfit need to work doubly hard to add some fun. Our recommendation is to play with a pattern in a bold colour. Imagine pink and white stripes for example. Once you have this sorted, you can then pair ties and pocket squares to match. In this instance, that might mean a pink paisley pocket square and a navy tie with pink dots.

Faced with a truly impenetrable dress code conundrum? Never fear - our team is here to help. Swing by your local showroom or give us a bell today.