The Advantages of Buying a Black Tie Ensemble

 This gentleman shows the clear difference in having one's own dinner suit.

Most will never get to wear white tie attire. The likelihood of being invited to a black tie event is far greater, especially in North America compared to Europe where it is thought to be the most formal dress code available. Many grown men will at least own a suit or two for special events or job interviews. So, why are they still renting their "tuxes"?

There is nothing quite like having your own set of formalwear ready to go.

Some stores will pay close attention to the way your rental fits, taking good measurements, trying on multiple jackets to see what has the best fit, and having a final fitting when picking up. The end result However, there is only so much that can be done with sleeve length, waist, and inseam adjustments. Except in rare cases, they will not alter the overall fit of the jacket or trousers. The trousers are almost always one size fits many, such as "36-37-38", adjusted by zipper clamps on the side. Due to that, they can be either too baggy or too skinny in the legs. The other major disadvantage is that all of these have been worn, dry cleaned, and pressed flat many times, so they will often look worse for wear and have shine spots all over. One should always use a press cloth on suiting fabrics, but these factories churn out cleaned and pressed formalwear as quickly and cheaply as possible.

As shown here, rentals rarely look as good in person as the ones in the catalog pictures.

If attending a few black tie functions a year, by choice or requirement, one should consider purchasing. Even if a single event comes up in a year, consider it. A decent quality ensemble -- dinner suit, shirt, bow tie, stud and cufflink set, shoes -- will pay for itself after a few years with proper care and storage. Another advantage is always being prepared when invited to a formal party, ball, gala, or wedding last minute. Just touch up with a clothes brush and iron or send to a quality cleaner when needed. It will be easy to decide on what to wear for those Black Tie Optional or Black Tie Preferred events since there's no need to settle for a suit. Besides, if an ordinary suit is bought by the average person to be worn only a few times a year, why shouldn't dinner suits? (I understand that suits are rented now too, but don't get me started on that.)

A less formal take than the previous example. Note the shawl collar and soft fronted shirt with buttons.

The fit can also be made more precise for your body since no one else will be wearing it. Obviously, I'd recommend made-to-measure* if financially feasible and getting style details that are fairly timeless. It's difficult to go wrong with a button one peak or shawl lapel, no vents or double vents, and trousers with brace buttons and/or side adjusters. Pocket flaps can be tucked in and single vents -- forbidden on dinner jackets -- can be sewn closed and look like they were never there by a competent alterations place. Don't forget about vintage or second hand formalwear. In good condition, with the right details, they can save you money and look dashing.

*Online made-to-measure can be affordable, but do your research on which companies are the most reliable and offer alterations credit.

A vintage dinner suit. Note the correct low-fastening waistcoat.

Get a self-tie bow tie instead of the pre-tied ones typically issued by rental places. With just a bit of practice, this will mark the wearer as someone who puts time into the details. Pre-tied bows can look a little too stiff and precise in an Uncanny Valley sort of way. However, I will break from this sound wisdom in one area: They are a good option for those who no longer have the dexterity to tie it themselves such as those with arthritis. Some small businesses offer "training" bow ties or can convert a self-tie to one. That is, they are tied or ready to be tied, but conveniently attach around the back. It's the best of both worlds if needing something that acts as a pre-tied but doesn't look too perfect.

Hopefully this will have shown the advantages of buying something specifically for you instead of renting. For more advice on buying a black tie ensemble, see my article on Navy Blazer.


  1. Well... that escalated quickly. I would like to point out that, once you own a Tuxedo, you will discover many more chances to wear it than you thought. Including dressing up just be-freakin-cause.


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