There's no reason to have fear of formals if you know the basic rules Points of formality

December 26, 1990|By Valli Herman | Valli Herman,Los Angeles Daily News

To symphony conductors, head waiters and others for whom the tuxedo is a uniform, the following information may be superfluous.

Yet, for the majority of males, the rules and regulations of formal dressing may seem more like trials and tribulations.

First, the most obvious. A black-tie event requires more than a black tie looped around one's neck. It means, that some sort of formal attire is requested.

Now pay attention, gentlemen, for the experts share their opinions and definitions of black-tie dressing. Study now, and save face later.

* BLACK TIE: That generally means a standard tuxedo would be appropriate but should be selected with a clear idea of the event and the setting. White tie is inappropriate. Perhaps your Uncle Charlie would appreciate purple sneakers with your tux, but the maitre d' at the Beverly Hills Hotel would not be amused.

* WHITE TIE: Also known as "full dress tails." Invitations requesting this form of attire require black tailcoats and matching trousers, white vests, white wing-collared shirts, preferably with a cotton pique bosom, white or pearl shirt studs and, of course, a white bow tie.

As the most formal type of dressing, white tie is appropriate with patent-leather pumps or oxford shoes.

A white-tie-and-tails ensemble is appropriate for evening dress only.

* SEMI-FORMAL, EVENING (AFTER 6 P.M.): This generally means a dinner jacket, which come in black, white (at least since the demise of disco lavender) or, most correctly, midnight blue. The dinner jacket is the only appropriate combination of peaked lapels with a single-breasted closure. White jackets work for outdoor receptions in the summer through early fall in Los Angeles' gentle weather, or for formal party situations, such as on cruises.

* CUMMERBUND: The cummerbund is a sash that was originally worn in India (the Hindus called it kamarband). Originally, the folds pointed up because a small pocket between the pleats held tickets for the theater, where tuxedos were worn, said Edward Cortese, a spokesman for GQ magazine. Now, it is generally suggested, the pleats face up to catch crumbs, Cortese said.

* THE VEST: The vest is also called a waistcoat. In fashionable circles, satin vests in graphic black-and-white designs may define elegance at a most soigne soiree. They are best worn with peaked lapels. Formal vests may be double-breasted, yet single-breasted versions are available with a variety of lapels.

* THE DETAILS: Formal becomes elegant with the addition of French cuffs, silk knots or simple pearl cuff links, or silk knot studs.

"An even more subtle variation would be to introduce cream, instead of white, for the shirt," Cortese says.

The wing tips on collars can be worn either over or under the tie, but commonly are seen worn over the tie.

* MORE RULES: Trousers must have a satin or braid stripe down the outseam and must never be cuffed. Pleated-waist trousers are appropriate, but flared legs are not.

The tie and cummerbund must be matched to each other, or even to the colors in your date's dress.

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