Can I fake a tuxedo?
December 21, 2016 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Going to a black-tie wedding on NYE. Already putting in a significant amount of money and time for this, and would love to avoid dropping another couple hundred dollars on a tux rental. I have a 3-piece suit (might be this one)and a tuxedo shirt. If I get a black bow tie, am I pretty much at a tuxedo, or am I gonna look like an idiot? FWIW, I'm doing all the music, so I'll be a little more visible than the average wedding guest.
posted by jeffjon to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think you should pair a tuxedo shirt and tie with a nontuxedo jacket, especially if you're taking a center stage. It will be obvious that it's not a tux jacket and I think it would look wrong, although I know many people won't notice.

Honestly, I think you should just wear your suit as a suit with a lovely tie and a pocket square. The women certainly will be breaking all the black tie rules (mostly concerning hem lengths and sleeves), so who cares? I think in the modern, non-1% American world, "Black tie" really just means "Seriously! Dress fancy! Make yourself look really festive and fancy!"
posted by crush-onastick at 8:05 AM on December 21, 2016 [23 favorites]

yeah i think you should go for a black tie with a suit, bow tie makes it look like you're trying to pass it off as a tux.
posted by sandmanwv at 8:10 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Will people be able to tell? -- Yes. A tuxedo uses a different material for the lapels and stripe on the pants.

Will people care? -- Much harder question. Most of the guest probably not, unless it is a real "proper" crowd. The most likely to care will be the hosts (bridal couple/parents). They specified black-tie and so may likely mean it. But you will have a much better sense of this than anyone here.
posted by rtimmel at 8:11 AM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Are you close enough to the bride/groom/etc that you can ask? My feelings are: if it's a financial hardship for you, you should not do it or be expected to do it, especially in this economy; if you are doing the music, you're already doing good work; and if you're doing the music, you'll need to be moving around more than other guests anyway and so something that fits well rather than a rental seems important.

If you don't rent a tux, just wear the suit. Never combine - it looks apologetic.
posted by Frowner at 8:16 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, don't try to pass off as a tux. Just dress it up with a nice tie, pocket square, maybe some understated cufflinks and NICE SHOES. The last bit is important I think--some nice shined up dress shoes for sure.
posted by greta simone at 8:16 AM on December 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

If these are your friends, maybe ask the person in charge of the wedding?
posted by amtho at 8:21 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think in the modern, non-1% American world, "Black tie" really just means "Seriously! Dress fancy! Make yourself look really festive and fancy!"
It really doesn't. Black tie still means black tie, but if you don't HAVE a tux, and don't feel like you can rent, then doing black-and-white-shirt is completely an acceptable stand in. DO get an actual black tie (a long tie is probably better) to wear with it, so that you honor the "monochrome" color scheme black tie tends to encourage.
posted by uberchet at 8:22 AM on December 21, 2016 [19 favorites]

When you say "doing all the music" do mean as a musician or as an MC? Are you really a guest with a music contribution or music guy who is also a guest? I ask because I think you get some latitude from the uniform of the day if you are a musician, but I don't think a black suit is the way you want to go. You would need something more flamboyant, e.g. a colored sport jacket and maybe the tuxedo shirt.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:23 AM on December 21, 2016

If you want to go "flamboyant", you're playing wedding fashion in ironman mode---a single screw-up will kill you. Unless you know how to do this and have the personality to carry it off, as some people really do, I'd play it a bit safer.
posted by bonehead at 8:33 AM on December 21, 2016 [11 favorites]

You're gonna look like an idiot. Either wear the 3-piece suit normally but with a bow tie, or go to a thrift store and buy a tux.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:36 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

When I was a poor grad student in my 20s and didn't have a tuxedo, I went to a black tie wedding with a dark suit and black necktie. It was ok, and it wasn't trying to be something it wasn't.

Looking back on it, and if you already have a tuxedo shirt and bow tie, the best idea might be to just drop by your local thrift shop and find an inexpensive for under $100 tuxedo that fits. Eventually I bought one from Goodwill for about $20, and it needed some tailoring, but that was money well spent.
posted by deanc at 8:37 AM on December 21, 2016 [5 favorites] has been a great resource for a few of my guy friends and significant others in need of tux rentals; the prices aren't bad at all and the fits have been fantastic.
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:39 AM on December 21, 2016

I was recently at a black tie wedding and the groom specifically told me that plenty of his friends were wearing black suits and that it was a fine substitution.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:47 AM on December 21, 2016

Another vote for a black non-tie or colored bow tie with a black suit. You see more and more notch-lapel tuxedos these days, depending on the crowd it's possible no one would notice. Plus as a "musician" you get a lot more latitude to be off kilter. But it's a wedding, people get finicky, better to be "correct" in a suit than a fake tux. And I say that as someone who has worn a black bow tie with a black suit for certain situations, such in the back of a performing arts group where the audience is to far to see. I do think it makes all the difference if you're there in a professional capacity, though.
posted by wnissen at 8:49 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

A NYE, black tie wedding is not the time to go flamboyant and make it about you. It's not prom and if they intended "Black Tie Optional" they would have that on the invite. A tuxedo would be correct, but if you don't have one then wear the black suit styled as a black suit and not as a tux. Half measures look downright bizarre.

From a strict etiquette perspective if you don't/can't have a tux, then hardliners say that you should not attend. Personally, I'd rather have people than tuxedos at my party, and I think that advice it too extreme.
posted by 26.2 at 8:50 AM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

You will be just fine in a black suit. If you are "known" for wearing bow ties, wear a black bow tie; otherwise, wear a long black tie.
posted by Dolley at 8:51 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Unless your goal is to emulate Chris Kimball, I'd avoid wearing a bow tie with a suit. A black long tie would be much more preferable, in my view. To go fancy, add a pocket square.
posted by bonehead at 9:13 AM on December 21, 2016

Harder liners than Emily Post say that if you do not have a tux and cannot afford to rent a tux the correct substitute is a dark suit and tie.

If you just felt like being a cheapskate, that would be one thing. In this case, you say you have contributed a lot to the wedding in terms of costs and time, and are also contributing the music, therefore you can use the correct black-tie substitute that you already have in your possession.

More details:

A black suit is not a tuxedo. A tuxedo has a flash down the trouser leg. Therefore, don't swap in a tuxedo shirt, that will make you look like you don't know what you're doing. Wear a dress shirt.

It must not be a black shirt, and especially not if your tie is black. That would have you showing up to a wedding as though you mistook it for a funeral, implying that you disapprove of the match (or are some combination of clueless or rebellious and have picked the wrong occasion to show it).

Also, a long tie is probably better in order to avoid looking like you're trying to pass your suit off as a tuxedo when it's not.

Don't try to second-guess who will and will not "care" how you dress. You know the wedding is black tie, therefore you show up in black tie or, if you can't afford that, your best-effort correct substitute.

Also, don't poll the wedding party with questions about what you should wear, or go by what you are "known for" and so on. It's black tie, black tie is a well defined standard, so you have your answer already.
posted by tel3path at 9:21 AM on December 21, 2016 [13 favorites]

Rent the tux. Black tie has a specific meaning, and the couple didn't decide on black tie accidentally. Wedding planning decisions are made intentionally. They clearly want black tie, and it would be disrespectful to dishonor their wishes. From your post, it doesn't sound like you're unable to afford a rental, just that you'd rather not do so. I get it, I'd rather not spend money either. But you committed to spending the money when you accepted the black tie invitation.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:50 AM on December 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Analogy: if someone asks you to bring wine to a dinner party, would you say "I'd rather not spend money on a bottle of wine, but I've got this three year old bottle of grape juice that's probably fermented, so I'll bring that and hope they can't tell the difference"?
posted by kevinbelt at 9:52 AM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just an additional data point: it is possible to put together a tuxedo for a lot less than $200; time is a little bit short for NYE but there are a number of vendors on Ebay who specialize in ex-rental formalwear. I've had good experiences with the seller 'monkeysuits', who has a bunch of tuxedo packages starting around $50. He could likely hook you up in time for this wedding, although there's probably not time to exchange anything if there's a problem with fit. Anyway, it's worth taking a look and contacting him if you see something promising; he was very responsive when I was pulling together a last-minute tux for a wedding earlier this year.

As for the "Surely nobody actually expects anyone to wear a tuxedo, do they?" debate, MetaFilter typically falls on the side of "Dress codes are ridiculous and hoity-toity, how dare they tell you what to wear? Wear whatever you want who cares!" which I think is a rather presumptuous and rude attitude for a once-in-a-lifetime event like a wedding. If it wasn't important to the hosts, they wouldn't have put it on the invitation. But, like others have said, you should ultimately base your decision on how well you know your friends and how they've been planning this event. Your black suit with a white dress shirt/black necktie/pocket square is probably just fine, but I do wish people would stop saying that black tie isn't a defined thing anymore.
posted by usonian at 10:00 AM on December 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

From the comments in 26.2 wonderful link:

I don’t know why etiquette experts feel compelled to constantly repeat the canard that adults know how to dress, when plainly they do not. Adding “black-tie “to an invitation was once a shocking innovation, because it was assumed that if you sent an engraved invitation to an event starting at 6 PM, “adults would know how to dress. ” But then people started showing up in lounge suits, and thus the black tie line was born.

Man there are some cranky people in there. I'm reminded of this brilliant 30 Rock gag. (context, if you haven't seen the episode in question. Liz has been up all night frantically writing jokes for a speech Jack has to give at an event she believes is taking place the next night. It is not.)
posted by Naberius at 10:00 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ah. So I drag my husband to an annual black tie event and he doesn't wear a tux. Instead, slim fitting black suit with a long (skinny) black tie, a nice pocket square, and excellent shoes. It looks fine around other tuxes, though clearly not an actual tux. Any other combo would probably look off.
posted by whitewall at 10:02 AM on December 21, 2016

I agree that a well-fitting black suit with a proper dress shirt -- NOT a tuxedo shirt!! -- and a long, skinny black tie will probably be fine, but that combo really works best as a tux-substitution if said suit is also actually really pretty expensive, so....maybe just rent the tux?
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:23 AM on December 21, 2016

If you're contributing free music to this wedding, presumably you know the couple well enough to ask. And frankly, if they're expecting you to provide free music at their wedding, they should be the ones to spring for the tux rental if it really is absolutely necessary. For all the talk of etiquette above, I feel like it is ridiculously rude to simultaneously ask your friends to provide free services for your wedding, but also expect them to shell out hundreds of dollars on their outfits. You get to pick one, people!
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:27 AM on December 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

Where are you attending this wedding? A black tie event in NYC means black tie. A black tie event in Indianapolis apparently means that it's fine for a random uncle to show up in a Hawaii print shirt (as I learned after I dropped over $200 for a new dress).
posted by raccoon409 at 12:52 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

This may be a UK thing, but having been at hundreds of black tie events, I would feel that a normal suit with a black bow tie would be your closest bet.

If you wore a long tie that is black to a wedding that would be shockingly inappropriate to me as those are only for funerals. I am not easily offended but that would be an absolute wedding no-no.

I wouldn't be offended by a suit with a normal coloured tie, but obviously you would stick out more.
posted by kadia_a at 1:28 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Absolutely with kadia_a that a black suit with a black tie = funeral, nothing else and vastly inappropriate. But I'm also from UK, so am dropping this in more as a "if you're reading this in future and your occasion is in the UK, know this," as much as anything else.
posted by penguin pie at 1:51 PM on December 21, 2016

I'm another vote for wearing the suit as a suit, not as a faux-tux, and not bothering with a rental or cheap tux. This is because formalwear is 100% about class signification, and

1. Speaking as someone who is interested in clothes, a rental tux or a cheap tux is far worse than no tux. To anyone with the slightest eye for clothes, the synthetic fibers and poor fit will scream "impostor" from across the room. You'd look worse than if you showed up in a well-styled streetwear fit; that might look gauche, but at least it would look intentional.

2. Speaking as a communist, these (dear) people (who I'm sure are quite lovely) can take their class-gatekeeping and cram it. Wearing a normal suit says that you take the event seriously enough to dress as well as you can, but that you're not about to throw away between $100-$2000 on clothes that you can only wear a few times in your life as an act of ritual obsequiousness to the century-old symbolic trappings of the oppressor class.

On preview, kadia and penguin's advice does sound UK-specific to me. In the US, the long black tie is the right choice.
posted by Krawczak at 2:05 PM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Datapoint: I've been to lots of fancy black tie events in the UK. Some people wear dark suits with bowties. Nobody has ever cared. Dark suit with long tie, also fine.

If you have a self-tie bowtie, you can untie it and drape it around your neck as the night wears on. This shows that you were cool enough to tie your own bowtie.
posted by katrielalex at 3:37 PM on December 21, 2016

Twenty years ago I had a very fancy and elaborate evening wedding and I can still remember the handful of people who did not dress as formally as everybody else. I did not dislike them for it, I did not chafe against their thoughtlessness, I enjoyed having them there.

But at the event, in the photographs, and in my mind two decades later, they still stand out like sore thumbs. I knew money was not an issue for a few, and wondered if it was a subtle screw-you. I wondered if money was an issue for a few others, and felt terrible.

Sounds awful, I'm sure, that I would have noticed, that I would still remember. But that is how much it stood out, at the time and after the fact. If you are just trying to save money, a formal event in a large city on NYE is not really the place to do it; I am on the minority side that says you agreed to this when you RSVPed. My answer would probably be slightly different if this was: in a small town; not on NYE; or something where the hosts were eccentric or unaware and, as happened to me once, were throwing a very expensive midday wedding with invitations that inexplicably spelled out "black tie." But everything about this says a lot of money was spent and there will not be eccentrics or rubes in Hawaiian shirts. The cost of renting a venue in NYC on NYE -- yikes. It just does not seem the place to exercise frugality.

(Especially in such public view... I have to think that however the music arrangements were made, they would've assumed a tux? Also -- if you are a professional musician -- isn't a decent tux going to be a thing you'll eventually need? It seems like you might get some mileage beyond this out of buying good used and getting it tailored here.)
posted by kmennie at 3:52 PM on December 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

The reason you don't add "black tie" to a *wedding* invitation specifically is that you don't (presumably) want to directly order them to show up in attire they maybe can't afford (in amongst the overall high cost of being a wedding guest), or else not come.

This is *because* it's a once-in-a-lifetime event where having people there is more important than how they are dressed. That is from the point of view of the wedding party.

From the point of view of the guest, if you know the event is black tie
posted by tel3path at 4:43 PM on December 21, 2016

Keyboard stopped working.

you stump up for black tie clothing if you possibly can, a dark suit if not (normally dark grey) or the best you can pull together if you can't afford a dark suit. Weddings come with a lot of advance notice so most people should be able to scrape up something decent in their price range. Oxfam/Goodwill are online these days after all (I myself am loath to shop anywhere else).

Anyway, that suit'll look great with a tie and a pocket square.
posted by tel3path at 4:49 PM on December 21, 2016

FWIW, I'm doing all the music, so I'll be a little more visible than the average wedding guest.
You are part of the wedding -- dress the part.
posted by TrishaU at 6:30 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Replies to questions:
-- I'm the musician/accompanist/bandleader.
-- Yeah, I agreed to the invite and to play a few songs for the ceremony. It's grown into that + cocktail hour of music + intermittent cabaret-style music throughout the evening, with a 5-piece band. Probably already put 10 or 15 hours into prep, and haven't even rehearsed yet.
-- I'm usually the sort of musician who's either behind the scenes or eclectically casual. Aside from HS prom and my wedding, this is (at age 37) the first time I've been exhorted to wear a tuxedo.
-- Not sure where the "NYC" assumption came from. Maybe because it looks like "NYE"? This is in a 3rd-tier New England city.

Thanks for the opinions & resources, all!
posted by jeffjon at 5:15 PM on December 22, 2016

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