White Dinner Jacket Etiquette

by Claire Valenty on January 29, 2010

in Dress Etiquette, Table Manners

James Bond - White Dinner Jacket

Before we delve too deep into white dinner jacket etiquette, it might be helpful for me to explain what a “white dinner jacket” is, how it came about and where you will usually find it. There are many different variations of the white dinner jacket, which are listed below. It was first brought about in America in the 1930s by a dapper Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca”. You will often see them worn on cruises, in tropical locations and during the summer. Oh, and very often on the incredibly delicious George Clooney. Let me tell you: if you are going to be wearing a white dinner jacket, you are definitely going to be getting a lot of attention; you have been warned!

See examples of White Dinner Jackets

There are varying rules of etiquette for white dinner jacket attire depending on the type of white dinner jacket you are wearing. However, no matter the type of jacket, it much be absolutely immaculate with no stains or tears, just like the etiquette concerning a normal black dinner jacket. For further etiquette rules specific to the different types of jackets, please read below.

The Traditional White Dinner Jacket
A traditional white dinner jacket is basically a black dinner jacket…in some sort of shade of white. The same “only wear white between Memorial Day and Labor Day” rule applies when you are wearing a traditional white dinner jacket. Even then, if you do not live in a warm climate, you run the risk of looking a little off. This look is very casual and a little “beachy”, so, while it might be appropriate to wear on a cruise, it won’t fly when meeting a new client for a business lunch in New York. Having said that, if you are lucky enough to live in the tropics or are going on a cruise in February, you and your white jacket will not be out of place. For under the white dinner jacket, you can wear a shirt any color of the rainbow. If you want to wear white, though, make sure you choose pure white; ivory will make the jacket look a little yellow. Not a good look!

Example: Traditional White Dinner Jacket

 

The Ivory Dinner Jacket

Speaking of ivory, choosing an ivory dinner shirt over a white dinner jacket can allow you to make a much more subtle, but still, powerfully stylish impact. If you are renting an ivory dinner jacket for a special occasion, though, do not let the rental shop talk you into wearing an ivory shirt under it. Just like it is impossible to get a black jacket and black pair of pants that are the same shade of black unless you get them made at the same time, the same applies to ivory jackets and ivory shirts. Even having them off a little will cause those to see you to do a double take. A white shirt under an ivory jacket is very classic Hollywood (like Bogart in Casablanca).

Example: Classic Bogart style jacket with shawl lapel

 

The White Tuxedo Jacket
Picture Sean Connery as James Bond (or Timothy Dalton or Daniel Craig or whoever your Bond guy is). Now picture him in a white jacket. Bam! That is a white tuxedo jacket. Your white tuxedo jacket must, must, must be white. Not off-white or dingy white. Pure white. Period. Black slacks and shiny black shoes should also be worn to keep the look classy. And do not ruin your perfectly put together outfit by wearing a bow tie that is any color besides black. Trust me. Picture James Bond with his white tuxedo jacket and a bright red bow tie. Ugly, right? Now, if Bond cannot pull it off, do you think you can?

Example: White Tuxedo in James Bond style 

The White Suit
What if a white dinner jacket isn’t enough for you? What if you want to take it up a notch? Time to bring out the big gun: the white suit. The same rule as above applies here as far as the season a men’s white suit should be worn: in a very hot climate in the summer. You definitely want to be outdoors and not anywhere near a city or office building when sporting your white suit. Wearing a white suit shows how stylish you are and everyone with style knows you need a good tailor. Make sure your white suit fits very slim; it should not look like a business suit at all. To keep the look classy and not trashy, pair your white suit with pastel shirts with pin point collars – anything else (bold colors or crazy patterns) will make it look like you are trying to hard (you are in a white suit, after all; you already have everyone’s attention). The same goes for your tie. If you feel the need to wear one: keep it simple. Brown or black loafers finish off this amazing outfit!

Example: A stylish white suit

Men’s Suit Vest
As long as I’m educating you on suit etiquette, be it white or any other color, I think it will be handy to include a little blurb about suit vest etiquette. If you have a suit that buttons low, a suit vest can tie the whole outfit together quite nicely; just make sure the color or pattern complements the suit color. If you are wearing a white suit, it is best to skip the suit vest as it gives the whole outfit a more formal look. However, that is just my opinion and not an etiquette rule; some guys may be able to pull it off without any issues. Something that is an etiquette rule is to ensure your suit vest fits correctly. It should not fit too tightly when buttoned and should overlap the waist band of the pants by no more than an inch. Also, to ensure you look just as good when you take off your suit jacket, make sure you get a vest with a full back. If you are wearing a tie, it should be put on after you have the vest on, with the tail of the tie tucked into the bottom of the vest. And if you have suspenders on, those also go under the vest. I really don’t know how you would manage to put them on over the vest, but, just in case you aren’t sure, I’m here to provide all the facts!

Example: White Vest

The White Linen Suit
Is the white suit a little too much? Maybe you should take a baby step into the style world with a white linen suit. Since the time of the ancient Egyptians, men have been wearing linen. It is known for its breathability factor, hence its popularity in warmer climates, as well as being a durable fabric. Men’s white linen suits have always been popular because they are loose fitting, eliminating the need for a tailor. However, white linen suits wrinkle very easily and Murphy’s Law states that if you are going to wear white, you will spill something all over yourself. So, etiquette states that you keep your suit clean and wrinkle free, meaning, you probably will only get a few hours of wear a day out of it. The white linen suit is a classy, but, very casual look, so wearing it to formal occasions definitely will not work. It is best not to wear a tie with this suit, but, if you have to, pick something with a casual pattern. Boat shoes or slip on sandals (never black!) complete this great summer look! I will let you in on a secret: these same tips work for women, too!

 

Boys’ White Suits
As previously mentioned, it is nearly impossible for grown-ups to keep white pristine, and you want to put it on a little boy? I hope the only motivation for this crazy desire of yours is that your child is a ring bearer in a wedding. Even if you sit your kid in the corner and tell them not to move, that suit is going to get dirty. The best thing to do is to wait until the last possible second to have your child change in to the suit, not let him touch anything, let him do his duty walking up the aisle, immediately grab him after the ceremony, get all of his pictures with the wedding party completed first thing (watching him like a hawk the whole time – sorry, buddy, but, no bathroom breaks for you!) and then let him go wild (if you haven’t already lost control of him by that stage – that’s a long time). Oh, and make sure you purchased some sort of insurance policy with the tuxedo rental place. That poor suit will never be the same.

Example: Boy’s Tuxedo

Wearing Your White Outfit
As for when you should wear any of the variations of a white dinner jacket, it depends: a white linen suit is best worn at a casual summer wedding, a beach party or a barbeque. A white suit technically could be worn to an evening wedding – this is appropriate etiquette wise, but, try explaining that to everyone giving you the evil eye at the wedding for wearing white (that rule only applies to women, fyi).

Rules are made to be broken and white dinner jacket rules are no exception: if you are attending a holiday or New Year’s Eve party, your white dinner jacket will add a special touch of festivity. Please just don’t pair it with a knitted reindeer sweater. However, white suits and white linen suits should definitely be reserved for the summer months.

If you are hosting an event, in most cases, you can get away with wearing a white dinner jacket – it is your party and the attention should be on you, anyway! However, if you are attending an event and are questioning whether wearing a white dinner jacket or suit will be appropriate (as with any attire question when attending an event), ask the host their opinion; their answer will usually solve your dilemma. And if that option is not available to you, and you are not sure, do not wear it. Better safe than sorry!

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Anthony E. Walborn October 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I have a navy blue (sb peak lapel) dinner jacket made w/o matching
trousers. What is correct for pants? Black satin stripe, non stripe
beige or grey. Matching dark blue will still not match the texture of
the body. Please help as a cruise is coming up.

Rachelle Von Anders October 8, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Hi Anthony,

Thank you for your question!
Whatever you do, don’t pair it with black pants! The two tones will make people give you a second glance. Gray is also not the path to choose.
Your best bet is to go back to the place where you bought the jacket and have them make you pants in the same material. If that’s not an option, then show the world how stylish you are by pairing your navy blue jacket with some cream to dark khaki colored slacks (any thing in-between will do!). It’s a very smart look and perfect for the cruise. Just don’t wear white; you want to look debonair, but, not be confused with the ship’s captain 🙂

Come back and let us know how it went.

Thanks,

Rachelle Von Anders

keith October 15, 2010 at 3:06 am

I attended a very nice Christmas event years ago and the host wore a beautiful wool cream dinner jacket. It was not white, off-white, or even ivory, but actually cream coloured. All of the rest of us had black dinner jackets. Just before this Christmas my wife and I will be hosting a rehearsal dinner for my son and I wondered if the cream dinner jacket would be too much. Your input would be appreciated. Thank you.

RACHELLE VON ANDERS October 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Hi Keith,

Thank you for your question and excellent point! During Christmas and holiday parties, a lot of the “normal” etiquette rules are thrown out the window. For example, it would be safe to say that etiquette states during a fancy work function, women should not wear flashy, sequined dresses that draw attention to themselves. However, during a work function for the holidays, that is all you see on women! The flashier, the better! The same applies to white dinner jacket etiquette – although cream is traditionally frowned upon, during the holidays, there is some wiggle room; added to by the fact that the man wearing the cream jacket was the host.

However, you are now combining a white dinner jacket, cream or not, with a wedding related event, which is a whole ‘nother beast. White dinner jackets are attention grabbers, no matter what the season or occasion. If you were hosting a dinner to celebrate your anniversary or a promotion at work, then I would say go for it. Notice these types of events are all about you? To play it safe, as the rehearsal dinner is all about your son and his bride to be, the focus should be on them. Save your white dinner jacket for another situation where you can shine!

Rachelle Von Anders

Chip January 31, 2011 at 3:41 am

My son is marrying in July, in Georgia (hot), in the morning, in a none air-conditioned chapel – then they will move to an air conditioned country club type reception. His bride is choosing to wear a long wedding gown and to put the brides maids in cute short dresses. What is appropriate for the groom and his men? Can he wear a white or cream dinner jacket? Can he wear a white jacket and the others wear black? Please HELP.

Herm February 9, 2011 at 4:35 am

I’m getting married in late July in New Jersey at an an upscale wedding and banquet facility. The wedding ceremony is scheduled to take place outdoors just before noon. The reception will be indoors -at the same location. I anticipate it is going to be very warm (80s at least); I am considering wearing a white dinner jacket but I don’t know if it is an appropriate choice. Please advise. Thank you in advance for your help.

David Valenta March 1, 2011 at 9:58 pm

You mention above that when wearing a white DJ you will get a lot of attention.

It will be the kind of attention that makes your wife stand a lot closer and to hold your arm just a little bit tighter 🙂

Dean Jones March 24, 2011 at 10:13 pm

White jacket and Black pants with tie or not, vest is still perfect to attend the Queen s party. Wear less and you will look undressed.

WJ May 4, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Hi My brother wants to wear a White Dj white black slacks and a Royal purple tie or bow tie 2 match his Dates dress for prom. Will this be okay?

jl June 26, 2011 at 7:48 pm

hi! my fiancee is thinking of doing a white tuxedo jacket for our new years eve wedding. Would it look funny if his jacket is slightly off color from my diamond white gown??? im scared we’ll clash!

Steve B August 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Does this game plan sound appropriate? September, Las Vegas, 10th anniversary renewing wedding vows mid afternoon followed by dinner. I was going to go with the following: White or Ivory dinner jacket, white shirt, black pants, Burberry Tie (not a bowtie). Too much? Thank you.

Don H November 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm

So we live in Las Vegas & I was going to wear my white tuxedo jacket to my daughter’s wedding in November…a faux pas? Should I wear my black tuxedo instead?

Carol Binding November 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm

My husband and I are attending a 530 wedding with an outdoor reception to follow in Sarasota Fl in mid-December. Is an off-white, silk dinner jacket with black pants appropriate?

theonlyholger November 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm

My opinion: If your husband is tall and slim then a white tuxedo or suit will work. I’m split on the black pants and white jacket however since it visually splits the wearer in half. You can looks for some white suit & tuxedo examples on this site.

Terry parker February 15, 2012 at 11:28 am

Cruise from Barbados March 2012

OK to wear black dress shirt ? What colour tie ?

Also jacket is D,B. is this OK?

77 year old

Emily February 19, 2012 at 4:38 am

My Fiance and I are getting married in the middle of August, at 6:30 pm, in an outdoor ceremony. The reception will also be outside under a tent. The girls are wearing ivory cocktail dresses (short). Is a white dinner jacket appropriate for the groom and his attendants? Or, because of the outdoor setting, should he wear something more casual?

keith March 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm

What about themed affairs? Could I wear a white dinner jacket to “An Evening in Monte Carlo???”

Jacques Walker March 18, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I’m sorry, but I have issues with your rule about white linen suits as casual attire only. In New Orleans, it is considered the alternative to “Black tie” during the spring and summer ( In New Orleans that’s Easter to Labor Day!). While some men will wear white bucks with this ensemble, most will wear black shoes and black belt in high style!!!!

Marcus Greenhill June 4, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Greetings from the UK….. and if i could share my humble opinion….

Never ever wear anything but a black dinner jacket & trousers (or “tuxedo” if you’re in the US) & black bow tie. You’ll just look like a bit of a plonker – or a history teachers trying to look cool. Black – it is the only option. Anything other than this & it looks like you’re trying far too hard and will inevitably look like a bit of a fool.

Also – if you’re a younger guy, single breasted every time. If you’re a bit older and maybe carrying a few extra pounds, go double breasted.

And please please please tie your own bow tie – under no circumstances should you wear a pre-tied clip on tie.

Richard September 14, 2012 at 5:00 am

Formal “Black Tie” in Monte Carlo first half of October, considering wearing “True White Dinner Jacket.” Is this appropriate?

jay January 13, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I am attending a reception prior to an inaugural ball and wondered whether a white tuxedo jacket is ok. We live in NC. Also, my wife has a stunning red sequined dress. If the white is ok can it also be worn with red bow tie/cumberbund?

cristy February 7, 2013 at 12:21 am

my daughter’s date wants to wear a white dinner jacket to an event in Feb in VA.Your thoughts?Cristy

Lou October 14, 2013 at 10:06 pm

My daughter is getting married on May 31 in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina – a warm climate even at the end of May.

I plan to wear a black tux to the Church Ceremony but would like to wear a white dinner jacket to the reception in the evening (I’ve always wanted to wear one but never had the occasion in the past). Would this be okay or would it be taking away from my daughter, the bride?

kathy February 11, 2015 at 5:22 am

A boy’s white suit was traditionally worn for his First Holy Communion, in the old days that would be a white suit with short pants, white knee socks. https://pastprologue.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/dad_1stcomm2.jpg?w=500&h=712

Later years, all white suit, long white pants, white tie, shoes, etc today, rarely see little boys in the white suit, lucky to get them out of their sneakers, hoodies and jeans.

Jim C. May 5, 2015 at 9:08 pm

When wearing Ivory Dinner Jacket & long black silk tie on ‘cruise formal night’, must I wear cummerbund, or can I just use black belt on my black trousers?

Jim Rowland October 14, 2015 at 3:53 am

Be warned – there is a lot of perilously incorrect advice given here viz. white dinner jackets. If he wasn’t brought up possessing the correct instincts in these matters, the smart man will look to the manager or owner of the best men’s shop he can find for guidance, rather than an electronic person named “Rachelle”. Otherwise, it’s a cert. you’ll look like a navy steward and be asked for fresh cocktails all evening; or John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever; or a prom picture from Hootersville High School. My goodness where do these people come from?

William Wright May 3, 2016 at 10:41 pm

I know this is pretty short notice. I have a wedding that I’m going to on Friday of this week. While I can wear my black tuxedo and am prepared to do so, it has taken a turn for the hot weather wise here in Spokane, WA. I am wondering if I can get away with wearing my white dinner jacket instead? My accessories will be a black microdot bow and bund as well as hematite cuff links and shirt studs and suspenders (I’m going to check with Jos. Bank to see if they might have matching ones for my bow and bund). I know normally the white rule is more or less in play from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but given the weather I was wondering.

Fred Lanier June 23, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Hello. Is it appropriate to wear a white dinner jacket to a black tie evening wedding and reception? Thanks, Fred

David July 27, 2016 at 7:57 pm

Sirs,

I cast doubt on your statement that Bogart introduced the White Dinner Jacket to America. My Grandfather was wearing them in Louisville Kentucky to dances in 1927.

I have pictures. Somewhere.

I could be wrong. I am occasionally.

Sincerely,

David

David July 27, 2016 at 7:59 pm

I cast doubt on your statement that Bogart introduced the White Dinner Jacket. My Grandfather wore one to a dance in Louisville Kentucky in 1927.

Joe E January 15, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Hello Claire,
Going to a black tie optional wedding in Pasadena, CA on 4/7/17. I’d like to break out my favorite white tuxedo jacket, but would I be rushing the season. Thank you for your advice.
Joe E

Mego February 18, 2017 at 2:56 am

Hi!

I love the look of the white tuxedo jacket look. My boyfriend is thinking of doing a modern spin of this. White shirt with round navy buttons, Whate tuxedo or dinner, navy bow tie, navy pants and a deep maple leather high shine shoe. Thoughts?

John Beehler March 7, 2017 at 7:36 pm

I am the father of the groom and the wedding is in August..a usually hot an humid month in NJ…as he father of eh groom, can I wear a white dinner jacket ??

Waymon Hall April 22, 2017 at 6:27 pm

I am attending a wedding in Atlanta, GA, in September.

I want to wear either a white dinner jacket or white tuxedo jacket with black satin piping on the lapels.

My pant are black tuxedo pants with black satin stripes. Is this an appropriate outfit/pairing?

Tom Brereton December 9, 2017 at 2:07 am

We are attending a New Year’s evening wedding in Cincinnati and I want to wear my white (actually it’s ivory)dinner jacket—what type of black pants are best—formal tux pants with the satin stripe and no cuffs, a pair of black pants with no cuffs, or a black pair with cuffs?
Thanks.

Rocco August 23, 2018 at 3:20 am

Attending a class reunion Sept 28th
I would like to wear my white dinner jacket.
Too much or too late.some one I know will be wearing
A black dinner jacket. I want to out shine him.

Dave Winter October 10, 2018 at 11:24 pm

Your reference to Humphrey Bogart and Casablanca
are misleading, as that movie did not appear until 1942
not in the 30’s.
Also White dinner jackets had been worn on passanger
ships well before 1940.
My (white) jacket is actually (Ivory) and is made of wool
White is not an easy color in real life to wear, unlike on stage
or the big screen…
A tip.. it happen to me. My nieces daughter at a family
members aniversay ran up to me and knocked my
glass of red wine all over my jacket… for a split second I
was (red mad) but very quickly I calmed, and went to the
bar and got a glass of soda water and a clean bar towl
and soaked the towl and then pressed it onto the jacket
the red wine stain came right out…
Best

John January 9, 2019 at 6:15 pm

I am the father of a bride getting married in Cancun this February. I plan to wear a white dinner jacket with silky Palm designs to the rehearsal dinner. I was thinking pink linen shirt underneath, but wondering what pants to wear.

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