What is White Tie? Does It Matter? Discuss.

Stylenik and The Styley at the masked ball in San Francisco
Photos by Kate Seward of The Styley

As I shared earlier, I went to a masked ball on Friday evening. The invitation indicated that the dress code was “white tie preferred.” I must confess I wasn’t sure what exactly “white tie” required. Upon Googling, I discovered that white tie is no joke. Various websites clued me in that for men it means a tux with tails, and for a woman it means a ball gown, gloves, closed-toe shoes and the hair worn at least partially up. Oh and for outerwear, a cloak is the only appropriate choice. The sites also said don’t even think about flouting the rules, because that would be extremely rude. This transformed my excitement about attending the masked ball into a cold sweat. I had no ball gown, gloves, cloak, nor closed toe heels, and I hate wearing my hair up.

Even though I kept telling myself the invite said white tie “preferred,” not required, and also that this *is* San Francisco where rules, especially sartorial ones, are routinely taken with a grain of salt, my fear of being inappropriate lurked at the back of my mind. The first requirement I let go of was the gown. I didn’t even wear a ball gown to my wedding, so forget that. But I thought I could formal up a fancy dress with gloves and a cloak (and of course a headpiece!) and that would do the trick. So I headed to Valencia street to do some vintage shopping. At Clothes Contact I found an amazing alpaca poncho, a Suno-esque African print dress, and a black Alexander Wang-ish sparkling maxi-t-shirt dress. But no gloves and no cloak.

I continued down the street to No. 389. Just as I was eyeing a fur jacket I didn’t need, the shop girl said, “How much should this black velvet cloak be?” She maybe didn’t exactly say cloak, but that makes the story better. The answer was a reasonable $30. Since my luck seemed to be improving I asked the folks working there about gloves, and told them about my white tie appropriateness dilemma. That’s when No. 389’s proprietor put everything into perspective. “It’s not cotillion,” he laughed. Omg, it is so not cotillion and I am so stressing out for no reason, I suddenly realized. I purchased the cloak, because why not, and ended my shopping trip feeling triumphant and ready for the ball. And as you can see in this gallery of photos by Kate Seward of The Styley, no one was shunned for lack of a gloved hand.