I've been invited to a black-tie dinner, but I don't have a tux. Is it OK to wear a suit instead?
- D.M., Boca Raton, Florida
That depends on if you want to be invited back or not. Why not use this invitation as an excuse to buy your own tuxedo? Just select one that is traditional in overall style, single- or double-breasted, with satin lapels, so it can be worn for years to come. And because the black color of most tuxedos is forgiving, you don't need to spend a fortune.
As for tuxedo rentals, when you think about what time it takes to go to the rental store to be measured, go back to pick up your tuxedo rental, try it on (and hope it fits), take it home, wear it to the affair, and finally return your rental to the store. It just cost you a small fortune in time, let alone gas.
If your tuxedo-phobia lies in a fear of looking like a waiter, take a moment to thank your lucky stars. Hollywood has had a great influence on the tuxedo over the years, recently retooling it into a suit that can be worn with almost any accoutrement.
Black silk dress shirts white band-collar shirts and, if you're confident enough, turtlenecks and T-shirts are modern replacements for the traditional white pleated-front shirt.
But to answer your question, Alan Flusser, author of "Style and the Man" (HarperStyle), explains "There is less leeway in the interpretation. This is what is meant by "black Tie" black-tie means tuxedo. Especially when the requested invitation is for a public event. In a private home, a suit might be OK." In place of a tuxedo, we would suggest a black wool-crepe suit with a solid or striped tie.
When you receive a black-tie invitation, determine how traditional the situation is and adjust your appearance accordingly. More important, decide if you want to be remembered as the guy who couldn't afford a tuxedo or the guy who wore one with great elan.