Dress codes can definitely be confusing; they can often mean different things depending on who you ask. But can you ever wear a navy suit to a black tie event?
A navy suit should not be worn to a black-tie event as it would always be considered underdressing no matter what fabric it is made from. A black or midnight blue tuxedo should be worn instead.
Although that’s the short answer, as always, there’s more to it.
Let’s go through the main reasons why it’s not a good idea in a little more detail. If you’re still keen on doing it after reading all of this, I’ll give you a few tips at the end.
3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Wear A Navy Suit To A Black Tie Event
After reading this, you’ll almost definitely decide against it.
1. It Would Always Be Considered Underdressing
Both 2-piece and the more formal 3-piece navy suits would both be considered underdressing at a true black-tie event.
It could be the glossiest, darkest, worsted wool 3-piece suit and you’d still be underdressing.
Black-tie is one of the most formal modern dress codes you’d encounter these days. It’s really only requested in formal social evening events that take place after 6pm.
Whenever you see it on an invitation, wear a tuxedo.
Anything less than a tuxedo wouldn’t cut it. Navy suits are no exception and simply wouldn’t be appropriate.
2. Navy Suits Are Too Light In Color
Another reason why a navy suit should never be worn to a black-tie event is that it’s too light in color.
While a black 3-piece suit still wouldn’t be appropriate for black-tie, it’s easier to blend into a crowd of tuxedos than a navy suit would be.
Unfortunately, a navy suit would stand out at a black-tie event for all the wrong reasons.
Midnight blue tuxedos are a very reasonable option, but midnight blue is actually considerably darker than navy blue in any case.
No matter how hard you tried to dress a navy suit up, it would simply be too light and bright in color to really blend into a black-tie crowd.
3. Navy Suits Are More “Business” Than “Black-Tie”
Navy blue suits have a very business-professional look and feel to them. It’s the type of thing you’d wear to work on your average day.
It’s another reason why they’re tough to wear to formal social settings like black-tie events.
In these settings, wearing business attire would come across as awkward and out of place.
You’d look more like a member of staff than a guest at the event.
This is especially true if you choose to wear a necktie with your navy suit instead of a bow tie.
It looks so much like business attire that it’ll draw attention.
Tuxedos To Wear To A Black Tie Event Instead Of A Navy Suit
When attending a black-tie event, both black and midnight blue tuxedos would be appropriate. A lot more appropriate than a navy suit would be.
Midnight blue is a very dark shade of blue – so dark that it blends seamlessly into a black-tie event.
Along with black, it’s considered one of the most traditional and appropriate tuxedo colors out there.
While it may seem reasonable to assume that a navy suit wouldn’t be too far off from a midnight blue tuxedo, it’s incorrect.
Aside from the fact that suits just look a whole lot more casual than tuxedos, navy blue is also a couple of shades lighter than midnight blue.
It’s definitely light enough to be noticeably different.
But what makes a suit look so much more casual than a tuxedo? What are the main differences between them in the first place?
Well, the main difference is the presence of satin.
Tuxedos have satin lapels, as well as satin lining the pocket trim and trouser legs. They’re also usually worn with very formal shoe styles such as patent leather Oxfords or Venetian loafers.
Tuxedo shirts look very different from the regular dress shirt you’d wear with a suit. They’ve got concealed buttons as well as a bib.
All of this adds up to a tuxedo looking a lot more formal and elegant than a regular suit, regardless of whether it was navy or not.
How To Wear A Navy Suit To A Black Tie Event (If You Had To)
After reading all of that, there’s a good chance you’ve decided against it.
However, if you were still keen on doing it or simply have no other choice, consider the following tips to make it look as good as possible.
1. Go For A 3-Piece Navy Suit
3-piece suits are different from 2-piece suits in that you wear a vest (a.k.a waistcoat) with them.
The simple addition of a vest does make it look a notch more formal and sophisticated. When dressing for a black-tie event, this is definitely a good thing.
While it’ll still be clear that you aren’t wearing a tuxedo, it’ll at least make it clear that you’ve made some sort of an effort to dress up for the occasion.
It’s important that the vest comes with the suit itself and isn’t a random one being mixed and matched with a suit.
When it comes to formal 3-piece suits, the vest needs to match the jacket and pants in every way.
2. Try To Wear The Darkest Shade Of Navy
“Navy” can mean different things depending on who you ask. While it’s considered a relatively dark shade of blue, it should be seen as a spectrum.
Some shades of “navy” will be lighter than others.
When dressing for a black-tie event, the darker the shade of your navy suit, the better.
The closer you can get to midnight blue, the less obvious it’ll technically look that you’re not wearing a tuxedo when observing it from far away.
3. The Shinier The Better
Suits made from shinier fabrics such as worsted wool and shark skin have a more formal feel to them.
The more matte, rough, and rugged the texture of the suit fabric, the more casual it’ll generally look.
Examples of these “casual” fabrics and weaves include cotton twill weaves, tweed, linen, and corduroy.
When you’re trying not to look too out of place wearing a navy suit at a black-tie event, make sure that it’s at least made from a more formal fabric.
4. Always Wear A Bow Tie
Wearing a navy suit with a necktie at a black-tie event couldn’t look more out of place.
Whatever you need to do to get hold of a bow tie, do it. A navy suit would look so much better with one.
Wearing a necktie with a navy suit would simply make it seem as though you’d dressed for work and headed to the black-tie event straight after.
It’s never a good look.
When wearing a bow tie with a navy suit to a black-tie event, choose one that matches the color of the suit.
In other words, go for a navy bow tie.
While a matching bow tie isn’t necessary when dressing for a simple formal event, when trying to pull this look off at a black-tie event, you’ll want it to resemble a tuxedo as closely as possible.
With tuxedos, the bow tie usually matches the suit.
Can You Wear A Navy Suit To A Black Tie Optional Event?
A navy suit can be worn to a black-tie optional event although a tuxedo would still be the preferred option.
Black-tie optional is often made more confusing than it needs to be.
Ultimately, it simply means that the host would prefer that you wore a tuxedo but acknowledges that a simple suit would still be OK.
When dressing for black-tie optional, it’s still a good idea to choose a more formal look suit.
A 3-piece navy suit and a bow tie would definitely be better than a 2-piece suit and a necktie.
Whatever you can do to dress it up a little, do it.
There you have it.
Hopefully, that’s everything you could want to know about a topic that can be pretty confusing and frustrating.
It doesn’t need to be.
Keep things simple.