Wedding 101: The Difference Between A Tuxedo Vs. Suit

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The Difference Between Tuxedo Vs. Suit
Self

We use the term black tie, suit, and tuxedo rather interchangably, but when getting married, or attending a wedding, which one of those we wear actually does matter quite a bit.

When we think of formal wear to wear to that wedding, we weigh our options, usually switching between a tuxedo vs. suit. And while it may seem like a man's suit and tuxedo are interchangable, there's a bit of a difference between the two.

A tuxedo may sound a bit fancier, reserved for black-tie weddings, but can't a black suit serve the same purpose? What is the difference?

According to Byron Tully, author of The Old Money Book, “A tuxedo is actually a formal dinner jacket and matching pants that sometimes includes a vest.” The term "tuxedo" refers to Tuxedo Park, New York, where the black and white ensemble originated in the early 1900s among the upper class.

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But to understand the further differences, it's important to know history as well as fashion.

1. Style

There's a specific style rule that makes a tuxedo, a tuxedo. And no, it isn't just the bowtie! Says Tully, “A dinner jacket, or tuxedo, has peaked lapels or shawl collar only if it is properly cut, and is only worn with a black bowtie, white formal shirt, and patent leather shoes or velvet slippers.”

2. Ties

You're doing it all wrong if you wear a tie with that tux. Reveals Tully, “The neck ties you see with notched collar tuxedos today are ghastly and inappropriate, worn by celebrities who don't know any better. Most stylists don't know any better, either, by the way.”

3. Wearing a suit

A suit is a matching jacket and pants (and sometimes vest) ensemble worn for business, church, weddings, funerals, or elegant evenings out.

“It has a notched or peaked lapel, and the fabric for the jacket is the same for the jacket and pants. It can be worn with a bow tie or a necktie. Many young or ill-informed people today wear the suit without a tie, which looks incomplete and sloppy in most instances,” says Tully.

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4. Italian vs. French suits

In addition to the the occasion its worn for, the cut also determines which is a tuxedo and which is a suit. But an exception is the Italian- or French-cut suit with a tailored fit, worn with a bespoke shirt by someone who knows what they're doing, style-wise.

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According to Tully, Italian suits are the slimmer cousins of their English and American counterparts: "They tend to be a little more fitted around the waist and in the pants, but still retain the DNA of English or American suits with regards to the notch in the lapels and the tapering of the trouser legs. The shoulders are moderate, not too extreme, with a natural tendency to be classic, and timeless...

The French can be a little more pronounced with the padding in the shoulders and the angle of the waist suppression... French pants tend to be cut tighter fitting, both in the seat and front, as well as having a tapered 'stove-pipe' leg that's really tight around the ankles. Fine in Paris, but a little gauche outside France."

5. Cuffs

As Tully advises, you should never, ever wear cuffs. It's just wrong! “I'd add that suit pants may or may not have cuffs. Pants that accompany a tuxedo are never cuffed,” he warns.

6. Faux pas

In addition to cuffs, never wear a suit jacket with a pair of slacks! Instead, wear a suit jacket with the suit pants it was purchased with. Blazers are for slacks, khakis, and jeans, not a suit.

Long story short, though the differences between suits and tuxedos are small, they make all the difference.  Tuxedos are worn for events designated "black tie" or "white tie," and are generally reserved for celebrations. In short, adds Tully, “the major difference between the tuxedo and the suit is the events they are appropriate for. They are also very different in cut.”

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.