A few weeks ago we published a Dress Code de-coder to help you dress for the parties this holiday season and beyond. We thought our male readers deserved a post of their own, and believe that black tie doesn’t have to mean looking like a fancy waiter. We asked our most dapper friend, Courtney Lake, interior designer and blogger of Courtney Out Loud, how he updates black tie. Take it away, Courtney: 

FROM COURTNEY: I asked two friends the same question and got very different responses. The question was, “What is the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase black tie?” My female friend replied, “James Bond,” while my male friend replied “Afraid”. What is it about a gent in a tuxedo that makes women think of debonair spies and men quake in their sneakers? Think of an invitation that reads “black tie” as an opportunity to strut rather than hide.

Don’t rent a tuxedo. If you go to more than one black tie formal event a year, it just makes sense to invest in a quality tuxedo. Price points range from $500 upwards depending on construction. Lower priced tuxedos will use fusing to give the tuxedo more body and shape while higher price point suits will use canvas. A canvassed tuxedo will give a better silhouette to the body and will not have the issue of “bubbling” where the lining detaches from the suit.

Do get on good terms with a tailor. Unless you are having a bespoke tuxedo made for you, then you will need to get your suit tailored. Depending on the complexity of the tailoring, a trip to visit your local seamstress can range between $20 for a simple pant hem to up to $150 if you need your jacket reconfigured. As a general rule, a tuxedo should skim the body so think high armholes, flat or single pleat pants and no cuffs on the pants!

Don’t wear your regular button shirt. The white shirt you wear with your business suit is not the shirt you wear with your tux. Invest in either a fly placket shirt that hides the buttons or a more traditional shirt that uses studs. Both shirts create a flat and trim silhouette under the tuxedo jacket. Finally, be sure your shirt sleeves aren’t too long. They should peek out from under the jacket by about no more than a half-inch.

Do wear a bow tie. I love the four-in-hand black tie but how often do you really get to wear a bow tie, so embrace it! You can show your individuality by mixing in a subtle pattern (think tone-on-tone paisley) or a slight sheen (hello velvet). However, whatever you do, don’t wear a clip-on tie – just don’t.

Don’t invest in tuxedo shoes. It’s totally acceptable to wear a nice pair of calf leather lace-ups with your tuxedo. While tradition calls for a patent leather pump to be worn with a tuxedo, most men would rather stay home than wear heels. A nicely polished cap-top shoe will go nicely with most tuxedos.

Don’t stress over the cummerbund. Typically worn to create a sleek silhouette and to avoid the shirt from rising up, cummerbunds are what many modern men consider to be optional. Traditionalists will swear you are breaking the rules by not wearing one while modernists will say that the look is dated. Personally, I hate them as I think they emphasize rather than deemphasize a man’s middle section – something I would rather forget. But if you do opt to wear one, remember that the pleats on a cummerbund face upwards and you should never wear a belt and a cummerbund at the same time.

Thanks, Courtney! If y’all enjoyed this, hop over to Courtney Out Loud and see the rest of his black tie fashion shoot