Tuxedo vs. Dress Suit: What's the difference?

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Difference between Tuxedo and Dress Suit

A tuxedo is men's formal wear that is typically worn to black tie affairs. In the United States it is called a tuxedo, and in the United Kingdom it is called a dinner jacket. Black is the customary color of the tuxedo.

A dress suit is a grouping of garments such as trousers, long sleeved, button-up shirt with a collar, and a dress jacket. Formal occasions usually require a black dress suit, but certain situations, such as semi-formal functions call for dress suits that are of different colors.

Dress Suit

History of the Tuxedo and the Dress Suit

Tuxedos date back to the mid 1800s when a smoking jacket was created for the Prince of Wales to wear instead of the fashionable white tie style of dress. The name tuxedo comes from the Tuxedo Park Club of New York, where a wealthy businessman had worn his suit made by the same tailor as the Prince.

Dress suits have existed in many variations for many years previous to the actual tuxedo. Long considered a requirement for weddings, dinner parties, races and dances, dress suits are customary formal wear. The dress suit has been characterized as either black tie or white tie, and the dress codes of formal situations and establishments will specify, which is required.

Occasions to wear a Tuxedo or a Dress Suit

A tuxedo is an expected garment of the groom and his groomsmen at a wedding party. Other occasions are formal parties, dinners and dances. Men typically wear a black bow tie and a matching cummerbund. Traditionally, a tuxedo is worn to functions that occur after six o'clock at night.

A dress suit can be worn to more informal events such as an afternoon dinner party or informal dance. When a man attends a serious function such as court proceedings or a funeral, a dress suit is customary. Normally worn with a bow tie and cummerbund as well, a dress suit can be worn with a regular necktie these days and not appear garish.

Global Variations of Tuxedos and Dress Suits

The tuxedo is considered to be a Western style of formal dress; therefore, other countries have adopted their own variation on formal wear. For instance, in Scotland, they wear a style called 'Scottish Highland' dress. A black jacket with silver buttons; a waistcoat that is either tartan plaid or black; a kilt; white dress shirt with collar and a black bow tie make up the garments in a Scotsman's tuxedo.

Dress suits have been adapted as well, as the Changshan is a long dress with open side slits and a mandarin style collar. Made of silk, this dress suit is worn by upper-class Chinese men, and made of cotton for daily wear.


  • Tuxedos and dress suits have long been customary formal wear in Western civilizations.
  • Other countries have their own style of formal dress that may or may not be similar to the United States.
  • Most countries that do not have their own style of formal wear, at least hold fast to the tradition of black and white colors.
  • In the 21st century United States culture, there has been a relaxation of the strict rules of formal wear.
  • Where black and white were once the only acceptable colors of formal wear, colors of all sorts are now suitable for waistcoats and ties.
  • In some areas, formal wear is a thing of the past.


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