Dilemma: Black Tie Or National Dress?

Can one take the place of the other? And is black tie “semi-formal attire”?

A week before the annual design competition Singapore Stories reveals the winner at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), Singapore Fashion Council (SFC, or the former Textile and Fashion Federation), sent out (still under TaFF) a follow-up to the invitation (received one week earlier). The accompanying digital handout was a photo-aplenty explainer to the dress code spelled out in the invitation: “Singapore Glamour (Black Tie or National Dress)”. SFC assumes the invitees would not know what the dress code demands, so they sent out this curious guide, explaining what they meant by the oxymoron ”Singapore Glamour”, although they did also say: “Feel free to bring your own interpretation of Singapore Glamour to the celebration.”

According to SFC, Singapore Glamour is either black tie or national dress. As it turned out, we do learn something new every day. And black tie, in case you have not already grasp, is “a semi-formal attire convention typically represented by a dinner suit or dinner jacket (tuxedo)…”. In the latest issue of British GQ, the magazine states that “first of all, the dress code suggests a formality that transcends the standard suit and tie of the business/lounge/wedding suit”. Transcends, GQ says, which means it rises above the semi-formality of the suit guys wear to a high-powered bank meeting, to the opening of an art exhibition, or your best friend’s nuptials. Sure, black tie isn’t as lofty as white tie, but it is not “semi-formal”. SFC has clearly their own (Singaporean) ideas.

And the national dress? Many of us assume that no one is concerned with the national dress any more since the attempt in the ’90s to establish one—the Singapore Dress, morphing to the Orchid Dress, both met with an unfortunate demise in 2002—yielded no definite results. National dress is now mostly taken to mean traditional ethnic dress as those listed in sg101.gov.sg. But, as SFC puts it, the “national dress is an alternative to black tie and entails formal attire from different cultures”! Could they be saying that, for the guys, you can substitute a “formal” batik shirt for a “semi-formal” black-tie suit? Or are we too daft to comprehend this Singlish of fashion? When a dress code is so unclear and boldly flippant, why bother with one?

Images: Singapore Fashion Council

One thought on “Dilemma: Black Tie Or National Dress?

  1. Pingback: National Costume Naught | Style On The Dot

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