In my taxonomy of formal dress, there are four levels.

Court Dress

This, the highest level of formal dress, is reserved for occasions of great importance. Unless you are in the presence of royalty, you have no call for this wardrobe. Although court dress underwent much simplification during Victorian times, in general an embroidered tailcoat, enbroidered waistcoat, knee breeches, silk stockings and buckled shoes distinguish this style. Cocked hats and court swords were also carried.

Evening Dress

The second highest level of formal dress, and the most restricted in variation. Also called evening wear or 'white tie'. It would be worn after 6 pm, to dinner or for any night on the town.

The following articles are always black:
  • A top hat of silk
  • An open-front tailcoat of barathea with grosgrain lapels
  • Trousers of barathea with grosgrain or braid side stripes
  • Silk socks
  • Opera shoes finished in grosgrain
Contrasting with the following, always white:
  • A pique bow tie
  • A pique shirt
  • A low-cut pique waistcoat
  • Gloves
  • A handkerchief tucked into the breast pocket
  • A bottoniere attached to the left lapel

Morning Dress

This is less formal than evening dress, and is also known as morning wear or 'black tie'. Traditionally, it was worn during the day, not just the morning. Men would dress in this style for business and most other activities. Present day usage is limited to racing carnivals, formal events and weddings. The ensemble is comprised of a top hat, a dark 'cutaway' coat, pinstriped trousers, black laced shoes, and white shirt, with variation in the colours of ties and waistcoats.

Business Dress

The two- and three-piece suit existed during Victorian times, but only during the Edwardian years and later did it assume any sort of formal status. While today it is the uniform of business and has begun to symbolise some form of formality, historically it is only marginally formal.