Receiving an invitation to a Black Tie event means great effort and planning has gone into what is sure to be an exceptional evening. As such, your attire should mirror the formality of the occasion. Before donning a dark suit or cocktail dress (both are no-no’s for Black Tie events) or your personal interpretation of “dressy,” brush up on my Black Tie Etiquette guidelines below. Remember, “Black Tie” means the host expects you to dress “UP,” men donning tuxedos and women arriving in beautiful long (to the floor) gowns.
Black Tie Required:
- When your host indicates “Black Tie Required,” they are relying on you to respect the elegance and regularity that Black Tie brings to an event.
- A tuxedo includes a tux dinner jacket, shirt with a French cuff, and wing or turn-down collar, matching high-waist trousers, waist covering (a.k.a. a cummerbund) or vest and a black bow tie. Avoid a pre-tied bow tie and learn how to tie one yourself. Here is a quick tutorial (via Brooks Brothers). Men should select a formal lace up or slip on shoe. During the holidays, there are “festive” exceptions to the standard tux and you can get some ideas from my Black Tie Pinterest board.
- For ladies, it is customary to wear a floor-length gown. Or you may opt for sophisticated separates such as a full-length satin (or satin and tulle) skirt paired with an ornately adorned, or subtly elegant blouse. Women should wear a stylish pump or high heel that is comfortable to stand, dance, and walk around in. Add a few pieces of tasteful jewelry and an evening bag that compliments, but doesn’t overpower, the formal look. A black, silver, or gold clutch is a great piece to add to your formal wardrobe.
Black Tie Preferred/Requested:
- Hosts often use this terminology if they would like to put on a very formal party but wish not to exclude guests who may not be able to afford a tuxedo. In this case, it is polite to determine whether you are genuinely unable to meet a “Black Tie Required” dress code. If so, it is appropriate for men to appear in a dark suit and tie. Ladies must choose a dress suitable for an event knowing men will appear in tuxedos and women in full-length gowns. A three-quarters length dress or very nice black dress will work for this particular occasion.
Black Tie Optional:
- If the invitation states “Black Tie Optional,” this dress code can realistically fall anywhere between Black Tie and business attire. It is a good idea to contact your host to ask how they ideally expect their guests to dress for their event. Keep in mind that work attire doesn’t equal “Black Tie Optional”.
- Men also have the option of renting tuxedos and formal dinner jackets if they don’t already own one. If not wearing a tuxedo, men should wear a dark suit, white dress shirt, conservative tie, and dress socks that match the suit. Don’t forget a pair of well-shined dress shoes.
- Women may wish to rent a gown or formal cocktail dress from outlets like Rent the Runway. If choosing a cocktail dress, opt for one in darker hues or jewel tones, which are rich in color and thus appear more formal. Also choose a knee-length or longer hemline and a style with a modest neckline, as opposed to a plunging neckline, especially for a business or family function.