If you receive an invitation to an event that stipulates a dress code of “black tie”, you will likely wonder what exactly that means. For men, the answer is obvious; “black tie” means they should wear a tuxedo. For women, the matter is more open to debate.
In some ways, this level of debate is actually useful to you when you’re putting your outfit together. As there are no hard and fast rules as to what exactly black tie means for women, it’s going to be less obvious if you choose an outfit that isn’t 100% what the host had in mind. However, most of us want to feel comfortable when we attend an event, and that means that you’re going to want to do all you can to meet the requirements of the dress code.
If you have never attended a black tie event before, then you can be confident of meeting the dress code if you ensure your outfit has the following elements…
Evening gowns or cocktail dresses
By far the most important element of a black tie outfit is the dress that you choose to wear. While you can wear a suit if you prefer, the general expectation is that black tie, for women, means wearing either a formal evening gown or cocktail dress.
If you have never shopped for formal gowns before, then it’s worth spending a little time doing your research into the styles and looks that might suit you. Red carpet events are always a great source of formal wear inspiration, you can browse through photos of amazing Oscars fashion choices and see which styles stand out to you. It’s important to remember that not every formal gown will suit your particular shape and height, so keep an eye out for celebrities who have similar dimensions to you and see what they chose to wear.
It’s also important to note that, for the most part, the gown you choose should be at least ankle-length. Short dresses are rarely considered to be black-tie appropriate, so opt for something longer to ensure you’re meeting the dress code as intended by the host.
If you are concerned about staying warm at the event you’re attending, then wraps, pashminas, and capelets make for excellent choices that won’t distract from your outfit. All of these options can easily be considered “black tie” in and of themselves, so don’t feel you have to be cold just to adhere to the dress code!
Don’t reveal too much skin
One of the fundamental rules of black tie fashion is that the dress you choose should not be too revealing. While you don’t have to wear long sleeves and a dress that touches the floor, opting for demure gown choices can help to maintain the sleek and sophisticated look that black tie is famous for.
High heels preferable
If you are going to be wearing an evening gown, and particularly one that falls close to the floor, high heels are generally considered to be the preferred choice. As with the gown itself, it’s best to choose a pair of heels that are quite demure; so rather than thin strapped sandals, opt for courts or pumps.
Of course, if you’re going to wear heels, it’s vital you wear a pair while trying your dress on!
If you are not comfortable wearing heels, then choose flats that are suitably embellished and look appropriately “dressed up”. Pointed flats will generally be more successful at achieving this than round ballet slippers, and matte materials are more likely to look appropriately elegant than shinier choices.
If you usually embrace vibrant, boho-inspired jewelry, these pieces may need to remain at home when you’re going to a black tie event. For women, black tie jewelry should be understated, simple, and primarily feature base metals and classic gemstones. The look you want to achieve is definitely “less is more” when it comes to jewelry and accessories, so go for simple designs that enhance the overall sophistication of the outfit.
By choosing to incorporate elements of the above into your black tie outfit, you should be able to enjoy the event without worrying about what you have chosen to wear. However, it is worth remembering that there are no established, specific black tie rules for women, so if you want to be more individual in your choices, there’s no reason not to give it a try. Provided you don’t rock up wearing a t-shirt and jeans, your choice should be more than suitable!