Black-Tie Fashion Essentials

Black-Tie Fashion Essentials

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 we’re going to want to do all we 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 a 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.

Additional warmth

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.

Understated jewelry

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.

In conclusion

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!

Black-Tie Fashion Essentials


  1. I don’t attend as many as I’d like to, I love black tie events and dressing up.

  2. I don’t really attend many special occasions, but I love dressing up, nevertheless! I’ll have to keep these tips in mind if I ever attend a “black tie” event.

  3. All of these looks are very elegant. I would definitely agree these are considered ‘black tie’ for sure!

  4. I equate that immediately to an even gown, or something similar to a bridesmaid dress. I’ve been to two black tie events in my life. It is so fun to dress up and look good for a night out and a fancy dinner.

  5. This is really a fantastic guide. I love dressing up so much, it is such a great way to feel fantastic!

  6. This guide is perfect! I am always at home and do not often attend event that needs this dress code but this is helpful!

  7. I totally love this round up guide. Very helpful and absolutely informative. I will pass this to friends too.

  8. It is not easy to choose what you are going to wear in such event but thank you for sharing this it will be a great help for all of us.

  9. Great guide! I don’t have many occasions to dress up much where I live – my town only has 2000 people! hehe But even small towns have galas! Our local hospital used to have a huge one. This would be a great guide for those attendees.

  10. Yes, “Black Tie” for men is quite easy. For us ladies, not so much. Thank you for sharing what to wear in order to alleviate the anxiety of the “What shall I wear?” question.

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