What to wear when the dress code is black tie

Bring out your best evening gown and tuxedo as this guide will cover what you need to know when the dress code is black tie.

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When you receive an invitation with the dress code labelled black tie, you know it's time to dress your absolute best. The black tie dress code is the standard of formal attire, and your look needs to exude both class and sophistication. It is usually reserved for weddings or fancy events and the events typically occur in the evening.

Understanding what to wear to a black tie event can be tricky since it is essential that you meet the necessary level of sophistication. Here is the help you need to nail the black tie dress code.

The basics of black tie dressing for women

For women, a black tie dress code can be confusing as the name refers specifically to men. The general rule is to dress in your best evening gown and never wear anything that is above the knee. A beautiful dress is the default option for a black tie event, but don't be afraid to experiment with your choices to make a statement.

  • Experiment with the classic evening gown. Evenings gowns are a classic choice for a black tie evening, so it might be a good idea to look for one that has an interesting neckline. Keep in mind that you don't want to show too much skin, in case you look a little inappropriate. Look for one that has a slight dip in the back or has straps that you can wear a few different ways.
  • Or… don't wear a gown. This may sound crazy but if you really want to change up the usual evening style, why not choose to wear separates. It can look like a gown and cover the body at the same time. This is a great idea for those who can't find a dress to wear or simply don't feel like wearing one.
  • Wear complementary makeup. A black tie event is a classy event so make sure your makeup complements your outfit. It's not really the place to opt for a bright lipstick shade or a dark smoky eye. Wear beauty products you feel comfortable in, but make sure they are appropriate for the event you are attending.
  • Keep the accessories simple. Unlike other events such as a cocktail party, a black tie event requires minimal accessories. Let your dress do the talking, so choose jewellery that is dainty and delicate. Avoid wearing too much at one time.
  • Find the right shoe. Heels are the best option for a black tie evening as they look dressy. It's best to choose a closed shoe, we recommend a classic nude or black pump. But, if you don't like wearing heels or simply can't, choose a statement flat or sandal that can still elevate your look without the pain.
  • Choose the right undergarment. A black tie event is classy, so make sure you can't see what you are wearing underneath your gown. Choose anything seamless and make sure the colour matches your skin tone best. There is nothing worse than seeing panty lines through the outfit you spent so much time planning.

Special note: If the dress code specifies black tie optional, wearing a cocktail dress is acceptable. But it must be appropriate in length and style, so try not to wear a dress that is above the knee or has any cut-outs.

Examples of black tie dress for women

Source: Instagram user David Jones Store

Source: Instagram user Shay Mitchell

Source: Instagram user ASOS AU

Source: Instagram user Reliquia Jewellery

Source: Instagram user Ksenija Lukich

Source: Instagram user Dior

The basics of black tie dressing for men

A black tie dress code asks for simple components that are tailored to perfection. Think a black suit, white shirt, black tie or bowtie and black dress shoes. Although this can sound a little boring, there are still ways to experiment. Think different textures and if the event calls for it, maybe a dark coloured suit that isn't the standard black we all know.

    • Try a darker colour, that isn't black. Traditionally, black tie events require a black tuxedo; however, you can always try to find a different style within the black tie dress code. You don't have to always wear black - for example, the Academy Awards are an internationally known black tie event and many attendees wear a dark grey or navy suit. Embrace wearing a suit of a different colour tone but ensure it is appropriate for the event you are attending.
    • Opt for different textures. Velvet looks classy and sophisticated, so this is a good choice if you want to change up your style. Wear a full velvet suit, or if you want to embrace it in a subtle way, try a velvet suit jacket. Balance your look with subtle trousers and you will have nailed the black tie dress code.
    • Pick between a white or black shirt. White shirts are traditionally worn for a black tie dress code but changing it for a black shirt can make you stand out from the crowd. It looks just as fancy and looks rather refreshing in a room full of men in a black tuxedo and white shirt. Whatever colour you choose, make sure the shirt is tailored to perfection.
    • Accessorise with a waistcoat or cummerbund. To exude class and style, a black waistcoat or cummerbund is appropriate for a black tie event. As long as it is tailored to fit your body, you won't end up feeling uncomfortable all night long. It's always best for it to fit a little larger than for it to fit too small.
    • Choose a bowtie. The classic bowtie is the key piece for the black tie dress code, but why not look for one that is a different size than you are used to. If not, look for one with some texture or a small hint of colour that will help your outfit stand out during the evening.
  • Take out your cufflinks. Cufflinks are an essential accessory for a black tie tuxedo. There are many styles available, and they are an easy way to bring personality to your look, without them taking over your overall stylish outfit.

Examples of black tie dress for men

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Instagram user Tim Robards

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Instagram user Simon Hancock

Source: Instagram user Michael B. Jordan

Source: Instagram user Ryan Seacrest

Still feeling confused?

If you are still feeling unsure about your outfit of choice, it might be a good idea to ask the host or hostess. The event's host will probably have some specific ideas of what black tie means, and what they expect their guests to wear. This could prevent any awkwardness from happening during the event and it ensures that everyone enjoys their evening.

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