Black tie is a dress code that has been around for more than 100 years and is typically reserved for very formal evening events. Black tie, however, can be confusing since black tie isn’t the same as cocktail attire.
The rules of black tie are actually relatively straightforward and easy to follow. The following guide will help you understand what it means to wear black tie and how you should dress if you’re ever invited to a black-tie event.
Athleisure is the worst. Yes, it’s comfortable, but are you really going to dress up for a special occasion in something that looks like you’re about to go to the gym? The answer is no.
If you want to show respect for whoever’s hosting this event, don’t wear athleisure. There are plenty of other comfortable options out there. You can still be comfortable while also giving off an impression of professionalism and maturity by dressing in the appropriate attire that doesn’t involve anything made of polyester or spandex. Be tactful! That said, I’m not saying you have to wear a ball gown or tuxedo—just show up looking like a civilized human being who wasn’t too lazy to put some thought into their wardrobe choice for the evening.
The point is this: flats are not formal enough for black tie attire. They’re perfectly fine for cocktail parties, picnics in the park, or going to the grocery store. If you’re heading to a black tie event and you want to be comfortable…then wear more comfortable shoes that still look formal!
If you don’t think heels are your thing, consider a cute pair of kitten heels—they’re much lower than standard high heel shoes and give your feet some reprieve while still looking classy. And if you do decide to go with heels, please make sure they’re clean and in good condition. Also make sure they match your outfit! The style of shoe should complement the rest of your ensemble.
If you’re thinking, “But a pantsuit is an all-in-one outfit and I’m a busy person,” let me stop you right there. Although the pantsuit can be appropriate for many occasions, it’s not appropriate for black tie events—the dress code is formal, and a pantsuit just isn’t formal enough. If you want to wear an all-in-one outfit to a black tie event, make sure it’s a dress or skirt-suit ensemble. You’ll look like you took the time to adhere to the dress code while still having an easy one-and-done outfit that doesn’t require any fussing over how your shirt should fit with your skirt.
Something too plain
Many people don’t know this, but there’s a protocol that comes along with dressing for formal events like weddings, and it’s called black tie. A black-tie affair is one of the most specific dress codes you’ll come across, and even a single stylistic misstep could have you feeling like a fish out of water. It’s important to understand what not to wear if you’re going to feel comfortable at the party and avoid any awkward moments in front of your colleagues or new acquaintances.
Something too plain
The last thing you want at your first work ball is to be mistaken for one of the catering staff. As tempting as it may seem, this is not an event where you can wear something plain and still get away with it (although perhaps if your workplace were a bakery). What kind of plain attire do we mean? A nice pair of jeans or khakis would be fine for work or even another formal event, but would look out of place here. This is an evening for dressing up—and looking sharp! The ladies might consider wearing either a floor-length gown or cocktail dress (a midi skirt style can also work), while men could opt for a tuxedo paired with the classic black bow tie. You’ll stand out in all the right ways if your outfit matches or even tops those around you!
A romper or jumpsuit
You should avoid wearing a romper or jumpsuit to a black tie event. Many of the same reasons that women are discouraged from wearing short dresses applies to rompers and jumpsuits: they’re not appropriate for the formality of the event, and they might be too casual. It’s possible that your jumpsuit or romper has long sleeves, but the result is almost always too much fabric. You run the risk of looking like you’re drowning in fabric, which is usually unflattering even if you don’t need to be rescued by a lifeguard. Additionally, some rompers have shorts instead of pants. While shorts are perfectly reasonable at some black tie events (such as beach weddings where dresses would get sandy), shorts aren’t formal enough for most indoor weddings and other black tie events.
Although it’s sometimes hard to find an affordable dress or gown that hits all the right notes for a black tie event, there are several ways to save money on evening wear: buy second-hand clothing, look out for sales at department stores, rent evening wear from websites like Rent The Runway or Gwynnie Bee (this can also help ensure that you won’t repeat an outfit), or borrow clothing from friends who may have similar taste in formal wear.
Anything too revealing
- For women, a dress with a hemline that falls below the knee and shows no cleavage is ideal.
- For men, a tuxedo is preferred. They can go without one if they prefer to wear a black suit and tie instead, but nothing less formal than that.
In general, an outfit should be modestly revealing at best—show off just enough for others to get the gist of your laid-back yet refined taste in fashion. At worst, it would be better not to reveal anything at all. Try not to show any skin whatsoever: it’s likely you’ll regret it later on during the evening if you do.
For women specifically: avoid wearing dresses that are too short or too tight; leave something to the imagination! In addition, avoid wearing solid white or solid black dresses as those are best reserved for cocktail parties and similar events. Instead choose dresses with patterns or color-blocking features so your outfit is more memorable and unique!
Black tie attire is formal and we all can look amazing in it.
Black tie events aren’t an excuse to look like you’re going to a nightclub. They’re a chance to get dressed up and feel glamorous, and we all deserve that. If you don’t feel comfortable in a dress, then wear something else—a pantsuit or full-length jumpsuit can be just as sophisticated. The most important thing is for everyone at the event to feel confident and comfortable, so no one should be made to feel exposed or uncomfortable by what they’re wearing. Being invited to a black tie event doesn’t require you to show off your figure; it’s about looking classy and well-dressed. If you want more flexibility with what you wear, then opt for business casual—black tie attire is formal, but we can all make it work for us and look amazing doing it.
So, now that you’ve reached the end of this article, here’s a summary of what we covered. First and foremost, your choice of clothing should be based on whether the event is white tie or black tie. If it’s white tie, you need an actual ball gown and gloves. For black tie events, think formal dresses or tuxedos—don’t forget to take off your jacket before dancing! And if you’re wondering what not to wear for black ties, pretty much anything that makes our eyes roll so far back in our heads we pass out from being dizzy and lose consciousness forever. That includes overalls, scrubs from work (do people even put those in the wash?), any clothing with flashing lights or moving parts (you’re not a Christmas tree), costumes from movies or television shows (we get it; you love The Office), and high-waisted jeans (denim should never be worn at a black tie). You should also avoid wearing sneakers unless they’re formal sneakers.
Now that we’ve covered all that: how will you pick out your outfit?
- Only a handful of events require black tie, but these are the most special of occasions.
- The rules for black tie are very specific and, as such, it’s important to understand what’s expected and what is definitely not allowed.
- Black tie is all about elegance and sophistication, so you need to avoid any clothes that would make you look out of place at a truly formal event.