Weddings are an excellent excuse to dress up and celebrate the love of two people. However, they can also be a bit of a challenge. In order to ensure you’re appropriately dressed for the evening’s festivities, it’s important to know what is expected. For instance, if a wedding invitation says “black tie,” you should wear something fancier than you would for a casual affair. Luckily, we’re here to help break it down for you!
As we enter wedding season, use this guide as your reference when trying to determine what to wear when attending an event with a black tie dress code. We’ll cover everything from ladies’ evening gowns and accessories, to men’s tuxedos and shoes.
Countless hours of research and data collection have been poured into making this piece—not only so that we can help women everywhere make informed decisions on their wardrobe choices throughout the year, but also so that they can prepare well in advance for fancy evenings out with friends at weddings or other events with specific dress codes.
Formal dress code (that means long and short cocktail dresses, ladies!)
As mentioned, formal dress code usually means floor-length or short cocktail dresses. If you’re planning on wearing a short cocktail dress, it must be longer than knee length to still qualify as formal (without having to resort to the infamous tights + heels combo). As for the guys, they can wear tuxedos or dark suits with bow ties.
For black tie optional weddings, refer to the same guidelines as above but keep in mind that you’re not required to follow them. In this case, it’s important for you to pay attention and respect what other guests are wearing. If everyone else is dressed more formally than you are and there were no specific instructions on the invitation about how casual or formal your attire should be, then it’s likely that you’ve overdone it by showing up in something more casual. On the other hand, if everyone else is much less formally dressed than you are then they might view your outfit as pretentious and over-the-top (especially if they were unaware of being invited to a black tie wedding). Ideally though—and assuming that it’s even possible—dressing somewhere right in between will ensure that you’re well-dressed but not too flashy compared with everyone else at the event.
Showcase your shoulders with strapless, off-the-shoulder, or one-shoulder styles.
If you’ve already got the dress, you’re in luck. All the aforementioned black tie wedding outfits will work with a strapless or one-shoulder style and are on trend right now. If you need to buy a new dress, these two styles will give you plenty of options. Classic silhouettes such as mermaid or sheath dresses can be incredibly flattering and are always timeless choices. For a modern look, try a midi length or shorter style with cutouts at your waist and/or shoulders to show off your figure in an unexpected way. And if you’d rather not break out your best heels for another night of dancing, opt for an elegant jumpsuit instead!
Long sleeves can be sexy, too.
While many people associate long sleeves with an air of conservatism, they can actually be a surprisingly sexy option. Not only are they incredibly fashionable right now, but they’re also incredibly sophisticated. Long sleeves will make you look like the elegant woman that you are. Not only that, but it’ll make sure that your dress isn’t too short. I personally love the look of a dress with long sleeves and a high neckline. This type of design is incredibly versatile and will definitely keep you looking chic while still giving off an air of elegance. One of my favorite brands for this look is Alexander McQueen—check out their selection here!
If you want to wear white, go for it!
And if you want to wear white, go for it! You are free to wear white to a black tie event. You are free! You are free like a bird in the air or whatever metaphor you want to use. Wearing a white dress is not disrespectful of the bride because she will be wearing a wedding dress and you will be wearing something else. The bride can’t take your freedom away from you by saying “please don’t wear white,” so please don’t listen to her. She cannot dictate what color dress you can and cannot wear. Don’t let her ruin your life! I mean, sure, she might ask nicely – but that is still no reason for why you should honor her wishes. She has no control over you, especially when it comes to fashion choices!
You’re beautiful in whatever color dress (or tuxedo) you choose – so don’t worry about anyone else’s opinion on whether or not your attire fits some arbitrary standards.
A classic red dress is always a good choice!
The classic red dress is always a good choice for any wedding, no matter the season or the time of day. If you’re wearing a red dress, try pairing it with a red lip. Nothing pulls an outfit together like a red lip and if you’re feeling daring enough to pull off a bold shade of red, then this combo will have you looking your best!
Red can be found in many different shades so you are certain to find one that will suit your complexion. From cherry to tomato to scarlet, there’s bound to be a shade of red that looks great on you.
Red is also a very empowering colour and with its limitless ability to go with any skin tone or hair colour, it makes for an excellent pick for any woman who wants to feel confident at their next black tie event.
Pick the right black dress.
Hopefully, you’ve already found the perfect dress for your black tie wedding. If not, it might be helpful to start here:
- Keep your dress simple. Resist the urge to accessorize and elaborate on the details. A elegant silhouette will elevate any ensemble; but if the dress is covered in ruffles, sequins or bows, it can look garish.
Elegance doesn’t mean starkness either—the opposite of busy is not plain! A generous neckline and a hem just above the knee are two safe ways to keep your little black dress interesting without giving up subtlety.
- Don’t forget about comfort. You’re going to have an amazing time at this wedding, but if your back and feet ache all night because of your shoes and clutch bag or you feel self-conscious about constantly tugging at an ill-fitting strap or pulling down a skintight bodice, those memories of having fun might fade into the background while all you remember is being uncomfortable!
If you want to add some sparkle, go for metallics or sequins (or both)!
You can go for a little extra glam by choosing a metallic or sequinned fabric. The key here is to make sure that your dress matches your jewelry—don’t be afraid to go for something a little different! If you’re choosing a black dress, stand out with gold or silver accessories; if you’re wearing other colors, try adding sparkle with metallics like bronze.
Black tie wedding = a chance to get dressed up!
Black tie wedding = a chance to get dressed up!
No matter what you decide to wear, it’s important to remember that black tie weddings are your opportunity for maximum glamor. Don’t be afraid to show off your favorite features (like your shoulders or strong collarbone) with a bold color or a little sexiness. Remember, this is still a classy event; don’t go full Vegas showgirl if you know what I mean. But have fun with it!
Now that you know how to take a simple outfit and make it black tie-appropriate, your next step is to find the dress or article of clothing you’d like to work with. Start looking through your closet! It might surprise you with how many pieces are lying around that can be dressed up in a more formal way. Once you have an idea of what it is, head to your nearest department store (or click around online) for accessories and shoes. And don’t forget: whether or not the item actually looks good on you is more important than anything else—there’s no use wearing something flattering if you hate it. So wear what makes you feel beautiful, comfortable and confident. That’s all anyone ever wants for themselves anyway.