Decoding Black Tie for Women

Dress codes can be pretty stressful, particularly if the occasion you are attending calls for black tie. Whether you have been invited to a wedding, a charity ball, gala, or any other formal event, reading a black-tie dress code on the invitation can leave you feeling a little panicked and flustered. Although this dress code is rather straightforward when it comes to men’s attire, it can be pretty ambiguous for women, leading to a lot of unnecessary second-guessing for even the most fashion-forward of dressers. So, we’ve put together this handy guide to black tie, to help you nail this often-tricky attire. 


What Does Black Tie Mean?

Black tie is the dress code for most formal social events, but many women aren’t too sure exactly what it means, even though they have heard of the term. If this sounds like you, then the first thing to understand is that black tie dress codes tend to be reserved mainly for formal events which take place at night, with the exception of weddings. For gentlemen, black tie means wearing a tuxedo, however, ladies have a little more leeway when it comes to choosing an outfit, as it can be interpreted in several ways. 

Black Tie Outfit Etiquette:

Second only to white tie, black tie attire is the most formal of dress code options. Therefore, it requires a very sophisticated and elegant approach to dressing. For women, this dress code usually requires a floor-length gown. While cocktail dresses can still be an appropriate option, longer dresses tend to be a more elevated choice and perfect if you are hoping to make the best impression at the event. The key to choosing the perfect dress is to opt for a silhouette that is simple and feminine, and a classy color such as red or black. Look over these stunning evening dresses from Jovani – they have everything from timeless and elegant to modern and new, with a huge range of shades available to suit your desired look. 

Cocktail Dresses for Black Tie Events:

If floor-length gowns aren’t your style, then you’ll be glad to hear that for many black-tie events, a sophisticated cocktail dress can also be an appropriate choice of outfit. However, it’s important to make sure that you choose the right kind of cocktail dress for the event that you are attending. As a general guide, a dress that is structured and is no shorter than your knees is ideal. Keep your look elevated and classy by sticking to black or other rich tones. 

Black Tie Wedding Guest Attire:

If you’ve received an invitation to a wedding with a black tie dress code, then it’s the perfect opportunity to get glammed up. The good news is that although you will be required to get dressed up, black tie weddings tend to be a little more relaxed, so there’s no need to turn up red carpet ready. A full-length dress or formal cocktail dress will be more than suitable. Avoid wearing a ball gown style dress as this could clash with the bridesmaids. And, steer clear of wearing black or white as these colors are often deemed inappropriate for a wedding. Instead, a wedding is the perfect opportunity to choose softer tones such as pastel pinks, blues and yellows or rich tones like navy, red or emerald green. 

Play it Safe with a Black Dress:

If you’re stuck on which color to choose for your dress, then you really can’t go wrong with black. There’s a reason why so many women decide to wear a black dress to a formal event; it’s a color that’s timeless and classic, along with being completely appropriate for a black-tie event. Black also tends to be a very flattering choice of color and suits any skin tone, making it a fool-proof choice for any event you may be attending – aside from weddings, of course. If you’re thinking about wearing a formal black dress to an event with a black-tie dress code, then consider opting for one with interesting details such as lace or embellishments. Or, dress it up with bold accessories to help you stand out from the crowd. 

If Black Tie is Optional:

If you’ve been invited to an event that states the dress code as being black tie optional, then the good news is that these types of events tend to be more relaxed and slightly more casual than traditional black tie, while still being more sophisticated compared to what you’d normally go out in. Here you have the choice of either a long or cocktail dress, and it’s usually appropriate to opt for more relaxed styles – don’t turn up like you’re going to the Oscars! A midi, ankle-grazing or dipped hem dress is a great choice for this kind of occasion. 

Now you know how to dress for a black-tie event, what will you wear?