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What to Wear to a Black-Tie Event

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So, you received an invitation to a black-tie event, but you don’t know what to wear. Well, fret no more! I am going to help you.

What Is a Black-Tie Event?

Black tie is the formal dress code for an evening affair such as an award ceremony, a wedding, or a dinner party, just to name a few. It is less formal than a white-tie event but more formal than a business affair. Traditionally, black tie is worn for events after six o’clock in the evening.

Black-Tie Events

  • Opera

  • Wedding

  • Theatre opening night

  • Official Evening reception

  • Award ceremonies

Black-Tie Dress Code for Men

  • Suit – A tuxedo with matching trousers is traditionally the first black-tie option. If you want to be more modern, then choose a velvet dinner jacket with black trousers. Midnight blue is recommended and looks darker than black under artificial lighting. Do not wear a black suit.

  • Shirt – Also known as “dress shirt” should be white with a Marcella bib front. It should have a turndown collar and double cuffs which require cufflinks. An every-day white shirt is not recommended.

  • Black bow tie – Your bow tie should be made of satin, silk, or twill.

  • Cummerbund – Your cummerbund should be black and match your tie or vest.

  • Shoes – Black patent leather shoes with black dress socks are highly recommended. If you want to be a bit “flashy”, you can wear velvet slippers.

Avoid wearing:

  • Shorts

  • Opened-toed shoes

  • Polos

  • Opened collar dress shirts without bowtie or formal necktie

  • Sport coats

  • Blazers

  • Tennis shoes

  • You can wear a white dinner jacket instead of a black one, but only between Memorial Day and Labor Day unless you are on a tropical cruise.

Black-Tie Attire for Women

Photo credit:

  • Formal gown – You can wear an evening gown in various lengths to a black-tie event, or you can wear a cocktail dress, either above the knee or two inches above the ankle. Avoid cotton, knits, and corduroy.

  • Jewelry – Pearls are always appropriate for any occasion. They are very elegant, and they go with everything. If you want to add a little more glamour, then go with a pair of diamond earrings with matching necklace, depending on the style of your gown. You don’t want to overdo it. And remember, there is beauty in simplicity.

  • Hair- Every strand of your hair should be in place. A nice updo will not only make you look elegant but will also make you look more refined and well-polished.

  • Makeup – Keep makeup to a minimum. Less is more. A nice red lipstick with winged eyeliner will give a clean and dramatic look. Also, make sure your nails are well-groomed and polished. No bright, glittery, or gawdy colors. Use red, clear, or a neutral polish.

  • Handbag – A small clutch is all you need, enough to carry your lipstick and some small necessities. If possible, try to match your clutch to your gown and shoes.

  • Shoes – Wear heels with your gown or cocktail dress. Depending on the style of your gown, you can wear basic black, nude, or metallic. Again, if you want to be fancy, you can match the color of your shoes to your gown.

Photo credit: Pinterest.

What to avoid wearing:

  • Tight fitting dress, think classy not sexy.

  • Long trains.

  • Dresses that show too much skin.

  • Too much perfume.

Your invitation will usually inform you on what attire is acceptable, but you can never go wrong following this list. A black-tie is a formal event and you should always look and be your very best at all times.

To learn how to dine with proper etiquette and good manners while at your black-tie affair, see my article: Dining With Proper Etiquette and Good Manners.

Sources [1] Pithers, E. (2022, November 24). Black-tie dress code: The Vogue Guide. Vogue. Retrieved February 10, 2023, from [2] Harvey James, A. T. (2023, January 25). Black tie rules explained: Everything you need to know about wearing black tie. British GQ. Retrieved February 10, 2023, from [3] (2023, February 10). ." the oxford pocket dictionary of current English. . 5 Feb. 2023 . Retrieved February 10, 2023, from


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