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What Do Women Wear to Black Tie Events?

Katie Davies
Celebrity couple arriving at red carpet event

Black tie is a formal dress code for social functions that begin after 6pm. Whether you're heading to a wedding, gala, or any other formal event, black tie for men usually translates to tuxedos. However, for women, it's more complicated due to the different options available.

Traditional Versus Modern Black Tie

It's important to ensure that your outfit is appropriate for the occasion.

Traditional

Traditional Versus Modern Black Tie

For women, it's customary to wear floor-length gowns for black tie events. Even though the black tie dress code for women has varied significantly over the years, it originally included:

  • An ankle or mid-calf length sleeveless evening gown
  • Evening shoes
  • A wrap or stole and gloves

Modern

However, in recent times, the dress code has adapted slightly to include the following:

  • A ballgown, evening gown, or cocktail dress
  • Chic separates like an embellished top and dressy skirt
  • Evening pants with a palazzo cut

In terms of accessories, fine or costume jewelry is appropriate, along with an elegant evening bag.

Deciding What to Wear

If you're not sure which kind of dress would be the most suitable for your event, consider the following factors.

The Invitation

If your invitation came via post and contains old school-style calligraphy, it probably means that your event is going to be a fancy affair and you should dress as such. However, if your invitation came via Facebook, it's safe to say that it might be a little more casual.

The Location

If your event is being held at a five-star venue complete with red carpet, you should probably dress as formally as possible. Alternatively, if it's an evening wedding reception that's being held in a hotel on the beach, an upmarket cocktail dress would work.

The Guest List

If all else fails, find out what kinds of people are going to the event and judge the dress code based on them. For instance, if several A-list celebrities are going, you might want to consider dressing up. You can also ask other guests what they're wearing to get a feel for the mood of the occasion.

Black Tie Outfit Options

Women are fortunate to have more options when it comes to black tie dress in this day and age. The following ideas tend to be some of the most popular.

Fabulous Floor-Sweeper

Whether it's silk, crepe, or chiffon, as long as your dress skims the floor, you're doing this look right. Traditionally, muted hues were recommended; however, now it's perfectly acceptable to pick a color that will help you stand out in a crowd.

Fabulous Floor-Sweeper

Formal Little Black Dress

Even though black tie doesn't necessarily mean that you have to wear black, this classic color is a safe option. However, just any old LBD won't do; it has to be black tie appropriate whether it's through the fabric, the length, or the adornments.

Formal Little Black Dress

Glamorous Gown

If you want to go for full-on glamor, consider a sparkly floor-sweeper that would make even Cinderella jealous. Metallics like gold and silver are a great option to promote the luxury nature of the event.

Glamorous Gown

Cocktail Surprise

Cocktail dresses are widely worn for black tie events in the here and now. However, the general rule is to make sure your dress at least reaches your knees in length. Mid-calf length is preferred.

Cocktail Surprise

Chic Jumpsuit

Pants are commonly accepted as black tie dress if they're palazzo cut, which means wide-legged and loose. This can also be in the form of a classy-looking tailored jumpsuit in a standout block hue.

Chic Jumpsuit

Formal Top and Skirt Combo

Even though tops and skirts weren't traditionally worn for black tie events, they are regularly seen in this era. However, each separate has to be black tie worthy to qualify as acceptable. A sparkly sequin top and texturized skirt that looks like a two-piece dress puts a fun, contemporary spin on the proceedings.

Formal Top and Skirt Combo

Dressing for the Occasion

There are many variations of black tie dress for women. Make sure you shop around and try on different options to find out which ones best suit your body shape and personal style. Whether you prefer to rock a cute, embellished cocktail dress or go down the breathtaking ballgown route, all you need is confidence to shine.

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What Do Women Wear to Black Tie Events?