For men, a black-tie dress code is straightforward — just a formal suit (and, of course, a black-tie). But for women, it can be a little harder to define exactly what befits a black-tie dress code, be it ball gowns, cocktail dresses, or even feathers and sequins. For your upcoming celebrations, the best way to first get a feel for the event is by checking out the invite for details.
First things first — Anne Chertoff, a wedding etiquette expert at The Plaza Finishing Program with Beaumont Etiquette, tells TZR, “A black-tie wedding indicates that the wedding’s style will be formal and post 6 p.m., which means classic black tuxedo for gentlemen and floor-length gowns for ladies.”
However, if you're pressed for time and want to keep things especially easy, the one style that will always win a bride's approval is a basic black column dress. It turns out, wearing black to a wedding is a surprisingly chic and safe strategy. A black gown isn't your only option though — you can embrace color and texture without fearing you'll outshine the bride. Consider the couple and style of wedding to help inform your look. If it's outdoors, a subtle floral print may be appropriate. Depending on the climate and venue, bright colors, cut-outs, and detailing such as beads and feathers may also fit the bill. An easy tip: “Note the fabric of the dress," Chertoff suggests. “The gown should be dressy with shimmer and sparkle, like a satin or silk.”
Once you find the right dress to anchor your look, the rest of the ensemble will fall in line. For such an event, you let the gown shine and choose one favorite accessory to accent. Now, start with your best dress options below and you'll be ready to celebrate.
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A mini dress might seem like a bold fashion choice for a wedding, but it doesn’t have to be. The trick to pulling off an itty bitty dress is picking a style with a detail that balances out the silhouette — such as a dramatic puff sleeve or asymmetrical hem. Not to mention, chunky jewelry is a great way to offset the dress.
For a style with an intriguing detail that isn’t too over the top, consider voluminous sleeves. From dramatic balloon sleeves to a subtle puff iteration, the look should work for any type of wedding you’re going to. (Just be careful of the sleeves getting dipped into your meal.)
Attending a spring or summer wedding outdoors? You can’t go wrong with a chic floral number. Plus, since this style is a bit more relaxed than most wedding guest dresses, you’ll be able to wear it all season long. Consider a mini or midi style that can be toned down with a pair of ankle boots or sandals.
A slip dress is a wardrobe essential, but a fancy upgrade in a sleek metallic shade is ideal for formal events. The added shine along with polished details like a built-in bodice or folded cowl neckline feels a bit more dressy than a standard sheath.
As Chertoff suggests, the fabric is key when choosing a black-tie-appropriate dress. Satin is a versatile material, so you have room to experiment with silhouette by shopping for styles with a puff sleeve, romantic ruffles, or an asymmetric hem.
Elevated Black (Tie)
If you're committed to black, but want to go beyond basic, the addition of lace can amp up a classic LBD (long black dress) and add a flirty vibe. Instead of a floor-length gown, try a fringe bottom that will move with you on the dance floor.
The Modern Jumpsuit
A modern jumpsuit or pants at a wedding with elevated details can look as formal as a gown. "A woman can wear a bold necklace with dressy pants or in a jumpsuit, especially in a formal fabric," Chertoff explains. For an evening-appropriate take, try a fit and flare style that is both modern and romantic.
Add texture with a luxe feather trim along the neckline or sleeves in a lighter-hued design. Luckily, you can still wear pastel hues to black-tie events (as long as they fit length and fabric requirements), according to Chertoff. "Don’t shy away from color and print," she continues.
Strong shoulders and ruffles can add instant sophistication in an unfussy manner. A romantic style with a clean silhouette styled with embellished accessories makes for a winning combination that is guaranteed to get you style compliments every time.
Old Hollywood Glamour
Old-school red carpet glamour befits a formal wedding locale. Try a strapless satin column gown and style with a metallic bag or a chain purse to amplify the Hollywood feel.
A colorful one-shoulder or strapless silhouette is an easy way to break from standard black without going too over-the-top or breaking the dress code. Stick to the rule that if the focus is on color or print, keep the dress' design basic.
To pull off a full-on sequin look, opt for a rich jewel tone to tame a bit of the sparkle. A simple high-neck or long-sleeve silhouette feels modern and sophisticated.
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