For men, a black tie dress code is straight forward — just a formal suit (and yes, a black tie). 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. “A black-tie wedding indicates that the wedding’s style will be formal and is post 6 p.m., which means classic black tuxedo for gentlemen and floor-length gowns for ladies,” says Anne Chertoff, a wedding etiquette expert at The Plaza Finishing Program with Beaumont Etiquette.
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. “Black is my go-to color for formal events, and fit and flare is the style I always gravitate towards,” Yael Aflalo, the founder & CEO of Reformation, tells TZR. "It’s sexy and sophisticated and makes me feel really confident."
But, a black gown isn't your only option, 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 like 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. Aflalo suggests that for such an event, you let the gown shine and choose one favorite accessory to accent, "I pair my dress with simple accessories like matching statement shoes or a fun purse." Now, start with your best dress options below and you'll be ready to celebrate.
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 feel a bit more dressy than a standard sheath.
As Chertoff suggests, 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 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, Aflalo suggests 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 shoulder 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 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 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.