A black-tie event or cravate noire is a classic formal engagement that typifies elegance and grace. But for the modern woman, age-old dress codes can pose quite the dilemma, inciting equal amounts of excitement and fear. Whether you wish to play by the rules, or read between the lines, we’ve compiled the perfect guide for any invite that calls for black-tie attire. Don’t dread the dress code, embrace it!
Over the years, ladies standard dress for black-tie events has varied. Traditionally, the elements of this dress code dictated more than just the hemline of your dress but also the accessories; once upon a time, both a pair of gloves and a stole were mandatory but luckily for you, times have changed! Unlike the gentlemen’s standard, a black-tie dress code is closely connected to whatever is trending in fashion, which means the black-tie code isn’t as limited as you once thought, you can have a little fun and add express your own personal style.
1. Choosing a Length
Traditionally long dresses are more formal than short but today, these distinctions are blurred. Despite this, selecting the length of your dress for a black-tie event is still straight forward as there are only two options. Whilst formal, floor length gowns are preferred, cocktail length dresses are also allowed. If you opt for a cocktail length dress, it’s important to get it right, it mustn’t be too short or too revealing. Stick to dark colours like black, navy or rich metallics and over accessorise. Adorn yourself in decadent jewels, dazzling crystals, to keep with the lavish theme. Just remember, if you’re going to be an exception to the rule, make sure you do it in style! Ultimately the choice is up to you, your personal style and what makes you feel comfortable but a floor length dress is synonymous with black-tie and remains the safest option.
2. Choosing a Colour
There really is no rule when it comes to choosing what colour to wear to a black-tie event, so your options are aplenty. Don’t be afraid to wear black, as many other guests will be, but don’t feel restricted either, a black-tie event doesn’t mean you have to wear the colour black, so don’t shy away from colour! If you’re wearing something long and fabulous, then you already meet the dress code requirements so why not go for something different and show your personality? Be inspired by rich emerald tones, vibrant reds and regal cobalt blue, or even this season’s favourite canary-yellow, if you dare!
3. Dressing for Your Body Type
What’s most important, is that you dress for your size and body type. When it comes to the style of your dress, anything goes, as long as you don’t show too much skin. Your dress can be slimline, a-line or structured, it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re comfortable and with comfort, comes confidence! If you’re tall, consider a long flowing gown, a mermaid hemline is best if you want to show off your curves, or if you’re petite a Dior-esque tea length dress is best for you. Whatever you decide, it’s best to always lean towards the formal end of the spectrum, if in doubt.
4. The Finishing Touches
It’s important to think of your outfit as a whole, don’t leave your shoes, bag and jewellery until the last minute as your accessories can really elevate your whole look. You’re evening bag is just as important as your dress, you’re going to be carrying it all night, so don’t let it be an afterthought! Black, silver and gold are all easy go-to choices but a bold clutch is an easy way to add a dash of colour to what might be an otherwise plain outfit. Your accessories should be quintessentially elegant to match your formal evening attire, think chandelier earrings, crystal covered clutches and jewellery galore, especially if your dress is simple in style, when it comes to accessories for a black-tie, more is more.
5. Decode the Invitation
Lastly, the invitation is not intended to confuse you, but instead, serves to give you some clues as to what you can expect from the dress code. Traditionally a black-tie event was an occasion that took place after 7.p.m and was reserved only for weddings and galas. However this is not the case today, as black-tie events can come in different forms but if you read between the lines, the invites tells you exactly what to wear! If your black-tie event is a drinks reception from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. then it’s slightly more casual and this event will require a little black dress and grand accessories. If the occasion is much longer and involves a sit-down dinner or dancing, this black-tie occasion calls for something more formal.
You should also be careful to assess the location of your event, if your event is outdoors, you should ensure to wear appropriate footwear as not every evening sandal is compatible with cobble stones or grass! You may even need to wear a jacket or stole depending on the season. If you don’t know anyone going, get a hold of the guest list, that’ll give you some insights on how to interpret the black-tie dress code. If you’re still in doubt, you can always ask the host for some advice. They will be grateful you’re honouring their dress code and will dispel any confusion you may have.
From black-tie to white-tie, business formal and everything in between, receiving an invitation might feel like high-society jargon. It can get a little confusing, but all it really means, is that you’re in for a night of extravagance! Making an effort matters and if you RSVP ‘yes’ to the event, then you must respect the dress code, your host will be more grateful than you might think! By following our guide you’ll be sure to avoid the age old outfit dilemma and any potential fashion faux-pas! As the party season approaches, you can be sure to expect something in the mail, so it’s time to fall in love with the black-tie dress code again!