If you’ve got an invitation to a black tie affair, you can rest assured it’s going to be one swanky evening event. But how swanky?
Over the years, fashion lines have been crossed and blurred and redefined, so what was considered black tie dress a century ago isn’t exactly the same as today. Not exactly, but it’s close. Admittedly, it’s mostly men who have to jump through sartorial hoops to adhere to black tie. Men must wear a white dress shirt, an evening waistcoat, a black bow tie, a black dinner jacket that features a different shade of lapels, black dress pants and black dress shoes. In other words, men have to wear a tuxedo.
Women, on the other hand, have a little more leeway. While women still need to dress up, we can play around a lot more with colour and cut. This said, black tie is formal (though not as formal as white tie) so that semi-formal bubble gum pink party dress you wore to your BFF’s birthday won’t cut it. So what will?
Black tie is almost synonymous with long gown. We’re talking floor length evening gowns, not maxi dresses. This said, the rules have relaxed a bit over the years, so you can get away with wearing a slightly shorter dress — provided it is not too short. Aim for a dress that falls at or just below the knee. Nothing shorter. If you want to show of your stems, don a longer dress with slits. Don’t slip into a mini. It’s not appropriate.
If the idea of going out to buy a gown for single event is making your wallet groan, consider renting a dress, like this Alex Perry dress hire from Your Closet.
While many black tie gowns are black, you are not restricted to this colour. However, you don’t want the colour you do select to be too playful. (Remember that bubble gum pink we talked about? It’s still not the best idea.) Think rich tones, like ruby, emerald, sapphire or even warmer light shades, like champagne.
Just because a gown is long doesn’t automatically mean it is black-tie worthy. There’s no doubt that your attire can be sexy, but it also needs to be sophisticated. By all means, wear a gorgeous gown with a plunging neckline, but you need to balance this skin with some tactful coverage. For instance, a skin-tight dress with plunging neckline, with dual hip-slits, in hot-red would push the envelope a bit too much.
There is no material that’s strictly off the table at a black-tie event, but again, it is about balance. Sequins, lace, silk, velvet and satin can be worn head-to-toe, but leather or fur? Not so much. While they can be used as embellishments, a full-length, skin-tight leather gown, for example, might cross a line.
Might, of course, is the operative word. Like we discussed, the lines have become a little blurred, and it’s easier to cross them, granted you know what the lines are in the first place. You know what they say: to break the rules with style, you have to know them first. And now you know them!