The Black Tie Dress Code Guide

The Black Tie Dress Code Guide

Ah, the elusive black tie dress code. In a fashion culture where ripped denim shorts and street wear are becoming everyday wear, the regular person is left scratching their head when receiving an event invite with 'black tie dress code' written on it. The only times we recall us wearing a fancy outfit is probably when we were teenagers during prom, or when we got married. Even then, 'formal dressing' required sounds much more easy to navigate than something alien like 'black tie.' Does that mean I have to wear a tie that is black, a tuxedo? Should I wear a black dress? And as a curvy women are there specific plus size dresses I should be looking at?

Here's Hello Curve's comprehensive and simple guide (we hope as easy as a Dummies 101 guide!) to the black tie dress code.

What does black tie mean?

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This dress code requires dressing more formal than the usual suit and tie or cocktail dress, which is typical of the business dress code, wedding suit dress code and lounge dress code. Think dinner jackets for men and gowns with a long train for ladies.

If you are in doubt, it is always courteous to ask for more information from the host on the formality of dressing required.

A standard black tie outfit for men:

1. Jacket

A dinner jacket that has satin pockets, buttons and lapels. Anything less won't cut it! The most traditional material for the jacket is barathea wool in black. If you're dressing up in warmer weathers, feel free to switch the material away from wool. As people move away from traditional dressing, check with your host if they are okay with colours other than black.

2. Trousers

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Formal black trousers, best with a row of satin material or braiding to the outside of each pant leg. Do not choose colours other than black. Make sure that the pants are naturally tapered and well fitted to your body.

3. Shirt

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A dress shirt with the following specifications: white colour, a wing collar (so the bow tie can be put on), a Marcella front (which is a stiff geometric cotton weave), and double-cuffed. It is mandatory to add cufflinks.

4. Tie

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A bow tie is mandatory. Black colour is most ideal, but other dark colours like dark blue are suitable too. Never choose a white bow as that is only used for white tie events. 

5. Shoes

 

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Any formal dress shoes will do. To make it fancier, we suggest patent dress shoes. For the more fashionable at heart, try some thing different like velvet loafers!

6. Waistcoat

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Optional. If you're wearing one, ensure that it matches the jacket and a cummerbund is not worn at the same time. That'll be overkill as the waistcoat and cummerbund serve the same function of helping the wearer keep an upright posture.

Black tie accessories for men:

1. Watch

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A dress watch, or your best looking watch otherwise. The straps are slim ideally. It's time to wear your Patek Philippe or Rolex!

2. Rings

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Yep, you read this right. Feel free to wear any fancy jewellery you own.

3. Cufflinks

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If you're fashionable, go for fancy styles. Otherwise, simple ones will do and are a safe bet. Cufflinks are required for a black tie dress code.

4. Perfume

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Not only show off your unique style, but your unique scent at the event. Choose a musky, strong scent to make a grand entrance, or a light, crisp tone for a clean feel.

5. Hair

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Side-swept or swept-back to show off your forehead. The black tie requires a neat and formal hairstyle.

A standard black tie outfit for women:  

1. Dress

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Make sure that the dress is long and at least floor length. A cocktail dress will be too short and inappropriate. Think of formal fabrics like brocade, satin and velvet. Black is the ideal colour but any other colour will do too, even navy blue and bright red. Curvy women wearing plus size formal dresses will follow the same decorum as well. Showing cleavage is fine but not overtly.

The shown dress is available at Hello Curve.

2. Jewellery

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Wear your fanciest gems to make yourself stand out. Wear earrings, necklaces and rings. Your host will appreciate the effort you've made!

3. Bag

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Bring your most fancy bag. A clutch, or mini handbag will do.

4. High Heels

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Flats are too casual for the occasion. Make sure to wear heels.

Black tie accessories for women:

1. Perfume

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Wear your most alluring scent to make sure all eyes are on you. Wear a fresh scent to complement your feminine outfit. We would suggest a stronger smelling perfume for a black tie event.

2. Hair

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It's your chance for a fancy up-do, flowing curled up hair or jewellery adorned hair. Go for a formal hairstyle. You can learn how to do it yourself from Youtube or social media. Otherwise, hire a professional by going to a salon or hiring a hair stylist online.

3. Make Up

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Go for formal make up. Think glittering eyeshadows, dark smokey eyes and red lips. Everyone has their own make up preference; just make sure it's not casual. 

4. Smile

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Your biggest asset at a formal event is your confident and beautiful smile!

Black tie etiquette

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As this is a formal event, a level of formal demeanour is expected. Getting drunk or shouting is a major no no. Be polite and courteous while mingling. Most importantly, bring on your best party vibe and have a memorable and fun time!

What is black tie clothing hire?

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It is the rental of clothes suitable for the black tie event.

There are many online retailers offering the rental of formal clothing suitable for the black tie dress code, including Rentadella for the ladies, and Generation Tux and Stich and Tie for the men. If you're in a rush, you also get to save on shopping and trying on time. If you're thinking designer clothes, Style Theory offers a treasure trove of designer gowns for a low rental price.

Otherwise, you can consider purchasing black tie clothing and accessories but dressing them down for wear during regular days. For men, wear your dinner jacket over ripped long jeans and sneakers for a formal meets casual look. Wear your trousers with an oversized t shirt and sneakers for a dressed up street wear outfit. For ladies, hem up your evening dress to make it shorter for a casual look. Wear your fancy earrings over a black mini dress for a classy night out with gal pals. The clothes and accessories can be used during regular days!

What does ‚Äúblack tie optional‚ÄĚ mean?

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It means that you can choose dress up to the formality of a black tie dress code, or not. We suggest that you do dress for the black tie dress code. It is always better to be more formally dressed than not when it comes to formal events.

Other Q&As: 

How can I predict how fancy an event will be?

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Firstly, the location of the function will give off a strong idea. If a five star hotel is chosen, or a fancy historic ballroom, or say, a castle, you can be sure that you're required to dress to the nines.

Secondly, look at how fancy your invitation card is. If it came with gold embossing and fancy perfume or if its made of exceptional material like handcrafted rosewood, you can be sure the hosts require your effort to dress as well as their card looks!

Thirdly, think of how fancy the hosts are. If they are known to enjoy dressing up for parties, then you can be sure you're expected to as well. 

How can I avoid making a wardrobe faux pas?

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Don't dress against the rules of the black tie dress code.

For guys, you're pretty much going to be wearing similar clothing as the other males so there's not much faux pas to be made (if you follow our guide clearly).

For girls, to be safe, dress simple. It's fine to be wearing the same simple dress as another. But a fashion tip is to accessorize uniquely otherwise, be it with your make up style, your hairdo, your heels or your jewellery. No one will notice that you're wearing the same black sleeveless satin dress as another guest!

If you're planning to dress loud, if you're able to get an inkling of what the other party guests are wearing by contacting them that'll be ideal. But it's not possible to be friends with everyone. Be ready and accept that you may be wearing the same dress as another party guest. The best accessory is your confidence, instead of being embarrassed about it, just smile and embrace it. Address the elephant in the room. Walk up to that party guest,  laugh about it and move on to enjoying the event!

Should I wear black?

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Yes. Black is an ideal colour for the black tie dress code. In fact, most of the attendees will wear black. However, women have more leeway and are allowed to wear colours beyond black as long as their dress is formal enough. Men are expected to wear white and black.

Do seasons matter?

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For guys, wearing a suit is a red hot affair (literally). During summer, we suggest that you wear a three-piece (dinner jacket, waist coat and shirt), so you're able to remove your dinner jacket for a breather when the temperature swells.

In winter months, it's easy to pile on the layers, so feel free to construct your coat out of wool. If it gets too chilly, add an overcoat in a dark colour. You'll look even more dressed up.

For girls, during winter, wear a fancy fur coat (we recommend faux fur so our fellow animals are safe!) or a thick shawl over your evening dress. 

During summer, wear a dress made out of a light and ideally breathable fabric like chiffon or lace. Stay away from heavy fabric like brocade or velvet.

What would be the most important tips you would give as fashion industry experts?

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Consider the level of formality truly required. Even though the black tie is a traditionally formal event, times are changing. Even celebrities are challenging the status quo and dressing up differently beyond the labels. Female celebrities sport suit and tie and male celebrities wear ribbons instead of bows for their bow ties. Contact your host to enquire about the formality they require. Chances are that they don't truly require you to wear a woolen dress suit.

A pro tip that we will gift to you: Always, always dress more formal than less. Say you are facing a "black tie optional" event, we will advise you to dress for a black tie event. 

A parting tip for our male counterparts: Invest in a tailored, fitted suit. You'll look a thousand times better in one than in a rental suit. It makes a gigantic difference. 

Pictorial examples of women in black tie

To aid you in dressing up for the event, here are some outfit inspiration for black tie dressing for women. 

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Pictorial examples of men in black tie

To aid you in dressing up for the event, here are some outfit inspiration for black tie dressing for men. 

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