If a posh looking invitation has arrived bearing the dreaded words ‘black tie’, don’t panic. Whether you’re heading to an industry awards dinner, an evening event or a smart wedding black tie doesn’t have to be something that worries you.
Dressing for a black tie event might seem scary, but it is actually easier than you think. There are some simple rules to get right and after that you’re in easy territory.
As a woman, you have a little more flexibility than men do, which means it should be easier to find something to wear.
Formal dresses are essential, but think glamour and sophistication, not a tight red-carpet number. Stay away from dramatic splits and other details that might not work so well when you’re sat down for a formal dinner.
Your dress can be full-length or knee-length, but don’t go above the knee. Stay modest, and don’t pick anything with too plunging a neckline. If you want to stand out, you could even pick a pants option, but stay away from anything too tight.
Leave your tiara at home and choose simple jewelry. Your flashier pieces should be saved for white tie. Despite what the invite says, you don’t have to wear black. Pick any color you like. The ‘black’ guideline refers to bow ties for men.
There are more rules for men for black tie. Some guides say that men should wear a black wool or herringbone dinner jacket, but as long as the dinner jacket is black, don’t panic too much about the fabric. The jacket should be single-breasted or double-breasted with no vents. It should have silk peaked lapels and covered buttons.
White dinner jackets are worn for black tie in some areas, but usually only in hotter climates. You should wear a white evening shirt, with a bib detail and double cuffs. The shirt should not have a wing collar, and should have a turn down collar instead, worn with cuff-links.
For black tie, trousers should be smart, in a simple cut. For the black tie aficionado, you could go for the traditional single row of braid down the edge of each leg.
The all important bow tie has a whole set of rules itself. It’s important to balance the size of the tie to the size of the head. The wrong size in comparison to the head can give a comical effect, so be careful. Don’t choose a ready tied bow tie, and go for one that has to be tied by the wearer.
To finish off a black tie for men, they can tuck a white handkerchief in the left breast pocket of the jacket, and some black leather shoes with a high polish finish. You could also add cummerbunds or waistcoat, but never both.
Black tie doesn’t have to be scary if you do a little research first. Instead, you should enjoy the excuse to get dressed up and look glamorous for the night.
Written by Joe Daniel