How To Dress For Black Tie – Etiquette Code

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As soon as Halloween is over, holiday season immediately begins. It’s that time of year when we all start obsessing about party hostess gifts and how to dress for black tie events. The meaning of “black tie” has truly transformed over the years and essentially means different things to different people, thus presenting us with some blurred lines regarding the rules for this attire.

A few years ago, one of my friends got married during the summertime and had a beautiful, extravagant, black tie affair! It was such a wonderful and memorable wedding, but I remember thinking whenever I got the invitation in the mail, “What am I supposed to wear for black tie?” I ended up spending a few hours on the phone with the bride to be as I shopped online and eventually decided on a gold, one shoulder Tadashi Shoji that I still love to this very day.

The truth is that it’s much easier for men. Black tie to them is simply a black tuxedo or a fancier black suit – easy peasy! But not for us women! We are filled with questions, and it all comes back to the simple fact that modern day etiquette is different now, and dressing for black tie isn’t what it used to be. But fear not! We have a Project Motherhood  guide for you to follow, and soon you will be a black tie pro that all your friends come to for advice!how-to-dress-for-black-tie-events

Modern Day Etiquette – How to Dress For Black Tie Events

What it means.

“Black tie” is  code for an extravagant event that starts after 6pm in the evening and is very fancy. It will be a sit down dinner, and you must have your manners in check!

 The requirements.

First things first, if you are going to a wedding or any special occasion event where the invitation reads “black tie,” follow those requirements or kindly tell your host that you will not be able to attend. There are many reasons for the black tie requirements which vary from the rules of the venue facility to the hosts simply preferring black tie attire – either way, respect your hosts wishes.

What should I wear?

The main part of arriving at an event of this caliber is knowing how to dress for black tie and arrive dressed appropriately. While it is customary for women to wear floor length gowns to events like these, the modern day rules have changed. There are dresses on the market that are just as fancy as ball gowns, but are tea length.

It’s not all about length though, though length is a huge part of it. What a woman chooses to wear to a black tie affair should be special and well thought out – not a last minute decision.

What should I avoid?

When searching for a black tie appropriate gown, avoid shorter dresses that hit anywhere above the knee, as modern day etiquette isn’t quite that evolved yet, and you will likely feel out of place. Steer clear of dresses that are reminiscent of your high school homecoming and opt for a more elegant overall look. A black tie appropriate dress needs to be classy, not trashy.

Rentals for women!

Since most of us don’t have a closet filled with gowns, unless you are a princess, the cool new thing to do is rent dresses from places like Rent The Runway that give you the opportunity to very cheaply rent designer gowns for a fraction of the cost and send them back whenever you are done – genius! (Get 20% off your first order at Rent the Runway) This is a great and inexpensive way to have the newest designer dresses on hand for EVERY event (not just black tie) + a whole new wardrobe of accessories and jewelry to accompany them. Here are my two current favorites:
Simplicity Gown by Nha Khanh Karla Drama Gown by Nha Khanh

How do you dress for black tie?

If you enjoyed this week’s fashion guide, I know you will enjoy our Fashion Guide to Investing Wisely – because who could resist a closet filled with pieces that will last and earn you money over time?!

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Fashionably Yours,



  1. Great tips Allison.
    Rental for women make sense to me.

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