Black Tie Dress Code for Women: What to Wear

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE

Joanna Elizabeth

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Updated June 20, 2024

Black Tie Attire
Find out everything about black tie attire.

The black tie dress code for women signifies formal evening wear, typically a floor-length gown or a sophisticated cocktail dress made from luxurious fabrics like silk or velvet. This dress code emphasizes elegance and class.

Refined accessories, such as statement jewelry, a chic clutch, and classic heels, enhance the overall look, while polished makeup and hair complete the ensemble.

Black Tie Attire for Women

Embracing the black tie dress code allows for a confident and stylish expression at any formal gathering.

Floor-Length Gowns

Floor Length Gown Black Tie Attire Ralph Lauren
Opt for a classic floor-length gown to make a statement at any black tie event. Photo: Ralph Lauren

The epitome of black tie sophistication, floor-length gowns typically feature lavish fabrics such as silk and satin, sculpted into a breathtaking silhouette.

These dresses make a luxurious statement with a hemline that sweeps the floor. Opt for timeless, versatile colors like black, navy, and deep jewel tones, which remain perennially stylish for black-tie events.

Ball Gowns

Ballgown Black Tie Attire Sachin Babi
Embrace timeless elegance with a voluminous ball gown perfect for a grand entrance. Photo: Sachin & Babi

Ball gowns represent the height of black tie grandeur, characterized by their dramatic and voluminous skirts that evoke a sense of regal elegance. These full-length dresses often incorporate luxurious materials such as tulle, silk, and organza, creating a breathtakingly grand silhouette.

Opt for a ball gown with intricate detailing like embroidery, sequins, or beading to add a touch of opulence. Deep, rich burgundy, emerald, and navy colors embody timeless and modern sophistication.

Consider a gown with a train or intricate back design for an extra layer of drama.

Cocktail Dresses

Cocktail Dress Black Tie Reiss
A chic cocktail dress can be stylish for formal events, especially when properly accessorized. Photo: Reiss

Traditional wisdom favors full-length gowns, but an exquisite cocktail dress is also suitable for black tie events.

Lace and satin are excellent fabric options, but the chosen material should convey refined sophistication. The hemline should fall just above or below the knee, depending on the formality required.

When selecting a cocktail dress, ensure that the silhouette exudes refinement and that any added embellishments elevate its elegance. Opt for luxurious details such as sequins, beads, or lace overlays that convey opulence.

Dressy Separates

Separates Black Tie Ralph Lauren
Pair a top and skirt set with a blazer for dressy attire. Photo: Ralph Lauren

Dressy separates offer a modern twist on traditional black tie attire, providing a chic and versatile option for formal events. These ensembles typically pair a sophisticated top with a luxurious skirt crafted from high-end fabrics such as satin, silk, or brocade.

When choosing dressy separates, aim for a harmonious look that exudes chic. A fitted, embellished top can be beautifully balanced with a flowing, full-length skirt.

Consider details like lace overlays, sequined accents, or delicate embroidery to elevate the ensemble. Neutral tones and classic colors such as black, silver, and navy are excellent choices, ensuring the outfit remains appropriate for the occasion.

Corsets

Lace Up Corset
Add a touch of vintage glamour with a structured corset to enhance your ensemble. Photo: Shutterstock.com

A corset can enhance the silhouette of your black tie attire, offering support and style. Whether worn as an undergarment or integrated into the design of a dress, corsets help achieve a refined, structured look that complements formal gowns and dresses.

Under-Dress Corsets: Traditional under-dress corsets provide a smooth, contoured shape beneath a fitted gown. Made from luxurious fabrics like silk or satin, these corsets ensure a seamless, polished appearance while enhancing the body’s natural curves.

Corset Dress Black Tie ODLR
A corset allows your dress to have a smooth silhouette. Photo: Oscar de la Renta

Corset-Style Dresses: Modern black tie fashion often incorporates corset-style bodices into the design of evening gowns and cocktail dresses. These integrated corsets provide structure and add an element of sophistication.

Look for gowns with lace-up backs or boning to nod to classic corsetry while maintaining contemporary style.

Outerwear

Outerwear Faux Fur Stole Black Tie Anthropologie
Choose a faux fur coat or elegant shawl to stay warm while maintaining a refined look. Photo: Anthropologie

Selecting the right outerwear is crucial for maintaining a polished appearance upon arrival and departure.

Faux Fur Stole: A faux fur stole adds a touch of vintage glamour and warmth. This elegant piece drapes over your shoulders, providing a sophisticated finish to your ensemble without obscuring the beauty of your gown.

Evening Coat: Opt for a long, tailored coat in a luxurious fabric like wool or cashmere. An evening coat should be warm and stylish, blending with your formal attire.

Choose classic colors such as black, navy, or deep burgundy to complement your outfit.

Elegant Shawl or Wrap: A silk or velvet shawl can keep you warm and stylish. These delicate wraps add a layer of elegance and can be easily removed and carried, ensuring you remain comfortable and chic throughout the event.

Black Tie Accessories

Bag Clutch Black Tie Net-a-Porter
Elevate your look with a statement clutch. Photo: Net-a-Porter

Bags: A clutch is the best bag to complement a black tie look. Clutch bags are small, ensuring you can carry your essentials without detracting from your outfit’s elegance.

For a bit more room, a small evening bag with a delicate chain strap can also be a sophisticated choice.

Jewelry: Statement jewelry adds a touch of glamour to black tie attire. A striking necklace can draw attention to your neckline, enhancing the refinement of your gown.

Delicate bracelets and chic earrings provide subtle sparkle, adding layers of refinement to your overall look. Consider adding a cocktail ring for a bold, eye-catching detail.

Glvoes Black Tie Attire
Complete your look with classic opera-length gloves for a vintage chic aesthetic. Photo: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Gloves: Long gloves evoke an authentic retro aesthetic in black tie attire. Particularly suitable for traditional events where floor-length or ball gowns are worn, these gloves add a timeless appeal.

Hair Accessories: Elegant hair accessories, such as jeweled hairpins, a sophisticated headband, or a sleek hair comb, can add a touch of glamour to your hairstyle.

Black Tie Shoes

Shoes Heels Black Tie Net-a-Porter
Complete your outfit with elegant heels or dressy flats that complement your attire. Photo: Net-a-Porter

Classic heels are a must for black tie events. Opt for stilettos or polished pumps in materials like satin, velvet, or silk to match the formality of your gown.

Embellished heels with crystals, beads, or subtle metallic accents can add a bit of sparkle to your steps. Strappy sandals are another stylish option, offering a delicate and feminine appeal.

Black Tie Beauty

Hair

Hair Bun Style Black Tie
Opt for an elegant updo, like a bun hairstyle, for a polished look. Photo: Shutterstock.com

Your hairstyle should complement your outfit’s elegance for a black tie event. Chic updos, such as chignons, buns, or French twists, showcase your neckline and accessories while maintaining a polished look.

These styles exude sophistication and can be enhanced with discreet jeweled pins or combs for added glamour. Alternatively, opt for sleek, polished styles with a smooth, glossy finish or soft, cascading waves that retain an air of elegance.

Consider a perfectly coiffed side or center part for a chic and sleek image. For shorter hair, styles like finger waves or a sleek bob can create a modern yet classy ambiance suitable for black tie events.

Makeup

Makeup Black Tie
Choose glamorous makeup with bold lips or smoky eyes. Photo: iStock

Makeup should exude sophistication without being overly dramatic. Timeless, classic looks are ideal, characterized by a flawless complexion, well-defined eyes, and a statement lip.

A smoky eye or winged eyeliner adds drama, while a bold red or deep berry lipstick conveys elegance. Balance is essential, ensuring no single feature overpowers the others.

Structured, filled-in eyebrows are essential, while a subtle blush can add a natural-looking flush to the cheeks. Strategically applied highlighters can enhance cheekbones and brow bones, yielding a radiant finish.

Black Tie Optional: What Does It Mean?

Jumpsuit Black Tie Optional Karen Millen
Go for a slightly relaxed vibe with the black tie optional dress code. Photo: Karen Millen

“Black Tie Optional” offers flexibility while maintaining a formal atmosphere. It allows for various elegant options, permitting guests to choose between traditional black tie attire and slightly less formal alternatives.

While floor-length gowns remain popular, cocktail dresses are also suitable for black tie optional events. The hemline can fall above or below the knee, providing a refined yet slightly more relaxed option than a full-length gown.

For those who prefer pants, a chic evening jumpsuit made of high-quality materials can be a stylish alternative.

Black Tie Wedding Attire

Pink Dress Black Tie Wedding Attire
Embrace rich jewel tones at wedding ceremonies. Photo: Anthropologie

Attending a black tie wedding requires adherence to the specified dress code while projecting style and elegance. Ladies are typically expected to wear floor-length gowns or cocktail dresses.

When selecting your outfit, consider the event’s formality and choose appropriate colors and patterns. Traditional choices include black, navy, and deep jewel tones, while softer hues like blush or champagne may complement the wedding’s theme.

Avoid bright or flashy colors that may distract from the bride and groom. Be mindful of any supplementary guidelines the couple provides, as some weddings may have specific color schemes or themes governing guest attire.

Black Tie Elegance

Sequin Dress Black Tie Attire Reiss
Shimmer in sequins at your next event for a head-turning look. Photo: Reiss

In regards to black tie dressing, elegance reaches its pinnacle. A sophisticated dress and carefully curated accessories exude confidence and glamour.

The proper attire sets the tone for a lasting impression, whether a floor-length gown or a chic cocktail dress. Properly prepared, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the occasion, radiating confidence and polish throughout the evening.


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