Not all black tie events are alike. You need to read your invitation carefully to understand exactly what your hostess expects of you and will find acceptable…and more importantly, what she may take as a personal affront.
Though many of these rules may seem archaic your hostess obviously follows them or would not have indicated how to dress on her invitation. Etiquette never goes out of fashion and respecting your hostess’s wishes is the first rule.
This is the most formal of events. At white tie events, you are expected to wear a black coat with tails and matching trousers, a white shirt with white cufflinks, white bow-tie, white vest, white or gray gloves, black patent shoes and black dress socks.
Women are expected to wear floor length gowns.
Attending a black tie event you are expected to wear a black tuxedo jacket (no tails) and matching pants, a white shirt, black cufflinks, bow-tie, cummerbund or vest, black patent shoes, and black socks. White tuxedo jackets are appropriate for summer events especially if held out of doors.
Women are expected to wear floor length gowns though a bit more latitude is given as very dressy cocktail dresses are generally acceptable.
Black Tie Preferred
The hostess is indicating that though she won’t be so bold as to force your hand, she is likely not going to be pleased if you do not wear black tie attire.
Black Tie Optional/Invited
The hostess is indicating that she and her host will certainly be wearing black tie, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but still, she’s mentioning it for a reason.
If you opt not to wear black tie you should at the least wear a very formal dark suit, white shirt, classic tie, black dress shoes, and black socks.
The hostess doesn’t expect you to wear a tuxedo but would still like you to be dressed to the hilt. You should wear a dark, crisp business suit, white shirt, formal tie, dress shoes, and black socks.
Women should wear cocktail dresses or dinner dresses.
Creative Black Tie
Specifying creative black tie may be the hostess’s way of letting you know that she is trendy and less formal than her stuffy acquaintances. Whatever the purpose or motive the hostess is giving permission to waive a bit of the formality that encompasses a black tie event. But be wary. The fact that she has specified black tie indicates that she is still expecting all guests to adhere to proper decorum.
The event still calls for a tuxedo but allows for the addition of trendy items. These should be relegated to the accessories such as the bow-tie, cummerbund, or vest. A dress shirt other than white may also be acceptable.
Women should dress formally but should add the creative touches in their accessories.
Note: According to Heloise, strapless dresses are suitable for black tie events, but are inappropriate for restaurants or intimate dinner parties.
Heloise around the house: 2,647 household problems solved from basement to attic
Emmaus, Penn.?: Rodale, 2003. Print.
Attire Guide: Dress Code from Casual to White Tie