Last Updated on September 25, 2023
Wondering what black tie attire is for women? The black tie dress code can be a little intimidating, but I’m sharing everything you need to know right here so you’ll never be caught out with what to wear to a black tie event.
If you’re headed to a formal event, the first thing you’ll need to think about is an outfit. While nights out or dinner parties are a little more relaxed, black tie is considered and calls for planning. Sometimes this can be fun, but a lot of the time it can feel pretty stressful – especially if you’re confused about what the dress code even means. So keep reading and I’ll tell you everything you should know and how to dress for the occasion.
Next, check out our edit of the best autumn winter 2023 shoes you can wear to the event, including Mary Janes and pumps. Or you might be seeking some styling inspo, so check out our guide to how to style an oversized shirts, how to style oversized blazers and 7 jeans and boots outfits to save for later.
Wear Next may receive a small commission if you click a link from one of our articles onto a retail website and make a purchase.
What is a black tie event?
A black tie event is a formal occasion that’s usually held in the evening and calls for formal dressing. Whether it’s a wedding or an intimate get-together, guests are required to wear tuxedos and formal gowns, and casual attire like trainers and jeans should be avoided at all costs.
What does a woman have to wear to a black tie event?
Women are largely expected to attend wearing formal dresses, and while this used to be associated with longer lengths, this largely depends on the host. If you’re unsure, it’s best to either ask the organiser if a shorter length would be appropriate or opt for a floor-length gown to stay on the safe side.
You’ll often see women in chiffon, velvet, silk or lace gowns at black tie events as these fabrics are failsafe and offer an elegant and sophisticated look.
For those on the lookout for the perfect outfit, I’ve put together a few options…
There aren’t many occasions where a ball gown is appropriate, but a black tie event is one of them. The ball gown is usually fitted at the chest with a cinched in waist, and a dramatic, belle-shaped skirt. These are often worn to, as the name suggests, balls and galas.
Bandeau A-line Twill Bridesmaids Maxi Dress, now £125.10, Coast – buy now
Tulle Maxi Dress, £165, True Decadence – buy now
Bow Maxi Dress, £198, Atsu at Anthropologie – buy now
Commonly worn to formal occasions, floor-length gowns accentuate the curve of the body since the bodices are tightly fitted and necklines are usually low with extravagantly designed skirts. The typical length should be touching the floor or right above it, hence the name.
Asymmetric bow dress, £79.99, Mango – buy now
Ethereal Tulle Shirred Maxi Dress + Belt, now £175, Me+Em – buy now
Olive Satin Cowl Neck Maxi Dress with Cross Back Detail, £85, Club L London – buy now
Formal cocktail dresses
These are more relaxed than ball gowns and floor-length dresses, but are usually appropriate for black tie events. Formal cocktail dresses usually sit above the knee, offering a shorter style to the aforementioned ball gowns and floor-skimming dresses. They’re often seen as party dresses, but provided they’re formal and not too short, they work great for black tie events.
Hibiscus Jacquard Mini Dress, £92, Sister Jane – buy now
Edina Polka Dot Satin Mini Dress, £150, Kitri – buy now
Samantha sequined crepe mini dress, £295, Rixo – buy now
Trouser suits are also appropriate for black tie events. Team your tailored jacket and trousers with heels and bold accessories for an alternative take on black tie dressing.
Belted Tuxedo Jacket, £260, Jigsaw – buy now
Wide Leg Tuxedo Trouser, £160, Jigsaw – buy now
Agnes Jacket, £185, Sezane – buy now
Alice Pants, £140, Sezane – buy now
Velvet Single Breasted Blazer, £328, Reiss – buy now
Velvet Flared Trousers, £198, Reiss – buy now
What should you not wear to a black tie event?
Black tie events denote formality, so for this occasion casual clothing is a no-no. Guests should avoid wearing jeans, mini skirts, t-shirts, and trainers. As for colours, anything is acceptable, but if you’re heading to a wedding, avoid wearing white, cream or anything that could lead to you being confused with the bride.
If you are confused about what colour to wear, go for a dark colour such as black or navy as these are risk-free. Bold and elegant accessories work well, and if you’re really struggling, take a look at some red carpet looks for inspo.