A black tie event is a perfect moment to show off your best formal attire. This means donning a tuxedo and bow tie for men, while women can opt for a ball gown or formal dress. However, the difference between meeting the basic dress code and looking your best comes down to how you accessorize your outfit.
Choosing the right accessories for a black tie event can be challenging, and there are rules of style to consider when picking your ensemble. Classic accessories for every outfit should include fine rings, stylish luxury watches and formal ties for men, and simple necklaces, earrings and heels for women.
Explore six tips for choosing the right accessories for a black tie event to help you pick the right items so you make the best dressed list.
The black tie dress code is often relatively straightforward for men. Basic requirements include a tuxedo, black shoes, a black bow tie, a nice watch and matching cufflinks. You’ll want to include each of these elements in your outfit to look your best and meet the level of attire required by the host or venue.
Black shoes are essential for a black tie event; however, you can choose from various styles when deciding on which black shoes to don with your outfit.
The court shoe is the classic tuxedo shoe and features a low-cut vamp and a rounded toe. You can wear a black patent leather court shoe with a tuxedo or a formal dinner jacket with tails. Make sure to shine your court shoes before the event to remove scuffing and elevate your ensemble. Because of the low-cut, it is crucial to invest in a high-quality pair of black socks, either in traditional silk or a high-performance woolen blend.
Oxfords are a popular option when it comes to black tie shoewear. They feature classic saddle-back stitching and are typically made of patent leather. Go with a shiny pair of Oxfords for a black tie event to boost your look.
Venetian loafers are a low-cut slip-on shoe that works well with black tie attire. They give you a casual yet expensive appearance and look great with tailored pants and classic black socks. Ensure you choose a loafer made from genuine leather with a slight heel for additional elevation and posture correction.
Your black tie party ensemble must include a black tie — specifically, a black bow tie. When choosing a bow tie, focus on the material it’s made of. Silk is your best option, but it will also come at the highest price. If silk is out of your budget, look for a polyester or cotton blend to mimic the look of silk while also retaining comfort and affordability.
Opt for a hand-tied bow tie rather than a clip-on for a high-class look. You can learn how to tie a bow tie before the event to ensure your bow tie adds a layer of sophistication to your outfit. Most black tie events require a black bow tie, but if your function is on the creative or artistic side, you might opt for a colorful bow tie or one with a subtle pattern.
For men, accessorizing comes down to a few simple pieces. A luxury watch is one of the best ways to show off your personal style at a black tie event. Opt for a timepiece from a well-respected brand such as Patek Philippe, Cartier or Rolex that adds elegance and class to your look.
You can choose a diamond-studded Rolex watch from the Presidential DayDate collection or a more understated piece like a Datejust model. Whichever model or brand you choose, avoid wearing a sports watch or one with rubber straps. Instead, wear a watch with a yellow, white or rose gold case and showcase your style with a colorful dial.
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Women have far more freedom at black tie events than their male counterparts. A wide range of colors and styles are available to choose from, but with more freedom comes the need for more discretion when selecting an outfit.
Traditionally, women were asked to wear a full-length ball gown to black tie events, but this style is changing. Full-hem and midi-length dresses are now considered acceptable at back tie events, offering you more versatility to show off your fashion taste and personality. However, fabric choice is crucial for a black tie evening gown. Choose luxury fabrics like silk, chiffon, lace or velvet rather than cotton or polyester, which would be considered too casual.
A floor-length gown typically requires a high-heeled shoe to prevent you from looking disproportionate. However, there is no strict heel height for black tie events. A flat or low-heeled dress shoe for taller women can be a comfortable yet chic alternative to classic strappy sandals typically worn by women at these events.
If you prefer high heels, opt for a stiletto, pump, d’Orsay or kitten heel in a height that you are comfortable walking in. Avoid block heels, sling-backs or wedges because they can appear overly casual.
Your bag can make or break your formal outfit and provide space to carry essentials like travel size makeup for mid-event touch-ups. However, you can’t pair an oversized tote or bucket bag with an elegant gown. Slim, discreet purses like a clutch or a baguette are ideal for pairing with your formal attire. In some cases, a miniature crossbody bag is also an acceptable accessory.
Ensure that your purse coordinates with either your gown or your other accessories. Choose a clutch in the same color or material as your gown for a sleek tone-on-tone look. Or try a purse in a bold contrasting shade to make the color in your gown pop.
Elevate your style with high-quality jewelry and watches when dressing for a black tie affair. A black tie event is perfect for showing off a dazzling diamond necklace or one-of-a-kind ruby ring setting. Pair your necklace, earrings and bracelet with your gown to create a monochromatic look. Alternatively, you can contrast colored gemstones or metals to create a varied, visually interesting aesthetic.
You can also create a stunning black tie look using a minimalistic IWC watch from the luxury brand’s collection. Pairing a luxury timepiece with your ensemble can give you an understated yet elegant appearance perfect for a high-class event.
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The most important rule you need to remember before getting into specific ideas for your outfit is less is more. While accessories are necessary and a little flash can be good, black tie calls for understated fashion.
The key to looking good in black tie is to have subtle, refined accessories — a real silk black tie, calf leather shoes or a high fashion clutch in a classic style and color. No matter how in season or a la mode, the garish and over-the-top will look out of place at these classy affairs.