Black Tie Etiquette

You’ve been invited to a formal affair and wonder what black tie etiquette means to you. Well, a lot here depends on the occasion. There’s dinner etiquette and formal wedding etiquette just to name two specific occasions. The good news is that the basics of practical etiquette apply to black tie settings too.

Black tie refers to a specific type of dress code. For a man, this means wearing a dinner jacket or tuxedo in a dark color, black being the most obvious choice. A tuxedo includes a black tie (often a bow tie) and a black jacket, however in areas like Britain white jackets are acceptable. For women, this means either a cocktail dress or long gown depending on the era and setting. Cultural variations apply. You might be surprised to learn that white tie occasions are actually more formal and regulated than those designated as a black tie affair.

 black tie etiquette, dinner etiquette, formal wedding etiquette

Besides the men’s jacket, the rest of the black tie ensemble includes pants with a satin or silk braid that neatly hides the seams, a cummerbund or waistcoat, a white dress shirt with a collar, black dress socks and black shoes. Most outfits include cufflinks too, but they’re optional. By the way, the term smoking jacket is used in France, Germany, Italy, Brazil and Spain vs. the peak lapel option attached to tailcoats. The peak lapel is preferable. Trousers have no cuffs and no belt loops.

When accessorizing, black tie etiquette dictates to keep things minimalist and tasteful. Women can have more color but the tone is still darker. A white handkerchief for men and a boutonniere is perfectly acceptable. Gloves seem to have a stronger presence with women for a black tie affair than men. Timepieces are an acceptable addition to the man’s wardrobe provided they’re plain or elegant. Avoid using a pocket watch with chain.

 black tie etiquette, dinner etiquette, formal wedding etiquette

For women, find a dress that accents your best features. You want full-length skirts or dresses. Anything near your knee hits the “semi-formal” category of dinner etiquette or formal wedding etiquette. The favored fabrics include silk and satin, often combined with beads or rhinestones and metallic. As with the men, keep your jewelry simple, stylish, and suited to the occasion. Get a manicure and since formal affairs happen after 6 pm, go for dramatic eyes but gentle facial makeup.

Hints: have someone with you who will give you good advice on your choice of wardrobe for this event. Make sure that you and any partner have complimentary colors in the ensemble. Check to ensure any undergarment lines remain discrete.

By following these basic black tie etiquette guidelines, you’ll find everything else falls into place far more smoothly. You’ll look great and feel comfortable with the overall style of the event.

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