How to Dress for a Black Tie Event

The Black Tie dress code originated in the 19th century, as a show of opulence by wealthy men in Europe, who wanted to showcase outfits that can be distinguished from their regular formal wear. The black tie code sets a framework of etiquette and formality, as black tie events are usually formal evening occasions that are sophisticated in nature.

Checklist for Men

The Shoes

When it comes to black tie outfits for men, it starts from the bottom. The shoes will make or break your outfit so choose carefully. Men’s shoes for a black tie event need to be the pivot on which the rest of the garments fall. Never go for an older pair that has probably seen too many regular days. The dressy portrait is best complete with glossy patent leather shoes, evoking a sense of luxury and exclusivity. These monk strap patents by Tod’s are the perfect footwear for that dressy affair. Regular black leather shoes are also a swell idea, as long as you are comfortable and they look spanking new.

Tie or Bow-tie

Sometimes it is nice and refreshing to experiment with a bow-tie rather than your regular ties. However, make sure you get the tying done perfectly. This Fendi slim bow-tie features the Zucca print. Dolce and Gabbana’s jacquard silk piece is a one size piece with an adjustable hook and fastening. You can also opt for a regular tie with a twist. Nothing speaks eloquence like a silk men’s tie. The texture of the tie’s fabric is very important, as it affects how it plays with lighting. The wrong material might upset the balance of your entire outfit. This classy silk piece by Dolce and Gabbana is a very safe bet.

Dolce and Gabbana Black Jaquard Silk Bow Tie

The Shirt

The collars and the buttons of the shirt you choose are very important. When choosing from the wide variety of men’s shirts, make sure that it is minimalistic and avoids too many details, as it is the canvas for your tie and jacket. An option is to opt for a plain white or black dress shirt. A spread collar and buttoned cuffs are features of this Burberry piece. This Armani Collezioni tuxedo shirt is ideal for a bow-tie, with a placket that hides the buttons.

The Suit

When choosing a waistcoat for a three-piece look, the safest option is the V-shape as it compliments your torso. Men’s jackets are the centerpiece and should be chosen keeping your frame in mind, always look for the perfect fit at the shoulders and the arm length should be enough to give a peak of the shirt beneath. For a regular two piece set up, your black jacket and matching trousers should complement your body type. If you have chosen a tuxedo top, the lapel style needs to augment the shirt collar and the choice of tie or bow-tie. You can’t go wrong with this classy tuxedo piece by Jean Paul Gaultier, a single button icon with that perfect lapel.

Jean Paul Gaultier Mens Tuxedo Woven Jacket

Your pants need to be chosen according to your body type, slim fits would work for leaner bodies and a complementing jacket. Straight fits are a good option too. This Hugo Boss pair is a smart formal choice for pants. This pair by Armani Collezioni is another versatile cut which can be worn for the occasion.


Your cuff-links can be your signature, the knockout punch of a well planned and perfectly executed formal outfit. Add some aristocracy to that look with a lacquer and palladium finished pair by ST DuPont. Mont Blanc is another iconic and tasteful choice for cuff-links, like thess black turn-downs.

Checklist for Ladies

Cocktail Dress or Gown

For ladies, there is a larger choice of tones, since the black tie code is essentially for the gentlemen. However, there are still certain pointers to stick to. Choose between a full length gown and a cocktail dress. You can experiment but do not stray into casual territory; you do not want to look like you missed a Sunday brunch and landed up at a formal event. Also, avoid anything that can be mistaken for clubby, it will suck the sophistication out of your outfit. When choosing a red gown, stick to silky material and avoid the more stretched and embellished pieces. This eye-catching silk dress by Carolina Herrera is a perfect choice for a formal event.

CH Carolina Herrera Silver Silk Strapless Gown

The Right Tones

If you are going with a cocktail dress, avoid the flamboyant colors and choose rich, sophisticated tones instead. Black and similar shades, metallic and jeweled tones, and brown are a great start for that posh and formal look. If you have chosen long sleeves you can embellish it with a classy pair of women’s cufflinks. These can go with a blouse and full skirt set up. This Emilio Pucci navy blue dress is smart and speaks the sophistication that formal events call for. Another good choice for a nice silhouette is this cut-out black and embellished gown by Versace.

The Footwear

When it comes to black tie events, there is a universe of women’s shoes to choose from. Choose a pair that would not put you out of place in a room full of black suits. The shoes also need to augment your posture rather than be a challenge to walk around in, so style has to be balanced with comfort. Patent leather is always a good choice for that swanky finish; take a look at these Valentino maroon pumps. Jimmy Choo is known for modern and elegant designs with luxe textures. These metallic pumps can be a great foil for your formal silhouette.

Jimmy Choo Grey Metallic Fabric Amina Mary Jane Peep Toe Pumps

Keep the Weather in Mind

The weather is one of the main determining factors when it comes to choosing an outfit for a formal event. You may rock a three-piece like a model but it is the last thing you want to end up in on a sultry humid evening. Similarly, that off-shoulder dress is ravishing but can lead to a freezing experience if the air is nippy.

Confidence is Key

At the end of the day, the garments maketh not the individual. Your confidence will have a long way in shaping your body language, which in turn affects posture. Posture determines how well you carry off your outfit. Any stiff backs and shoulders will make you look confined and out of place, this applies for both men and women. So the key here is, to feel good, walk in confidence and avoid any negative body language.

The modern black-tie event is a fun occasion, where you get to flaunt your personality and style in garments that you probably don’t get a chance to wear too often. This is the day where you take out the best of your wardrobe and there should be no holding back. With some of the biggest names in high fashion available, make that perfect entrance and enjoy an evening to remember.

Swati Talwar

Global Content and India Office Head

Seasoned lover of the written word. Travel junkie and Hogwarts alumni. Currently composing notes for the upcoming fashion week. You can also call me Licorne Magique (don't ask me why!).

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