Black tie dos and donts

First published: 10-10-2014

The season of Christmas parties and black tie balls is fast approaching, and with it comes that age-old question - what does one wear to such a formal event? Perhaps you're one of those people who regularly find themself staring blankly into their jam-packed wardrobe before heading out to a fancy do, or maybe you are more the casual type that only wears smart attire when required. Whichever category you fit into, don't worry - we're here to help.

Our handy guide below contains an assortment of hints and tips for both men and women that will help to ensure that you look the part at your next black tie event.

For him

The suit


It goes without saying that the choice of attire for men attending a black tie event really ought to be a smart suit and tie. A black tuxedo is the outfit of choice for such an affair, however a standard, good quality suit in either black, dark grey or even midnight blue is generally considered to be perfectly acceptable. A three piece suit, complete with a waistcoat, is another alternative, while double-breasted jackets have also made a welcome resurgence in recent years.

Looking smart is without a doubt the most important point to keep in mind when attending a black tie event, so unbuttoned shirts and rolled up sleeves are a definite no-go - unless you want to end up resembling Don Johnson from Miami Vice of course!

If you choose to go for a double-breasted suit, keeping it buttoned up is highly recommended. Left undone, this style of suit tends to hang awkwardly and can therefore look scruffy. As for white dinner jackets, these are best avoided altogether - not only will you look like a cruise ship singer, but you'll invariably end up covered in red wine and food stains.

The accessories


Accessories can make or break a formal men's outfit, therefore it's important to get these right. If you are keen to adhere to the black tie code, a dickie bow tie is a must. Cufflinks are yet another staple black tie accessory, while braces are both a practical and stylish addition to any suit. Still something missing? Of course, a metallic watch in either gold or silver can also add that much needed finishing touch.

As for accessories that are best left at home, coloured socks really should be avoided at all costs. In the same vein, steer clear of jazzy bow ties in different colours or patterns; otherwise you could be mistaken for some kind of magician, clown, or even worse… Timmy Mallett!

For her

The dress


When it comes to women's formalwear, a floor length gown oozes elegance and sophistication and therefore it is a popular choice, particularly amongst taller women. For shorter or petite women, knee length prom style dresses, plain or patterned, work just as well. It's important to remember however, if it's overly short or overly tight, you're likely to stand out for all the wrong reasons!

Also worth bearing in mind is that 'black tie' doesn't necessarily mean black dress, so while a trusty little black dress is by all means appropriate, don't be afraid to go bold!

The accessories


If you've opted for a plain dress in a single colour, statement-making accessories such as ornate chandelier earrings, a chunky metallic watch or a brightly coloured clutch bag are sure-fire ways of giving your outfit an edge. Likewise, if your dress is heavily patterned, team it up with jewellery that's simpler in style, such as shimmering pearls or dainty diamonds (or faux diamonds!).

As far as shoes are concerned, ditch your wedged heels and go for a pair of leg-lengthening stilettos. While a garment to keep you warm is also essential, don't be tempted to take along your comfiest cardigan or everyday jacket! A chic overcoat is a worthwhile investment, while a shawl in a soft, thin material, such as cashmere, is ideal for throwing over your shoulders whilst indoors


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