If you’re like me, when you receive an invitation to an event, wedding, gala, or party, the first thing you do is check for a mention of attire. Often when it’s an event involving friends, we are texting back and forth about what to wear. In fact, I often get texts asking if a short dress is appropriate, or a tie for men, etc. My husband and I love getting dressed up and attending formal events, especially when it’s an event that supports one of our favorite causes or celebrating the wedding of a friend. We attended an event before the holidays and I thought I’d share our black tie formal wear with you and also a guide for those Black Tie events.
I spent 6 years handling fundraising, public relations, event planning, and managing the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. This organization and the families involved hold a very special place in my heart. When I was the Executive Director, we planned the 1st Annual Breath of Life Gala and it’s been exciting to see how that event has grown each year and continued to support the organization in such a vital way. We were thrilled to get an invitation to attend the 10th Annual event to see how it’s grown and changed over the years. We had so much fun seeing old friends, dancing to a great band, and bidding on fun auction items. It was so nice to sit at a table with adults and enjoy incredible food, and the dessert is always my favorite part of the meal! And the best part is getting an evening to focus on my husband, reconnect, and actually get to talk without five little voices interrupting. As much as we love being together as a family, we need time away to focus on our marriage too.
Growing up, my Aunt Suzanne was the authority in our family on the subject of etiquette and manners. She put together a curriculum and she taught a class over the summer that my siblings and cousins participated in together. We learned how to set a table, and how to sit and eat properly. We learned basic concepts of respecting others like how to shake a hand, look into the eyes of the person talking, and how to have a conversation without interrupting. It is something I’ve always remembered, so it obviously had an impact on me and I want to teach my kids the same fundamentals of manners, etiquette and respecting others.
When I have a question about etiquette or attire protocol, often the first place I look is one of my Emily Post books. If you were born and raised in the south, Emily Post is the greatest authority on all things etiquette! Even though etiquette has evolved over the years, I believe a certain level of etiquette still holds an important place in society and our every day lives. Etiquette and manners are about giving deference to someone else and navigating social settings respectfully. Family members of Emily Post state, “though times have changed, the principles of good manners remain constant. Above all, manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. Being considerate, respectful, and honest is more important than knowing which fork to use. Whether it’s a handshake or a fist bump, it’s the underlying sincerity and good intentions of the action that matter most.” I couldn’t agree more!
Black tie formal wear doesn’t have to be all black and doesn’t have to be stuffy. The modern twist is a short cocktail dress or a high-low dress for women. For men, a long black tie is acceptable, and you can wear a slim tie or a slim cut suit for a modern look. Here is what Emily Post says about attire for black tie formal wear:
- Formal (floor length) evening gown
- Dressy cocktail dress
- Your dressiest “little black dress”
- Black tuxedo jacket and matching trousers
- Formal (piqué or pleated front) white shirt
- Shirt studs and cuff links
- Black bow tie (silk, satin, or twill)
- Black cummerbund to match tie, or a vest
- Dressy braces to ensure a good fit (optional)
- No gloves
- Black patent shoes and black dress socks
- In summer, in the tropics, or on a cruise: White dinner jacket, black tuxedo trousers plus other black tie wardrobe
You can find their full guide to attire, from Casual to White Tie, on their website. We purchased a tuxedo for my husband years ago and it’s saved us a lot over the years. He’s actually lost some weight recently so it’s time to get his Tux altered a bit, but it is so nice having one on hand.
I hope this gives you some guidance on what to wear when an event calls for black tie formal wear. I’ve linked up some of my favorite options for both men and women below. All the gowns I’ve included are $150 or below and there are so gorgeous styles from high low to full length, and I’ve included two great tux options for men.