What Does ‘Black Tie’ Mean?

Decoding the tricky dress code

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The dress code ‘black tie’ may seem a little draconian these days - let’s face it, we live in a time when trainers are just as likely to appear on a Haute Couture catwalk as a pair of statuesque stilettos – but it is very much still a ‘thing’.

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What does it really mean though? Do you have to wear floor length? Does it have to be black?

Let us help with our easy-breezy guide to the head-scratching dress code.

You Can Wear Any Length

No, you don’t have to wear a floor-length gown.

Unless specified otherwise the on the invitation, ‘black tie’ in general permits any length, so midi and even short, within reason, are acceptable.

But if you do opt for short, don’t go more than an inch or so above the knee.

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It’s also best to take into account your height and shape. For example, maxi lengths work better on the taller among us, while the midi-length is a great option for the smaller among us.

If you opt for midi length, think of the classic couture shape of the 1950s – nipped in at the waist with a full skirt. It’s timeless and readily available on the high street right now.

If you opt for full length, seek out gowns with a slight train or dipped hem at the back. This adds a little elegance to the silhouette.

You Don’t Have To Wear Black

You can wear any colour to a black tie event - though black is always a simple, stress-free option.

The colour options from both the high street and high end are endless, so don’t feel limited to a dark colour – anything goes.

Don’t rule out prints either; florals are always a beautiful option.

You Don’t Have To Wear A Dress

That’s right, there are so many more options available today.

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Take Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic ‘Le Smoking’ tuxedo as your inspiration and opt for a classic women’s tuxedo, or even a jumpsuit.

Just be sure to opt for a luxurious fabric and add heels to keep the look elevated.

Consider The Complete Look

The joy of black tie is that it gives you the permission to go all out, so make the most of it.

Think of your look as a whole; shoes, bags, jewellery, hair and make-up should all be considered.

If you're wearing a simple, one-colour dress, go bold. If you're wearing a print, pare it back a little and let the dress do the talking.

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