I know I can come across as a know-it-all, sometimes, but I mean well. Think of me as your slightly-bossy-but-well-intentioned fashion friend. I only want what’s best for you. And that’s why I’m not going to mince words when it comes to my favorite dress code directive of all time: Black Tie. I have seen these words ignored and misinterpreted and, well, mocked, even, and, frankly, it breaks my heart. Balls are balls, you guys, and for many of us, the 99.99% of us who don’t attend The Oscars and the Golden Globes on a regular basis, balls and other black-tie-worthy functions are our only opportunities to wear major gowns and major jewelry and be absolutely and utterly fabulous. If your wedding day was the last time you twirled across the dance floor in a gown, then you are missing out.
And sure, while a black-tie event, unlike its rarefied counterpart, the white-tie event, doesn’t absolutely-positively mean long, it does mean formal. Think floor length or your dressiest cocktail dress. This is the time to shine, literally. If it’s short, it should be shiny. Emily Post, who is far more generous than I am, also finds a very dressy little black dress to be acceptable, but let’s not, okay? You can wear a little black dress to the office Christmas party—not when the invitation says black tie. I told you I was bossy.
Here, my 3 top tips for shopping for a black tie function:
Always Be Shopping
I’ve found my favorite gowns when I wasn’t looking. Every girl knows that a last-minute gown can be remarkably elusive. I’ve found my favorite dresses at random times, at random outlet malls, for next to nothing. I buy them when I find them, and avoid the last minute rush (and the dreaded duplicate dress!)
Own the Accessories
Nothing brings down a look like throwing on your everyday black leather purse-and-pumps combo with a formal gown. A pair of pointy toe black satin pumps or strappy stiletto sandals are gown-friendly, classic, and well worth the investment. Strappy gold or silver sandals and nude sandals are also a great buy, as well as a chic little black bag. I love to pick up vintage evening bags when I find them, but any small, dressy purse will do! Remember, the simpler the dress, the splashier the accessories can be. If you’ve chosen a simple black ballgown, add personality and color with fabulous shoes and a statement-making bag. If you have an evening wardrobe with a few, key accessories, you’ll never have to scramble.
Again, this is all about preparation. (See first rule: Always be shopping). Pick up perfect accessories as you find them in your price range, and you’ll always be party-ready. Start with a pair of sparkly, shoulder-dusting earrings (the accessory of the season), a dramatic necklace (this one can be worn in the front and the back!), and something fabulous and furry (or sparkly) to throw on over your shoulders on a cool evening.
And now for the all-important dress. Here, some of the best styles of the season, from the sparkliest cocktail dresses to the most fabulous gowns, worthy of your next black tie affair!
The Dressy Cocktail Dress
There are mini and midi options available this season, but the black-tie worthy cocktail dress should have a Napoleon complex. It should compensate for its lack of length by being extra-dazzling. Look for rich fabrics like velvet or brocade, and sequins or other embellishments. If you can safely wear it to dinner, then keep looking. It’s not dressy enough.
2. The Long Gown
The long gown is still the top pick for a formal function, and you’ll find something to suit your style, from ruched, printed velvet to a classic ball gown to a trendy hi-low style (yes, it’s still considered a long gown and just as dressy!).
I hope these ideas inspire you to pull out all the stops (and let your inner movie star out) for your next black-tie event!