Black tie affairs are social events where all attendees are expected to wear formal attire. Both males and females attending this type of event make efforts to comply with the dress code and choose clothing that is considered appropriate formal dress for the time of day, the season, and the nature of the event. A black tie affair is different from a semi-formal event, where there is a wider range of clothing options considered to be appropriate semi-formal attire.
For men, a black tie affair normally means the wearing a traditional black tuxedo. While fashion trends sometimes dictate that various color selections for the pants and jacket of the tuxedo are appropriate, that is never the case with black tie events. Only the traditional black tuxedo is considered the right option for a man who wishes to dress in accordance with the spirit of the occasion.
To complement the black tuxedo, the gentleman will also make use of a simple black tie, most often a bow tie. Clip-on ties are generally discouraged for any events that are structured as a black tie occasion. The proper bow tie for a formal event is one that is tied by hand.
Men are also expected to remain conservative with the choice of tuxedo shirt. The shirt should be white, and may include ribs or fine pleats on the front. The use of black enamel or pearl button covers may also be appropriate for the occasion. If a cummerbund is worn, it should be black to match the tie. However, it has become increasingly acceptable for the gentleman to wear a bow tie and cummerbund that matches the color of his date’s dress.
Women have more flexibility in their style of dress when it comes to a black tie affair. The main requirement is that the dress or skirt should be floor length. Anything shorter is considered to be semi-formal and not appropriate for the affair. Outside of this one requirement, women may choose to wear any color they prefer and make use of a wide range of styles and materials for the attire. The options may include something more daring, such as a full-length dress with spaghetti straps and back or side slits that reveal a bit of leg. Depending on the exact nature of the event, something more conservative may be required, such as a simple full-length skirt accentuated by a silk blouse and simple jewelry that calls attention to the overall elegance of the lady.
A black tie affair often involves a social event that is of major importance to the attendees. Such events as balls, formal weddings, coming out events for debutantes, play and movie premiers, or events held in honor of visiting dignitaries are all examples of events that may be structured as a black tie affair. The careful attention to dress often highlights the importance of the event and can make attending more of an experience that it would be otherwise.