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What to wear to a black tie wedding, according to experts – TODAY

11 minutes, 33 seconds Read

As suckers for romance, we’re always excited to find a wedding invitation in our mailbox. But that joy can quickly turn into confusion when it comes time to interpret the dress code.

With wedding season on the horizon, the Shop TODAY team enlisted the help of experts to decipher some of the most common dress codes. Up first, we’re exploring what the term “black tie” really means and sharing some gorgeous picks that won’t break your budget.

What is black tie? | What should you wear? | Colors that work best | Outfit inspiration | How to accessorize | Accessory inspiration | How we chose | Meet the experts

Our top picks:

Black tie wedding guest attire

What does a black tie dress code mean?

So you got invited to a black tie wedding, huh? Fancy! According to The Knot’s executive editor Lauren Kay, this is the second most formal wedding dress code (after white tie).

“There is little room for interpretation. Traditionally a black tie wedding takes place after 5:30 p.m., necessitating evening attire like a tuxedo or long gown. It’s fancy and you can’t really be too overdressed (just don’t wear a floor-length white gown),” she says.

What should women wear to a black tie wedding?

Wondering how fancy you should dress for a black tie soirée? Now’s the time to go all out!

“Traditionally it has meant a long gown and tuxedo, however today it really means fancy and festive. Look and feel your best and bring the glamour to your comfort level. A tailored suit, glam dress or classy jumpsuit can always be accessorized to fit the black tie dress code,” Emily Forrest, Zola’s former director of communications, suggests.

If you don’t regularly attend formal parties, black tie weddings offer a fun chance to dress to the nines (think an award show or the Met Gala). Here’s a quick fashion cheat sheet to get you started:

  • Floor-length gowns are the most popular choice: “[A] black tie dress code for women translates to [a] floor-length gown, but it’s not your only option. More modern black tie dress codes have relaxed this rule a bit. A tea-length dress that hits mid-calf is acceptable, as is a midi dress with a fancy cocktail vibe,” Kay says.
  • Dresses aren’t your only option: “I’m a very big fan of a jumpsuit or a pants look. Dresses are not required in modern day wedding etiquette by any standard. It’s more about the feeling and vibe of the look!” Forrest tells us.
  • Consider the material: Steer away from casual materials (denim, seersucker) and gravitate towards chiffon, silk, organza and crepe. “Beading is another excellent choice, as are embossed fabrics and sequins. Just remember, you’re going to a wedding — not a club,” Kay adds.

What colors work best for a black tie wedding?

The only real color that’s off-limits as a wedding guest is white, but there are some color schemes that work best for black tie weddings.

“Most guests will stick to darker hues like burgundy, black, navy and gray. Jewel tones and metallics are also popular for floor-length gowns or specialty dinner jackets,” Kay mentions.

Black tie wedding outfits to shop

Versatile budget slip dress: A New Day Midi Slip Dress

What we like

  • Affordable
  • Versatile

Something to note

  • Has a slit and a low neck

Colorways: Eight | Sizes: XS-4X | Material: Recycled polyester

Associate editor Sierra Hoeger is a super fan of this adorable midi slip dress. “I bought this last fall and it’s always my go-to for a fancy night out! I have a couple of weddings this year that I’m contemplating wearing it to, because it works so well on its own but also when paired with a turtleneck and tights, too.”

Floral cowl-neck dress: Louna Cowl Neck Midi Dress

What we like

  • Floral pattern
  • Stylish

Something to note

  • Sleeveless

Sizes: XXS-XXL | Materials: Polyester

Associate editor Shannon Garlin says she has been using Rent the Runway for formal events for over a decade. “It’s really saves me so much money for dresses I won’t have the opportunity to wear again. The service has so many elegant options from top designers and I love that they’ll send you two sizes just in case one doesn’t fit right,” says Garlin.

This Louna midi dress features a flattering hourglass silhouette and comes in sizes XXS-XXL to fit a variety of shapes and sizes. It is only $35 for a one-time rental so you’ll have plenty of money left over to splurge on accessories.

Courtesy Shannon Garlin, Associate Commerce Editor

Long-sleeve, plunging back: Venus Plunging Back Long Dress

What we like

  • Comfortable, soft fabric
  • Trendy and stylish

Something to note

  • May run small

Colorways: Two | Sizes: XS-XL | Materials: Polyester, spandex

We’re getting royalty vibes from this slinky yet elegant gown. It’s all business in the front with a demure high neckline, but beautiful details abound in the back with a plunging side back and a metallic ring that cinches the gown at the waist. The budget-friendly style is available in sizes XS-XL in black and red.

Cocktail appropriate: V-Neck Evening Dress

What we like

  • Comfortable
  • Well-made
  • Stylish

Something to note

  • Fabric is thin

Colorways: Nine | Sizes: S-XXL | Materials: Polyester, spandex

Look and feel your best in this chic dress. This floor-length gown is made of spandex for a stretchy, comfortable fit and has a side slip, to help you avoid tripping on the dance floor.

Mermaid-style gown: R&M Richards Off-the-Shoulder Cap Sleeve Floral Lace Gown

What we like

  • Elegant style
  • Great quality

Something to note

  • May run small

Colorways: Five | Sizes: 6-18 | Materials: Polyester, spandex

Can’t wait to rock your fabulous red carpet-worthy ensemble? Black tie weddings call for glamour and this mermaid gown certainly serves it up. The off-the-shoulder cap sleeve design comes in six colors and has a gorgeous sheen, elegant lace and a stunning silhouette that hugs curves in all the right places.

Versatile satin dress: Prettygarden Mock Neck Dress

What we like

  • Good thickness
  • Versatile
  • Super comfortable

Something to note

  • May run small

Colorways: 32 | Sizes: S-XXL | Materials: Satin

Dreaming of a “Pretty in Pink” moment? Now’s the time to show up in your fanciest vibrant frock. This satin dress features draping around the collarbone, a chic mock neck and a comfortable elastic waistband. But it’s the stunning deep hue that’s causing our heart to flutter the most.

Midi-style with adjustable straps: Petal & Pup Vikki Dress

What we like

  • Perfect midi length
  • Stylish
  • Adjustable straps

Something to note

  • May run big

Colorways: Eight | Sizes: 0-16 | Material: Polyester

There’s no doubt you’ll feel like royalty in this elegant dress that features a sweetheart neckline, asymmetrical hemline and adjustable straps for desired fit. This midi dress comes in eight different hues and has a near-perfect rating on the brand’s website.

One-shoulder dress: Club L London Kary Maxi Dress

What we like

  • Split hem
  • Stylish
  • Stretchy

Something to note

  • May run long

Colorways: Three | Sizes: 0-16 | Materials: Polyester, elastane

Ruched detailing lends plenty of visual appeal to this asymmetrical maxi dress that’s sure to turn heads. Available in three colors and sizes 0-16, the affordable style is made of a stretchy jersey material and even features a side slit.

High-low with ruffles: Lulus In Love Forever Satin Maxi Dress

What we like

  • Adjustable back tie
  • Stylish

Something to note

  • May run long

Colorways: Three | Sizes: XS-XL | Material: Polyester

A ruffled high-low hem lends this maxi dress an irresistibly flirty vibe. Available in mustard yellow, lavender and navy blue, the satin stunner also has statement detail in the form of a lace-up back. It’s particularly perfect if you plan to bust a move on the dance floor!

One-shoulder ruched: Elliatt Miley Ruched Dress

What we like

  • Fast shipping
  • Reliable customer service
  • Variety of options

Something to note

  • May run small
  • Certain sizes can be sold out

Colorways: Two | Sizes: XXS-XXL | Materials: Polyester

Senior partnerships editor Francesca Cocchi Zabloudil has a subscription to Nuuly and has rented at least a dozen wedding guest dresses so far. “For very formal events in particular I prefer renting, because A. fancy dresses and gowns can be pricey and B. if I purchased something I likely wouldn’t wear it again.”

“To narrow down all the options available on Nuuly, I filter by brands I know I like (and know how their sizing runs). Elliatt and Hutch are two of my favorites! I also rely heavily on reviews with photos,” she shares.

Courtesy Francesca Cocchi Zabloudil, Shop TODAY Senior Editor

Off-the-shoulder jumpsuit: Gigi Convertible Jumpsuit

What we like

  • Super comfortable
  • Pockets

Something to note

  • May run big

Colorways: 43 | Sizes: XS-3X | Material: Polyester

Like to have options? A convertible jumpsuit could be your fashion soulmate for a black tie wedding. This one can be worn in six different ways and has a universally flattering sweetheart neckline. The fancy chiffon style comes in a bunch of colors and sizes up to 3X.

One-shoulder with ruffles: Azazie One Shoulder Chiffon Floor-Length Dress

What we like

  • Very flattering
  • Comfortable

Something to note

  • May run small

Colorways: 69 | Sizes: A0-A30 | Material: Chiffon

We could totally see ourselves rocking this dreamy chiffon gown and feeling like we’re floating on air. The ethereal style comes in multiple colors, including plenty of jewel tone hues that are ideal for a black tie celebration, and we’re seriously falling for the delicate cascading ruffles.

V-neck plus-size with long-sleeves: Eloquii Satin Puff Sleeve Pleated Dress

What we like

  • Elastic waist at back
  • Puff sleeves
  • Comfortable fit

Something to note

  • Only sizes 14+

Colorways: Two | Sizes: 14-32 | Materials: Polyester

Feel confident in this satin dress that includes a surplice neckline and puff sleeves with elastic cuffs. This flirty frock comes in two hues and sizes 14-32 for a more inclusive fit. Complete the look with a pair of nude heels and sparkly clutch for the ultimate wedding guest outfit.

Cutout pleated dress: Abercrombie & Fitch Giselle Pleated Cutout Maxi Dress

What we like

  • Flaunts figure
  • Good for formal occasions

Something to note

  • Cutouts can be revealing

Colorways: Seven | Sizes: XXS-XXL | Materials: Polyester

“This dress is both sexy and formal, and truly enhances the figure in every way!” says editorial assistant Madison San Miguel. “I wore this for a summer wedding last year and loved the pleats, V-neck and waist cutouts. I felt confident and in dress code! Abercrombie offers tons of colors and lengths, too, to help find the right fit,” she explains.

What accessories work best for a black tie wedding?

Ready to add the finishing touches to your formal ensemble? Don’t forget the accessories!

“Accessories are the place to add personality to your look and have more relaxed ‘rules’ when it comes to the black tie dress code. Given the elegance of black tie, stick to jewelry that has a more refined feel. You can’t go wrong with pearls or diamonds,” Kay suggests. “Opt for a chic clutch or a small embellished bag. Heels are most common [for wedding guest shoes], but a dressy flat sandal is a great option too.”

Black tie wedding accessories to shop

Shiny statement budget necklace: Rhinestone Beads Collar Necklace

What we like

  • Nice statement piece
  • Comfortable
  • Stylish

Something to note

  • May be heavy on neck

Colorways: Eight | Material: Crystal-metal

There’s nothing like a statement necklace to help you stand out amongst a crowd. Shine bright like a diamond with this colorful crystal choker that has over 1,600 verified five-star ratings on Amazon.

Elegant pearl studs: Westman Pearl Stud Earrings

What we like

  • Stylish
  • Nickel-free

Something to note

  • Earring stem may be crooked

Size options: 6-9 mm | Material: Pearl

Sometimes, all it takes is a classic accessory to complete your look and these pearl studs are certainly vying for our attention. The classy earrings are made of nickel-free metal and would look fabulous with an updo or half ‘do.

Breezy, versatile shaw: Azazie Chiffon Shawl

What we like

  • Perfect for covering shoulders
  • Lightweight

Something to note

  • May be a little long

Colorways: 70 | Size: One size | Material: Chiffon

Whether you’re attending a wedding up North or plan on partying well into the night, this chiffon shawl will provide a little added warmth. This chiffon piece comes in a whopping 40 hues, so you’ll be sure to find one that matches your dress.

High-quality earrings on a budget: Birdy Grey Limoge Crystal Teardrop Earrings

What we like

  • Lightweight
  • Stylish

Something to note

  • Final sale

Material: Limoge

Add a little bling to your formal outfit with these Limoge long crystal drop earrings from Birdy Grey. These 14K gold-plated earrings are hypoallergenic and made from recycled materials.

Satin convertible clutch: Gunne Sax by Jessica McClintock Pleated Satin Clutch

What we like

  • Shoulder strap
  • Slip pocket

Something to note

  • May be smaller than expected

Colorways: Three | Size: 4-by-10-by-11.5 inches | Materials: Satin, metal

An evening bag is an essential for a black tie wedding, but it’s not worth breaking your budget on something pricey if you’re not going to wear it all that often. That’s why we’re fans of this affordable style that comes in three colors. The pleated satin exterior adds a touch of class and the convertible style makes it a convenient option you can wear a few ways.

Easy-to-wear block heels: Dream Pairs Annee Block Heels

What we like

  • Well-made
  • Comfortable
  • Stylish

Something to note

  • May run big

Colorways: 20 | Sizes: 5-11 | Materials: Leather, suede, rubber

Looking for a sensible, yet stylish pair of heels that will keep your feet comfortable all evening long? These pointed toe shoes feature a latex insole that conforms to the shape of your foot for extra cushioning. These chunky heels come in 20 hues and have over 11,600 verified five-star ratings on Amazon.

Compact beaded bag: Tiana Designs Beaded Clutch

What we like

  • Interior wall pocket
  • Classy

Something to note

  • May be smaller than expected

Colorways: Three | Dimensions: 9.25-by-2.5 inches | Material: Beaded

This beaded clutch features an interior wall pocket and zip-closure to safely store all your makeup essentials, from lipstick to mascara. It comes in three classic shades and will surely spruce up your wedding (guest) wardrobe.

How we chose the best black-tie apparel

The Shop TODAY team rounded up the best formal dresses and accessories by enlisting the recommendations of wedding experts from The Knot and Zola. We also filtered our searches for top-rated products, read through hundreds of user reviews and chose a few editor favorites as well.

Meets the experts

This post was originally published on this site

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