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What Do Women Wear to a Black Tie Wedding?

black tie wedding attire for ladies

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Black tie weddings are a classic that never gets old or tired. But, there is one problem with that – what do women wear to a black tie wedding? Long dresses that are sophisticated and formal are the favorites for most women. However, appearing elegant for a black tie wedding goes far beyond wearing a maxi dress, a delicate necklace, and stilettos.

Unlike crazy creations from familiar brands, a black tie wedding doesn’t give you a lot of room to improvise. And let’s face it – tuxedos are for men, not women. But, the good news is that we have the solution that will let you steal the show by your attire. Read on to get to the bottom of the intricacies of what a lady should wear to a black tie wedding.

What does the dress code black tie mean?

This type of dress code usually appears on wedding invitations as a ‘tuxedo’ sign. It is one of the most elegant and formal dress codes, right after white tie which is the most rigorous one. Even though the term appears to refer more to men, there is also a black tie attire for women. It is seen as an opportunity for the ladies to show off their fashion side; creating beautiful, stylish, and trendy looks. It is most commonly related to fancy galas, balls, and charity events, but it can also apply to classy weddings and other celebrations.

What does a woman wear to a black tie wedding?

Women love to dress up, especially when it comes to special occasions like weddings. Compared to men, they tend to have more variety in their choice of black tie wedding attire. It is their chance of wearing ‘red carpet’ style dresses, looking as fabulous as ever. Below is the comprehensive guide on what you should wear as a woman to a black tie wedding.

Black tie attire for women

The safest choice to wear as a female guest attending a black tie wedding is a long dress — floor or ankle-long. You can experiment with types of fabric as much as you want as long as it is something refined like lace, silk, velvet, taffeta, or made of embroidery.

  • The model

The model of the dress must be a maxi or midi knee-length dress but never shorter. The ideal selection would be the mermaid dress that boasts femininity and glamour.

Compensate the length of the dress with an interesting neckline — experiment with off-the-shoulder, asymmetrical, sweetheart, or plunging. The Grecian style dresses are the absolute winner when it comes to the ultimate model of black tie attire for women.

black tie wedding dress

You can go with a cocktail dress as well but keep it strictly formal. The whole design of the dress should give off grace rather than vulgarity. That means minimum cleavage, no cut-outs, or naked dresses involved. Showing too much skin can give the impression of being ill-mannered. Although slits are rarely present when it comes to black tie attire for women, a long, simple but gracious halter dress with a properly high slit can be perfect for attracting glances and compliments without sending out the wrong picture.

  • Non-dress option

And what do ladies wear to a black tie wedding if they are not the dress-type of girls? If you want to avoid the dress, you can always try to pull off an elegant pantsuit. It can be a classic black-suit-white-shirt women’s tuxedo or a sophisticated and stylish jumpsuit. A sequined wide-leg pantsuit will give you both comfort and class.

  • The right color

As far as color goes, the time of day of the wedding should be taken into consideration. For an evening black tie event, dark, smooth, and solid tones are considered appropriate. If it is during the day, you can slip into garments with different shades of light and pastel colors or even very subtle patterns assuming the total look maintains harmony and elegance.

The only color you should obviously stay away from is white. That includes ivory, light grey, pearl, cream, and other hue that is close to white. Remember that you want to dress up, not overshadow the bride.

What accessories do women wear to a black tie wedding?

You can wear all the jewelry you want because it is the setting where the display of the most expensive family jewels is common, without being too exaggerated of course.

Be careful of balance. If you opt for a very striking or bulky necklace, the earrings should be smaller, and vice versa. The same proportion must be kept concerning the bracelets.

The important thing regarding black tie accessories is for them to be of excellent quality. Stick to the classics like diamonds or pearls which are practically made for these types of events, and save the extravagant and glitzy jewelry for the simpler dresses.

Include an evening bejeweled clutch — the accessories for this occasion must be delicate, and sparkly but still carry the right dose of chic.

What shoes should you wear as a female guest wear to a black tie wedding?

The right choice of footwear will always be high and thin-heeled court shoes or open-toe shoes. You can even go with sandals as long as they are not too bare.

black tie wedding shoes

It is best if the stilettos match the tone of the chosen black tie wedding attire, but that color should never be white. Wedding etiquette dictates you shouldn’t wear white shoes to a wedding even at a black-tie wedding.

Hair and makeup for black tie wedding

And don’t forget ladies, to bring the classiness and the charm to the highest level, tie up your hair into a neat bun.

Wrap up your black tie wedding attire look with a collected or semi-collected hairstyle, depending on what will give you the most comfort according to the season or temperature of the place of the wedding.

Makeup will again depend on the time the wedding event is held. In the morning, more sober and clear tones can be used, while dark and striking tones will be saved for the evening.

Black tie optional

Ever wonder what black tie optional actually means? It can certainly bring some hesitations as it is one of the most confusing dress codes that you can come across.

Black tie optional practically leaves the decision of whether to go formal or semi-formal to the event a bit open. Ladies have the option of going a little more casual, but still preserving the right dosage of gracefulness. Black tie optional gives guests slightly more freedom in choice of clothing but it still carries the same set of rules.

This type of dress code can sometimes be found as a ‘creative black tie’ and it is becoming more fashionable at the latest weddings. It is closely the same as the previous one; the only thing that must be introduced is a creative element of fashion within your regular black tie wedding attire.

You can play with textures, colors, and patterns, always sticking to the formality indicated by the original dress code. For example, ladies could wear some striking, creative, and rarely-seen accessories, such as feathered sandals, brightly colored coats, unusual forms of clutch, etc.

Do you have to wear black to a black tie wedding?

Wearing black to a wedding labeled as a black tie event is not compulsory but it is the most sophisticated option. The colors of the black tie attire for women should preferably be black or in dark and smooth tones like dark green, burgundy, or navy blue. Nevertheless, the color that gives off the most elegance which will surely be a hit is black. Now is the right time for that formal version of the little black dress in your closet.


A black tie wedding is considered a formal occasion that requires the utmost elegance and style. If you have ever wondered what women wear to black tie weddings, this guide will resolve all your questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is ladies dress code for black tie?

Full-length dresses, the elegant version of cocktail dresses, or fancy and formal pantsuits all made of delicate fabrics that radiate sophistication.

Does a woman have to wear a black dress to a black tie wedding?

It is not obligatory but women can wear a black dress if they want. It is the most elegant choice for black tie weddings.

What color do women wear to a black tie wedding?

Dark toned dresses like burgundy or navy are reserved for evening black tie weddings, while lighter and pastel shades are more appropriate for daytime weddings. White color is off-limits for wedding guests.

What should a 60 year old woman wear to a black tie wedding?

Women in their 60s are also required to maxi formal dress with a classic cut and stylish material that is appropriate for their age.

What is the dress code for a black tie event?

Tuxedo or dark suit for men and long and elegant dress for women is the right black tie attire.

I am Megan Nova, a wedding planner and Author based in New York City. My vast exposure in the wedding planning trade and my passion for storytelling has inspired me to share expert advice and creativity on this blog.

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