how to wear black tie


So, black-tie. Here in Gotham, we have a lot of these weddings. I understand that elsewhere, outside of my island or its neighboring boroughs, that this is not as common a choice. I can't be entirely sure because I haven't left these shores in many moons.


There was no doubt in my mind, even before we picked a venue, that I wanted a black-tie, evening wedding. How often are you presented with the opportunity to dress like a movie star? Wear a gown? Yell to you adoring fans that yes, you are correct, Oscar dlR did design this just for me! And, after we picked The Plaza (PS: I can't say I mind all the extra publicity the hotel is getting from Gatsby...), with its glimmering ballrooms and soaring ceilings, there was no doubt that such a special place deserved an extra-special dress code.

So, now you say, Juliet, please, just get to the point: what is black-tie?

Let's start with the gents, since it's a pretty narrow range. Black-tie for men means a tuxedo.

Mmm, Gucci. 

This is a tuxedo. Any questions?

Yes, you can wear a color other than black, but ... eh, unless you're like Justin Timberlake, it might be a little difficult to pull off. Although I just checked and I guess the above tux is a deep, deep navy. Bow-ties (my personal favorite, as noted before, so I suggest you do as the bride desires) or a black straight tie are both acceptable, as is either a cummerbund or suspenders (but let's call them braces when they're on a tux, shall we?). If you do not own a tuxedo, well, I'm disappointed in you.


If you don't own a tuxedo, you have two options: 1) Rent one. 2) Wear a black suit with a black tie and be so smooth on the dance floor that everyone is jealous. That's what Justin Timberlake would do.

Moving on to the ladies!

Does black-tie automatically mean a long dress? No! But there IS a difference between a short black-tie dress and a cocktail dress. Here are some examples:

Nanette Lepore! 

The above dress is a cocktail dress. It is cute for spring. It is really not a great choice for a black-tie wedding.

Vera Wang!

OK, this is kind of a bad example because you're not going to be wearing long-sleeves to a summer wedding, but you get the idea. This dress might be short, but it's embellished, lace and feels very formal. It's also $2,800, oops.

As a general rule of thumb, the shorter your hemline, the less likely your dress is to be black-tie. Most shorter black-tie dresses generally still fall at the knee. And don't forget that a fancier hairdo or evening jewelry will definitely cement your look. In a pinch,  you can make a cocktail dress feel more black-tie with an updo and an attitude.

But let's move on to long dresses, because aren't those more fun? A lot of these are a bit cost-prohibitive, but you can get some ideas from the formal section on Shopbop. It is totally OK to show a bit of leg with a long dress, or a bit of back. Black-tie gowns can be sexy; you just want to avoid veering into territory that may make you look like an extra from that show about gypsy weddings.

Mason by Michelle Mason

This gown is gorgeous and even though that slit ... is almost up to her slit (I'm sorry, is that too dirty?), it doesn't come off as, uncouth, let's say. Anyone is allowed to wear this to my wedding.

Certain black-tie functions will mandate no black, but I love all colors equally because I went to Quaker school, so I have thrown that rule out of the window. Also it's New York; black is always the new black.

There is, of course, one exception to the color rule: no white. This should be pretty self-explanatory, but in my opinion the bride should be the only one in white on her wedding day. I mean, she's a virgin after all, right?


Anyway, if you're concerned that your dress might be too white, 9 out of 10 brides agree that you are probably better off just picking a different frock to wear. Embrace the jewel tones, my friends!

This concludes today's sartorial lesson. Tim Gunn will be here next week to show you proper fascinator style.

how we celebrated: dc bridal shower edition

the guest list part 3: the plus-one conundrum