Thursday, April 26, 2007

What to Wear to a Black Tie Optional Event

It is such a little thing in print--"black tie optional", but for many a huge question to answer. Here is the answer I offer when asked, "what do I wear?"

First, if you are being honored, will appear at a podium or are part of the group / association / committee that organized the event your choice is simple; Wear a tux/evening gown. Go formal all the way (within good taste). If you are not one of the people described above DO NOT go "black tie". Consider these wardrobe choices instead.

MEN
  • A plain, dark blue (I mean DARK blue) or black business suit (matched jacket and trousers). No pinstripes or pattern materials. Definitely never a sport jacket.
  • A collared solid white or solid, very dark blue dress shirt. Shirts with two-tone collars are not an option. Do not wear a shirt with a traditional button collar. That is a work shirt, not a dress shirt. The shirt material should be smooth (linen) vs. rough (oxford). A shirt with french cuffs would be preferable. My preference in cuff links is always "braided knots" but if you wear metal of any kind go for understated.
  • Black belt and black, lace-up dress shoes. Any kind of loafer (slip-on) or wingtips are not acceptable. Stick to a smooth-toed black lace-up.
  • A solid color or dark patterned tie. This is not the occasion for a colorful "fun" tie, club ties, or a bright "power" tie (sharp reds, bright yellows, etc.).
  • Wear a "dress" watch if you own one. This is not the time to wear a digital sports watch or giant-faced, multi-function chronographs.
WOMEN
  • A simple, dark suit as described above, or, a simple black dress. This is not the place a flashy and colorful cocktail dress. Always think, "understated".
  • If you wear a suit a plain white or solid, skin-tone enhancing blouse is appropriate. Avoid colors or patterns that are too loud or bright.
  • Nylons or stockings are in the realm of personal choice. If you wear them match your natural skin-tone or light black (not patterned).
  • Dark shoes with moderate heels (1 1/2 - 2 inches). Again, style is a personal choice but lean toward "understated"
  • Minimize jewelry. While "somber" is never a good choice, "elegance" is always appreciated.
  • A smaller purse that matches your suit/dress choice. If it has a strap the strap should be thin.
The idea here is to look appropriately distinguished and dressy with class. While it is always a matter of personal choice, the way we dress, the first thing most of us want to do is to "fit in". Once you have accomplished that the rest is up to you.