It’s Friday night, your date’s on the way, and you’re pretty sure you know what you’re going to wear—that is, until the “black tie optional” dress code on the invitation stops you in your tracks. Fear not! We’re here to set things straight so you can spend more time grooming and less time googling.
Keep reading to learn what “black tie optional” means!
What Is “Black Tie Optional,” Anyway?
“Black tie optional” is a dress code for certain types of events. It’s formal in nature, but it’s also fairly flexible. You’re most likely to see this dress code on the invitations for weddings, formal dinners, galas and other upscale events.
What Can You Wear?
Suit (Or Tux) Up
To tux or not to tux? That is the question. Well, it’s entirely up to you. If you own a classic black tuxedo or can rent one, give it a go! If not, suit up in navy or charcoal (you’ll be just as dapper).
Reach for a White Shirt
Yes, the tux is optional, but let’s not get crazy here. Keep it simple with a crisp white dress shirt. It’s timeless, elegant, and just the way to go.
Stylist Tip: Avoid button-down collars, which can be found on more casual Oxford shirts; favor a semi-spread collar on a white dress shirt instead.
Step into Black Shoes
The shoes can either make or break your look. How to prevent the latter? Stick with black leather dress shoes—think Oxford, monk-strap or Derby styles.
Keep the Tie Simple
We know what you’re thinking: “What ever happened to getting creative with the tie?” Not this time. This dress code is already allowing you to ditch the black bow tie, so your necktie (or non-black bow tie) should be a dark, solid shade in a smooth silk or textured fabrication.
Stylist Tip: Only wear a black bow tie if you’re wearing a tux—and conversely, only wear a necktie or colored bow tie if you’re wearing a suit.
While your socks are allowed to show, your bare legs aren’t. For this reason, you want to choose a mid-calf or over-the-calf sock that matches your pants. Finish with simple cufflinks and a white pocket square.
What Should You Avoid?
They’re meant to be worn for non-formal occasions such as laid-back meetings, a casual office environment, or daytime outdoor weddings with a more flexible dress code—think “cocktail attire” or “dressy casual.”
Skipping a Tie
Please, wear a tie. Going tieless to this type of event would be the equivalent of going barefoot. And remember, you have options! Whether it’s a bow tie or necktie, don’t forego this vital staple in the “black tie optional” dress code.
Blazers or Sport Coats
A blazer or sport coat is a great way to step up a business casual, cocktail attire or dressy casual look, but it isn’t suited for a black-tie optional event. This would cost you significant formality in your aesthetic by adding what’s considered a slightly casual layer. It also doesn’t coordinate with the dressier pants and dress shirt required for this type of event.
Regardless of what the invitation says, always double-check with the host to make sure your understanding of the dress code is aligned with his or her vision!
Need to suit up for your next event? Let your Stylist know!