FASHION TRENDS / May 31, 2024


Whether it’s your first time attending this kind of affair, or you’ve been winging it all this time, you may be wondering: what is black tie attire?

For men, it's straightforward—simply slip into a tuxedo, and they’re all set. But for us ladies, it can be a little (who are we kidding, a lot) confusing. With so many modern interpretations of this dress code, the risk of committing a fashion faux pas is all too real.

Whether you’re deciding what to wear to a black tie wedding, gala, or any other swanky affair, we’re here to be your style guru. Use our guide to decode this genre of fashion, ensuring you nail the dress code and feel confident in your choices.

What Is Black Tie Attire for Women?

Black tie attire for women leaves plenty of room for interpretation, but it can best be described as formalwear at its finest. Often required for weddings and galas, this dress code calls on guests to look perfectly polished, ensuring their outfits align with the event’s elevated nature.

While black tie dress codes may have felt as stuffy as a corset in the past, modern interpretations allow for more self-expression. Today’s black tie attire for women still demands high levels of formality, but it feels less restrictive and more in tune with trends.

The Do’s & Don'ts of Black Tie Attire for Women

Now that you have an idea of what black tie attire is, let’s go over the key dos and don’ts to help you nail this often-confusing dress code:

Do Ask the Host or Hostess

People often interpret fashion rules differently. Some may consider black tie attire as simple as "any formal dress” while others anticipate MET Gala-level glam.

With fashion evolving and rules constantly being challenged, the best way to navigate this dress code is to go straight to the source. Ask the host or hostess, “What is black tie attire for you?” Does their definition lean toward flowy gowns, red-carpet-appropriate pieces, or something else entirely?

By inquiring, you'll be able to gain clarity on the level of grandeur expected of guests. The last thing you want is to show up in a stunning ball gown (which is still acceptable black tie attire) when all your host envisioned was for guests to wear long dresses.

Don’t Rule Out Color—Yes, Even Bold Ones!

Do you have to wear black to a black-tie event? Fortunately, no. While black is a safe bet and will likely be the go-to for many guests, remember, you weren’t born to blend in with the crowd!

Black may be classic and effortlessly chic, but the modern dress code lets you express your style through more contemporary color palettes. Sumptuous jewel tones such as emerald, ruby, and amethyst are often favored, but bold shades are also welcome. Even bright colors get a seat at the table—as long as the host gives the green light.

GL3044-Sweetheart Satin Mermaid Dress w/ Open Back and Side Gathered Waistline

Get the Look: GL3044 - Sweetheart Satin Mermaid Dress w/ Open Back and Side Gathered Waistline


With its trendy hot pink hue, this sweetheart dress is a true showstopper. The gathered waistline draws everyone’s eyes to your curves, giving you a gorgeous silhouette. Meanwhile, the sweetheart neckline adds a romantic touch that'll sweep your admirers off their feet.

Do Choose Your Fabric Carefully

When dressing for any black-tie event, every detail counts—especially your choice of fabric. Opt for materials that radiate refinement, steering clear of those that may seem too casual for the occasion, such as cotton and linen. Instead, embrace luxe-looking fabrics like satin, silk, lace, and chiffon to ensure your ensemble exudes a sense of formality.

GL1990 - V-Neck Satin Long Sleeve Long Dress w/ Waist Strap

Get the Look: GL1990 - V-Neck Satin Long Sleeve Long Dress w/ Waist Strap


For an unforgettable black-tie look, grace your event in this dreamy creation. Crafted from luxurious satin, this v-neck dress features a glossy finish that adds dimension to its minimalist design. The A-line skirt flares away from your figure, creating a flowing effect, perfect for dramatic "running-down-a-castle-hallway" moments.

Don’t Be Afraid to Go Short

Black tie attire made its debut during the Victorian era when all dresses were sweeping. But today, women have a wealth of choices, from floor-length to midi to mini options—meaning they no longer need to restrict themselves to floor-length frocks. While many black-tie events still follow tradition and display a preference for higher hemlines, cocktail dresses are now widely accepted—unless the host specifically says otherwise.

Just be mindful of the event’s formal nature and avoid dresses that show too much skin, or else you will be the subject of judgmental stares. Remember, when it comes to what not to wear to a black-tie event, skimpy dresses are a definite no. The black tie dress code for women demands modesty, so opt for tasteful pieces.

GS1611 - Strapless Sweetheart Lace Short Dress

Get the Look: GS1611 - Strapless Sweetheart Lace Short Dress


Although this babydoll dress rides above the knee—a style that would’ve raised eyebrows in the past—it still meets the standards of black tie attire for women. With its tasteful style and twirl-ready skirt, it strikes the perfect balance of flirtiness and class.

Do Embrace Embellishments

Dresses adorned with embroidery, beads, and other embellishments are fine and won’t get you turned away at the door. However, while you are encouraged to embrace glam, avoid veering into white-tie territory, which calls for avant-garde styles. When it comes to black tie attire for women, subtlety reigns supreme, so pick an outfit that whispers—not screams—sophistication.

GL3137 - Jewel Bead Illusion Sweetheart Sheer Bodice Mesh A-line Dress

Get the Look: GL3137 - Jewel Bead Illusion Sweetheart Sheer Bodice Mesh A-line Dress


Designed for evening affairs, this gown boasts a jewel-encrusted bodice that sparkles with every step. The green hue exudes luxury, while the tulle fabric offers an ethereal feel, guaranteeing second glances as you gracefully move through the crowd.

Don’t Dress Up Without First Gaining Context

Before deciding what to wear to a black-tie event, consider the occasion’s specifics. Your role as well as the nature of the event should influence all of your fashion choices. For example, if you’re attending a black-tie wedding, opt for a dress that won’t steal the spotlight from the bride. Similarly, for a corporate affair, avoid revealing dresses to respect the event’s professional tone.

Additionally, study your invitation closely as it often provides valuable clues on what to wear to a black-tie event. For instance, for parties in the winter, a long-sleeved gown is not only fashionable but also practical for staying warm.

GL3458 - Ribbon Front Ruched Side Rome Jersey Mermaid Long Dress

Get the LookGL3458 - Ribbon Front Ruched Side Rome Jersey Mermaid Long Dress


For black-tie events scheduled in the summer months, you might consider choosing pieces with more casual silhouettes and lighter color palettes. This mermaid dress, with its relaxed yet refined style, is an excellent choice for daytime wear. Its bodice features a charming ribbon detail, while its trendy shade of periwinkle adds a fresh and youthful feel.

Set the Standard for Black Tie Attire with GLS Collective

With an understanding of what black attire is, you can now confidently shop for your event, ensuring your choice not only meets the dress code but also raises the bar. At GLS Collective, we’ve curated a collection of gowns and dresses perfect for black tie affairs, ranging from timeless styles to more modern pieces. We know that whatever you choose, you’ll be a vision of elegance and grace.

Browse our full collection of women’s formalwear, and check out our other articles for more fashion inspiration:

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