FASHION TRENDS / Jun 30, 2024


Dressing up for formal events is always exciting—as long as you’ve got a good handle on the dress code. Unfortunately, dress codes aren’t always clear, especially when it comes to formal wear—specifically the ever-elusive white and black tie attire.

These dress codes are sisters, but what are the specific rules for each? More importantly, how can you ensure you show everyone you got the memo?

We’re here to serve as your style guru and lay down the nuances between white tie vs. black tie attire. Because even the most fashion-forward women should know how to play by the rules.

What Is the White Tie Dress Code for Women?

When it comes to white tie vs. black tie, the former isn’t as common as the latter, but you never know when you’ll get an RSVP to a fancy gala. And after all, don’t we all dream of donning our finest gowns at least once in our lives?

So, what is white tie attire? It’s the pinnacle of women’s formal wear—think black tie attire but with opulence dialed all the way up. This dress code requires you to dress as if you’re meeting royalty, which is fitting as white tie is often reserved for state banquets, balls, galas, and other events graced by distinguished guests. It calls on you to channel your inner high-society lady and be inspired by old Hollywood glam—à la Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

If you’re attending a white-tie event, here are some style tips to guide you:

Floor-Length Gowns Are the Only Way to Go

At white tie events, the #1 rule is simple: your gown must touch the ground—no exceptions. While you might get away with wearing a dama dress to a black-tie event, white tie strictly demands floor-sweeping attire. If you can see your ankles, it’s back to the drawing board!

Embellished Off-The-Shoulder Long Dress

Get the Look:GL2542 - Embellished Off-The-Shoulder Long Dress

For bonus points, consider wearing a ball gown, such as this voluminous black and gold creation from GLS by Gloria. Styles that are fitted at the bodice and flare out into a full, floor-kissing skirt will definitely land you on the host’s best-dressed list.

Luxe Materials and Accents Can Make You Stand Out

Your dress’s materials should be on par with the grandeur expected of the white tie dress code. When selecting white tie attire, gravitate toward gowns crafted from luxurious materials like lace, satin, and silk. These fabrics can make you look extra luxe and aligned with the event’s high-end vibe.

A-Line Long Dress w/ Beaded Mesh and Side Cape

Get the Look: GL3494 - A-Line Long Dress w/ Beaded Mesh and Side Cape

To solidify your status as a white tie fashion icon, don’t be afraid to embrace embellishments! Remember, when it comes to white tie attire, the rule of thumb is, “The more elaborate, the better!” Feathers, beads, crystals, and other “in-your-face” adornments can infuse your outfit with much-needed extravagance.

Glitter-Mesh A-Line Dress with Cut-Away Shoulders

Get the Look: GL2942 - Glitter-Mesh A-Line Dress with Cut-Away Shoulders

For those inspired by royalty, slip into this off-the-shoulder dress, reminiscent of the Princess of Wales’ reception outfit. Adorned with lace details and glitter-mesh fabric, it offers the right balance of glam and regal charm, ideal for white-tie affairs. All that’s missing is a sparkly tiara to complete the look!

Classic and Conservative Silhouettes Are Expected

One key difference between white tie vs. black tie dress code is that the former leans toward more traditional styles. Tailored pieces with defined shapes—such as A-line dresses—will make you look perfectly on-point.

A little skin can be chic (emphasis on “little”), but avoid anything too revealing. White tie calls for a touch of modesty, so be tasteful with your fashion choices—steer clear of long slits or plunging necklines. White tie fashion typically allows for only one “daring” moment, so make it count while keeping it classy.

Jewel Accented Waist Glitter Mesh A-Line Dress

Get the Look: GL2928 - Jewel Accented Waist Glitter Mesh A-Line Dress

Consider this emerald dress, for instance. Its low-cut style draws attention to the back, offering a sexy touch, while the fit-and-flare style maintains a sense of timeless charm. And those bold, head-to-toe embellishments? Totally white-tie-worthy.

Glamming up to the Nines Is a Must

White-tie occasions encourage you to shine as brightly as you desire. It’s your opportunity to showcase your most luxurious pieces—gloves, tiaras, headpieces, and anything else that exudes high-society.

Just don’t overdo it. If your dress is already extra-bejeweled, avoid wearing anything that could overshadow it or make it look too busy.

What Should Women Wear to Black-Tie Events?

Now that you’ve grasped what white tie attire is, let’s decode another equally head-scratching dress code: black tie.

Navigating black tie attire for women can be tricky, as the expected level of formality can vary widely. It’s a good idea to consult the host to ensure you get it right. Generally speaking, however, black tie fashion for women is more relaxed than white tie attire. It’s still sophisticated but tends to be more effortless and subtle—where white tie attire screams refinement, while black tie simply whispers.

Taking cues from red carpet fashion is a good starting point, but here are some basic tips to steer you in the right direction:

Shorter Styles Are Dress-Code-Appropriate

When it comes to white tie vs. black tie attire, the latter offers more flexibility in terms of hemlines. Although long dresses are often favored for black-tie events, there’s more room to break away from tradition. If you decide to ditch the floor-length gown, you won’t have to worry about the fashion police whisking you away.

Generally, anything that fits into the “formal wear” category will do—whether it’s a two-piece set, a chic cocktail dress, or even a stylish power suit.

Short Strapless Lace Dress with Sweetheart Neckline

Get the Look GS1611 - Short Strapless Lace Dress with Sweetheart Neckline

All Silhouettes Are Welcome

White tie fashion loves structured styles, but black-tie fashion gives you free rein over your outfit’s silhouette. Whether you feel the most stunning in a relaxed, Gatsby-inspired frock, a form-fitting dress, or a modern ball gown, the choice is all yours.

Rome Jersey Strappy-Open Back Dress with Beads

Get the Look: GL2696 - Rome Jersey Strappy-Open Back Dress with Beads

Sleek silhouettes like this open-back dress exude effortless style, which is exactly what black tie attire is all about. Complete the look with minimal yet eye-catching accessories to add some sparkle.

Color Can Be as Traditional or as Trendy as You Like

Another distinction between white tie vs. black tie is color. While both dress codes heavily feature jewel tones, white tie often leans toward muted and traditional shades. In contrast, black-tie fashion embraces a broader palette, including bright, bold, and trendy hues.

Unless your host is extra strict about the color palette, you likely won’t have any problem rocking a vibrant dress like the one below.

Sweetheart Satin Mermaid Dress with Open Back and Gathered Waist

Get the Look:GL3044 - Sweetheart Satin Mermaid Dress with Open Back and Gathered Waist

In a punchy shade of tangerine, this mermaid dress was made for the confident fashionista who never fails to set trends wherever she goes.

Embellishments Should Be Kept Low-Key

A key difference between white tie vs. black tie fashion is that you should tone down the bedazzlement for the latter. While embellishments are fabulous (who doesn’t love to dazzle?), it’s crucial to avoid crossing into white-tie territory.

For black tie events, opt for pieces with minimal embellishments, such as crystal-covered bodices or beaded belts, or details that blend seamlessly with the overall ensemble.

Illusion Sweetheart Mermaid Dress with Lace-Up Back and Sequins

Get the LookGL3147 - Illusion Sweetheart Mermaid Dress with Lace-Up Back and Sequins

Draw inspiration from this shimmery masterpiece. With its modern silhouette and delicate sequin details, it’s the kind of dress that’ll show everyone you got the assignment.

Be the Best-Dressed at Any Affair with GLS Collective

Now that you know the differences between white tie vs. black tie fashion, it’s time to find the perfect outfit—one that not only meets but exceeds expectations.

Whether you’re getting ready for a night at the opera or a gala, GLS Collective offers a stunning selection of dresses, guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. Shop our collection of women’s formal wear—it’ll have you swooning with every gown you see. Fair warning: you might find it hard to resist adding everything to your cart!

Explore our other articles to ensure you nail every dress code:

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