Were you invited to a black tie event? While these events and galas are fun, they’re intimidating for those who aren’t used to attending these events. They have strict dress codes and are very particular about behavior.

There are some black tie event etiquette rules you’ll benefit from knowing. Here’s your guide.

The Dress Code

By far the most important rule to follow during a black tie event is following the correct dress code. “Black tie” is just a slang term for “formal.” This means different things, depending on your gender.

You either need to wear a suit (which means you need to resurrect your suit from the back of the closet or even buy a new one) or wear a formal gown (no club dresses, ladies).

Here’s a breakdown of the black tie dress code.


As mentioned, men need to wear a suit. But what type of suit?

You can choose a suit or a full-on tuxedo. Fortunately, these events don’t call for extremely formal wear. You can wear a dinner jacket with a tuxedo or a tuxedo jacket with a traditional suit.

While some black tie events are more casual and only call for a suit and a dinner jacket, it’s still best to dress as formally as possible.

For these events, it’s best to be over-dressed than under-dressed. This is to ensure you make a great impression.

Darker-colored suits and jackets are preferred. Most men wear a bow tie instead of a traditional tie, but traditional ties are also allowed.

What about accessories? Keep it simple. Opt for a nice watch instead of a huge chain. Stick to formal black shoes over other shoes.


Remember the rule that it’s best to be over-dressed than under-dressed? This is an important rule to follow, especially for women. That’s because black tie events tend to be more lenient on a woman’s dress code.

Some events may require only a formal gown but many are flexible, allowing for a cocktail dress. It’s best to opt for a gown, regardless of what the rules state.

However, dress length is the main factor. Your dress shouldn’t be shorter than the knee, even if you decide to wear a cocktail dress.

In addition, women have more color choices. Darker colors are preferred but you can spice things up with a red or purple dress. Just keep it tasteful. Don’t enter the party in any neon or bright colors.

The same accessories rule applies to women. Opt for simple accessories. Diamond stud earrings or a small pendant necklace are more appropriate than multiple, bangle bracelets.

High-heeled shoes are preferred, but keep them simple.

What Is Black Tie Optional?

Does your invitation specify black tie optionally? What does “optional” mean?

While it’s still preferred you over-dress (remember that rule?), you can opt for an outfit less formal. For men, this may include a business suit over a tuxedo.

In addition, your whole suit doesn’t have to be dark. For example, you can wear a black or navy suit with a white shirt underneath.

For women, this means you can wear a dress shorter than the knee (just keep it tasteful). You don’t even need to wear a dress. A formal top and skirt or slacks are also allowed.

What About Black Tie Creative?

Remember that rule we keep repeating? The only time you shouldn’t over-dress is for a creative black tie event. This event encourages guests to be, well, creative.

The invitation should specify specific attire details. Many creative events call for a theme, such as a masquerade or 1920s. Others let you use your own creativity to put together a stunning outfit.

For men, a good example is wearing a black suit with a different colored tie (think red, pink, purple, etc.) or a crazy-patterned tie.

For women, feel free to bedazzle your outfit with stunning jewels, or something else eye-catching (a designer jacket, etc.).


These events are all about making a good impression. While this is embodied by your dress, it’s also embodied by your behavior. Here are a few good rules to follow.


Black tie events are social events. You’re expected to talk and meet new people. If you’re the shy type, then that’s fine. Just remember who the host is, their spouse, and anyone else you need to greet.

You need to have good social etiquette. Always introduce yourself. If you can’t think of anything to talk about, ask the person questions about themselves and their life.

What if you’re there with your partner or spouse? It’s of best manners to introduce the man first and then the lady.

What if you forget their name? Don’t worry, no one will judge you. Just politely ask to repeat their name. The only time it’s disrespectful is when you forget the names of the hosts or any honorees.

Overall, you need to be friendly but calm. If you have a vibrant personality, try and calm yourself down for the event.

What is inappropriate behavior? Being disrespectful to others is the biggest no. In addition, avoid being too loud or rowdy.

When do you not socialize? For an event such as an awards show, there’s a time to mingle and a time to watch the show, especially when they’re giving out crystal awards.


Does your black tie event call for dinner and drinks? Traditional table manners apply to black tie events. Use the correct piece of silverware when eating.

For example, a different fork is used for the salad as opposed to the main course. Not sure which fork to use? The general rule is to start with the piece of silverware on the outside and work your way inwards.

Remember These Black Tie Event Etiquette Tips for the Next Week

Now that you know all about black tie event etiquette, are you ready to start shopping for your outfit? For women, here are the accessories you should wear this year!

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