Black Tie Etiquette for Ladies

Written by beth cone
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  • Introduction

    Black Tie Etiquette for Ladies

    Formal events may specify a black-tie dress code on an invitation. Events such as charity balls, weddings, galas, college dances, or even proms may require black-tie attire. For men, a tuxedo fits the bill. For women, more choices abound. However, the traditional etiquette of black-tie attire for women does have certain parameters.

    Evening gown. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

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    Dress Length

    Per tradition, black-tie attire for women is a floor-length evening gown. For slightly less formal affairs such as a summer event or cocktail party, a shorter cocktail dress may be acceptable. Etiquette expert Emily Post recommends a formal gown or a shorter variation. In her book "New Manners for New Times," Letitia Baldrige suggests a "floor-length, short, or three-quarter-length evening gown."

    Dress Length (NA/ Images)

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    Shoes and Purse

    Black-tie rules for women also extend to one's choice of shoes and purse. Per traditional protocol, a woman's shoe choice should be an evening sandal or peau de soie pump. A woman should carry an evening bag in material such as peau de soie, satin, silk, velvet or brocade rather than a daytime purse.

    Shoes and Purse (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

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    A woman's jewellery choices should also reflect the formality of a black-tie affair. Diamonds or pearls are an acceptable choice. A simple or chandelier earring, a more formal bracelet or necklace is also appropriate.

    Jewellery (George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

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    Depending on the formality of the occasion, a woman's wardrobe choices may vary. During summer months or for a black-tie evening on a cruise, either a long gown or a shorter, formal cocktail dress may be acceptable. One's accessories should remain formal, in keeping with the formality of the occasion.

    Considerations (Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

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    Black Tie Optional

    When an invitation dictates "black tie optional," a woman's choices may include formal separates as well as an evening gown or cocktail dress. Formal separates may include a dinner suit or full-length evening skirt with a dressy blouse.

    Black Tie Optional (Jupiterimages/ Images)

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    Creative Black Tie

    When an invitation calls for "creative black tie," a woman may wear either a full-length gown, shorter cocktail dress or separates. When accessorising, she may add a dramatic piece such as a colourful shawl or jewellery.

    Creative Black Tie (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

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    The protocol for traditional black-tie attire for women may include over-the-elbow white or black satin gloves. Per etiquette rules, a woman should remove her right glove before entering a receiving line so she may shake hands.

    Gloves (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

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