Black Tie Etiquette for Ladies

Written by beth cone | 13/05/2017
Black Tie Etiquette for Ladies
Evening gown. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

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.

Dress Length

Black Tie Etiquette for Ladies
Dress Length (NA/ Images)

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."

Shoes and Purse

Black Tie Etiquette for Ladies
Shoes and Purse (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

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.


Black Tie Etiquette for Ladies
Jewellery (George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

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.


Black Tie Etiquette for Ladies
Considerations (Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

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.

Black Tie Optional

Black Tie Etiquette for Ladies
Black Tie Optional (Jupiterimages/ Images)

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.

Creative Black Tie

Black Tie Etiquette for Ladies
Creative Black Tie (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

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.


Black Tie Etiquette for Ladies
Gloves (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

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.

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