It can be nerve-racking deciding what to wear to a formal black-tie affair. Unlike men, who must wear a tuxedo, women face many options and may be judged by what they choose. However, if you go for a simple outfit with a splash of decoration, you can make a statement without rocking the boat.
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A black-tie affair is not the time to wear a sexy outfit, which will detract from formality. A little cleavage is acceptable, but keep the sides and bottom of your bust covered, and don't wear anything too low-backed. Also, refrain from wearing the latest fashion trend. You may know what's hot, but the other guests may just think you look tacky.
While high heels might be appropriate for formal wear, they are not necessary, and may make it hard to walk. To avoid looking clumsy, and to ensure that you will still be on your feet after a few drinks, choose shoes that are well-made and flattering, but not uncomfortable or more than a couple of inches tall.
While simplicity is the basis of formal dress, that doesn't mean you can't go for beautiful and interesting accessories. Sparkling earrings, necklaces and bangle bracelets, and a decorated clutch or wrap, can help you stand out without making you look overdone.
Black is always a great choice. If you choose a black garment for one event, you will be able to wear it over and over again in the future. It can be worn at casual and formal events, and will never clash. Red is a flattering choice if you are looking for something a little different. Dark blue is a traditionally formal colour choice, and will appear dressier than red. Avoid an all-white dress at weddings, as you don't want to imply competition with the bride.
While you may not want to get your hair done before a black-tie affair, a manicure will be a treat for you and will polish off your appearance. Hands are often the first thing someone notices, whether because of a handshake, because you gesticulate as you talk or simply because you are socialising while holding a drink in your hand. Choose clear polish if you aren't a nail polish person, or a traditional colour that matches your outfit.
You can wear a skirt cut above the knee or a floor-length gown to a black-tie event. Floor-length gowns are only required at white-tie events.
There are numerous formal trousers options available to women. Choosing simple trousers with a matching shirt decorated with sequins is a good choice, as is a formal trousers-suit. Choose trousers of a fine material that falls well, like silk.
Wearing a tuxedo that is fitted for a woman's body is a formal, respectful option for those who wish to make a statement about gendered dress codes.
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