What is a Black Tie Affair?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Black tie affairs are social events where all attendees are expected to wear formal attire. Both males and females attending this type of event make efforts to comply with the dress code and choose clothing that is considered appropriate formal dress for the time of day, the season, and the nature of the event. A black tie affair is different from a semi-formal event, where there is a wider range of clothing options considered to be appropriate semi-formal attire.

Black tie attire for men.
Black tie attire for men.

For men, a black tie affair normally means the wearing a traditional black tuxedo. While fashion trends sometimes dictate that various color selections for the pants and jacket of the tuxedo are appropriate, that is never the case with black tie events. Only the traditional black tuxedo is considered the right option for a man who wishes to dress in accordance with the spirit of the occasion.

A black tie may be worn during a black tie affair.
A black tie may be worn during a black tie affair.

Black tie affairs are typically very formal.
Black tie affairs are typically very formal.

To complement the black tuxedo, the gentleman will also make use of a simple black tie, most often a bow tie. Clip-on ties are generally discouraged for any events that are structured as a black tie occasion. The proper bow tie for a formal event is one that is tied by hand.

Men are also expected to remain conservative with the choice of tuxedo shirt. The shirt should be white, and may include ribs or fine pleats on the front. The use of black enamel or pearl button covers may also be appropriate for the occasion. If a cummerbund is worn, it should be black to match the tie. However, it has become increasingly acceptable for the gentleman to wear a bow tie and cummerbund that matches the color of his date’s dress.

Women have more flexibility in their style of dress when it comes to a black tie affair. The main requirement is that the dress or skirt should be floor length. Anything shorter is considered to be semi-formal and not appropriate for the affair. Outside of this one requirement, women may choose to wear any color they prefer and make use of a wide range of styles and materials for the attire. The options may include something more daring, such as a full-length dress with spaghetti straps and back or side slits that reveal a bit of leg. Depending on the exact nature of the event, something more conservative may be required, such as a simple full-length skirt accentuated by a silk blouse and simple jewelry that calls attention to the overall elegance of the lady.

A black tie affair often involves a social event that is of major importance to the attendees. Such events as balls, formal weddings, coming out events for debutantes, play and movie premiers, or events held in honor of visiting dignitaries are all examples of events that may be structured as a black tie affair. The careful attention to dress often highlights the importance of the event and can make attending more of an experience that it would be otherwise.

A formal wedding is often a black tie affair.
A formal wedding is often a black tie affair.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


So will a black tie event be good for a Pastor's anniversary, because that is what I am about to plan.


Comfyshoes: I realize that I sound like a snob, but there is a pretty substantial difference between a "prom" and a real black tie affair.

What is acceptable for a bunch of 16-18 year old children isn't exactly the same as for people in the professional world. It is not acceptable for a woman to wear anything but a floor length gown at a real black tie affair, you are fooling yourself to think otherwise. You would be the laughing stock of the room --not for making a statement, but rather for your obvious disregard of the intentions of the event.


Comfyshoes: While shorter, elegant dresses may be age- and occasion-appropriate for teens or young adults at a prom, full-length is the only real option in the next stage of life.


Icrecream17- I respectfully disagree with you. While I do think that full length gowns are very elegant, they are not the only option.

For example, many black tie affair prom theme allow young girls to wear shorter length dresses that are more fashionable. Many of these dresses are above the knee but contain such luxurious material as satin or beads.

For example, Norstroms offers a strapless satin dress that is very elegant for $100. It also sells an Adrianna Papell strapless taffeta gown for about $160 which is slightly above the knee.

Both dresses would be appropriate for any black tie affair, whether it be a prom or some other function.


Latte31- I agree with you. I wanted to say that dresses for black tie affair look best when they are full length. It is far more elegant that way.

For those with fuller figures, and empire waist or A line cut is the most flattering style in a gown.


Excellent article- I just wanted to mention that black tie affair attire should be the most formal of all attire.

For example, a black tie affair dress for women should consist of a formal evening gown that should be made of silk or sequins material.

Also a wrap is very appropriate for such a black tie event. Women should wear heels which consist of pumps or stiletto shoes.

Men should dress in a black tuxedo, like the writer suggested with polished black shoes.

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