The Official Dos and Don'ts of Black-Tie Attire for Women


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If you're headed to a formal event that calls for a strict dress code, you've landed in the right spot. Cocktail attire, semi-formal, white-tie attire—ring any bells? While all the aforementioned dress codes read "fancy," what's really the difference between them all? Are there strict rules? If so, what are they? Well, today, we're here to take a deep dive into one dress code, in particular, and that would be black-tie attire for women.

To get a second opinion on the matter, we reached out to celebrity stylist Sarah Nearis for her expert opinion. Let's be honest: If there's anyone who knows a thing or two about formal dressing, it's her. "Some people dread black-tie events, but they are my favorite because it gives me an excuse to go all out. I love the opportunity to get glammed up, but there are some dos and don'ts when it comes to black-tie events," says Nearis. We're curious to discover what they are. Read on as she walks us through her official dos and don'ts on appropriate wedding black-tie attire for women. Take notes, people—we promise this will come in handy one day.

Don't: Wear Short Dresses

Do: Go Full-Length


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"While black tie doesn't necessarily mean you have to wear a full-length gown, if you've been waiting for the right opportunity, now is your chance. If you choose to wear something that doesn't go all the way to the floor, an appropriate length is something a little below the knee."

Don't: Wear Casual Shoes 

Do: Keep Footwear Elegant


(Image credit: @alyssainthecity)

"When it comes to footwear, have some fun, but keep it classy and chic. If you're wearing a gown, this is an opportunity to wear your highest heel, but make sure they are comfortable and offer you plenty of support. You'll be socializing and standing a good amount of the night, so comfort is key to helping you enjoy your night. Regardless of the length of your dress, a black-tie event isn't the ideal setting for anything of crazy color or overly sexy straps. It's important to choose the perfect shoes that best accentuate your outfit. Crazy platform pumps or lace-up-to-the-knee sandals should be left at home."

Don't: Take the Code Too Literally

Do: Familiarize Yourself With the Dress Code


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"FYI—a black dress is not required. I recommend sticking to rich jewel-tone colors and nothing too bright."

Don't: Forget to Accessorize

Do: Bring Out the Jewels 


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"The nicer the event, the better the excuse to rock some of your finer pieces of jewelry and accessories. This is the perfect opportunity to wear that vintage necklace or cocktail ring. If you don't have a stash of jewels, I love wearing glitzier accessories like a pump or clutch that has some sort of stone or jewels on it. I love Roger Vivier clutches and shoes for occasions like this!" 

Don't: Expose Too Much Leg

Do: Opt for Dresses With Other Flattering Details


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"This kind of event isn't best to show them off. Black tie calls for a longer, sophisticated hemline, so the minidresses will have to sit this one out."

This post was published at an earlier date and has since been updated. 

Editorial Director

Lauren Eggertsen is currently the editorial director of Who What Wear and has worked at the company for over eight years, where she started as an associate editor and has since worked her way up. Lauren has over 10 years of experience in the fashion editorial space, starting her career with internships at Marc Jacobs, Marie Claire, and The Zoe Report, where she was later hired as their editorial assistant. Lauren has worked in the Los Angeles and New York Who What Wear offices but currently calls L.A. home. It is here where she leads and manages Who What Wear's fashion team and oversees all day-to-day editorial content and large tentpole moments. This includes all of the runway, trend, and shopping-driven content that ultimately helps to build a strong brand reputation within the industry. Lauren's role also includes helping to set the fashion direction for all original photo shoots and often styles many of the celebrity cover shoots, including big names like Kaia Gerber, Normani, and Kristen Stewart.

She has also attended multiple fashion weeks, including New York, London, Milan, and Paris, where her personal style has been featured on sites such as Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, and Elle. She prides herself on discovering and supporting small brands and on her knack for a good vintage shopping find. When she isn't working, she enjoys researching and dining at reputable restaurants around both her neighborhood and the globe.