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Black Tie Etiquette: What to Wear and How to Carry Yourself

Black Tie Etiquette
Black tie etiquette is not limited to merely the outfit that you choose to wear for the occasion, though that does play a major role in it. This article will help you with some basic tips on how you can breeze through a formal evening with ease.
Fashionhance Staff
Last Updated: Jul 21, 2017
An invitation to a black tie event is often met with a familiar fluttering feeling in the stomach. A feeling of apprehension bordering on fear, about how to conduct oneself at an event that is the epitome of formality. What most people think about a black tie affair is the dress code, and well, that's it. However, there's a lot more that goes into ensuring that one behaves in a manner befitting the event, than just the way he dresses. This Fashionhance article will enlighten you about some of the most commonly followed etiquette at black tie events.

A Guide to Black Tie Etiquette
In this section, we'll advice you about some of the most fundamental things that you can do to make sure that you fit in at a formal event. We'll begin with the dress code (as expected) and then progress to mannerisms.

What to Wear
Dressing up is the most important aspect of a black tie event. Though we may like to believe otherwise, people judge others from the minute they walk in, first by their ensemble and then by their behavior. So let's break down what men and women are expected to wear at a black tie event.

Men: Men, for formal events are expected to wear an outfit that has 7 components unless the event has a 'black tie optional' tag. These are:
  1. A single or double breasted woolen jacket in a dark color, with a peaked lapel and a shawl collar, with no vents. The pocket on the jacket should be without flaps.
  2. The trouser should have a braid on the outer seam to match the lapel and the fabric should be the same as the jacket.
  3. Though covering the waist is optional, if you intend to, you can wear a waistcoat which complements the lapels.
  4. The shirt is a formal one, strictly in white. The collars must be traditional turn downs and the sleeves must have French cuffs. Though pleated shirts are permitted, plain ones have a more formal appearance.
  5. The neck must be adorned with a black bow tie that needs to be tied by hand. However, contemporary modifications permit a long black tie to be worn as well.
  6. Shoes must compulsorily be black and polished to a shine. Leather oxfords or pumps are perfectly acceptable.
  7. In accessories, gold or pearl cuff links and white or black suspenders are the most acceptable. A white handkerchief in silk or linen is optional.
Women: Women are also required to follow the basic dress code for black tie events. Traditionalists appreciate women who attend black tie affairs in long and flowing gowns. The fabric is generally silk or satin. The fit must be one that complements the figure of the woman wearing the gown. Embellishments on the gown can be crystal, beads or metallic. As far as the neckline, backline and sleeves are concerned, you do have a lot of options. The color of the gown should be something that flatters your complexion and also the occasion that you are attending. Light pastels are the safest options to go for. Your makeup should be subtle and choose a scent that isn't very heady. Hairstyles are also something that you can experiment with to a great extent. Minimal jewelry and open toe shoes or sandals will complete the black tie ensemble for women.

How to Behave
Apart from the appearance, which forms a major chunk of the etiquette at a formal event, here are some pointers on behavior that you might find helpful.
  • At a formal event, it is not considered rude to extend one's hand in self introduction.
  • Also, if possible, while eating, try to use your left hand, so that your right one is free in case you need to shake hands with someone.
  • Maintaining eye contact with the person you're speaking to is also another important part of black tie etiquette.
  • If you happen to be wearing gloves, when someone extends their hand to shake yours, take off your right glove to shake the hand.
  • Limit your consumption of alcohol to a minimal accepted level. You don't want to embarrass yourself by behaving in an inappropriate manner.
  • When in conversation, stay away from controversial topics, as much as you can. However, if you are asked to give your opinion about something, be confident about what you say.
  • When introducing a topic of conversation, steer away from anything that could make people uncomfortable or offend them.
As you can see, etiquette at an important event is not something that needs to be blown out of proportion. They are very simple, matter of fact and quite practical. The key lies in being sure of yourself (not overconfident), politeness and a pleasing disposition when it comes to posture and speaking to people. So, follow these simple tips and have a stress free black tie event!
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