An invitation to a black tie event might leave you wondering just how formally you should dress. Men might rush to rent a tuxedo, and women might peruse their closet for something supremely formal. Decipher the specifics of black tie attire to help you design a look that leaves you looking appropriate and feeling your best.

Black Tie for Men

A tuxedo is a classic men’s choice for a black tie affair. Select a black tuxedo with a black bowtie; a black cummerbund or vest is optional. Wear a white button-down shirt that is pleated, which adds a touch of formality. Wear patent leather shoes to complete the look. At some black tie events, a white tuxedo jacket is also appropriate. Reserve the white option for summer affairs, events that take place in tropical climates or a cruise, Emily Post advises.

Black Tie Options for Women

Two types of dresses are appropriately formal for women attending a black tie event. Floor-length gowns in dark colors, such as black, navy or brown, are suitable and elegant. Dressy cocktail dresses also fit the black tie dress code. A classic little black dress or a knee-length cocktail dress in silk or satin are event-worthy. Choose a cocktail dress with a touch of sparkle or embellishment to increase the level of formality.

Black Tie With a Twist

Occasionally, formal events might be designated creative black tie, a dress code that gives you more freedom in your wardrobe choices. Creative black tie for men still calls for a tuxedo, but the accessories can be more whimsical. Wear a polka-dot bow tie, patterned cummerbund or non-white tuxedo shirt. Floor-length gowns and cocktail dresses are still appropriate for women, but add intrigue to your outfit with bolder accessories. Choose large pieces of costume jewelry, a brightly colored pair of pumps or an antique clutch.

White Tie Looks

White tie dress codes call for even dressier and more formal attire. For these events, the classic tuxedo is upgraded to a tuxedo jacket with tails, which should reach the back of your knees. Complete the look with a white bow tie, crisp white pleated shirt and white or gray gloves. Women should wear a formal, floor-length evening gown for white-tie events. Choose dressy fabrics, such as silk, chiffon, taffeta or satin. Enhance the formality of the look with well-coiffed hair, such as a classic French twist; glamorous jewelry, such as diamond earrings or a necklace; and dramatic makeup, which can include a bold lip color.

Black Tie Optional Ideas

Not every dress code is strictly black tie. For black tie optional events, men can choose to wear a dark suit, white dress shirt and conservative tie, such as a classic striped pattern. Leather dress shoes complete the look. Women can wear floor-length gowns or cocktail dresses, but dressy separates will do, too. Slip on a pencil skirt with a silk blouse or a dressy pant suit.