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A "black tie optional" dress code calls for formal attire. While attire may be slightly more casual than a "black tie" affair, some overlap in appropriate dress exists when comparing black tie and black tie optional events. Both men and women have multiple options for black tie optional outfits.

Evaluating the Dress Code

A black tie optional dress code may be clearly stated on the invitation to the event. Other events, however, may require some sleuthing to determine if black tie optional attire is preferred. Other factors can guide your dress decisions:

  • Type of event: Weddings, galas, fundraisers and other charity events may call for black tie optional attire.
  • Time of day: Evening events are decidedly more formal than afternoon ones, so a later start time may indicate a black tie optional attire.

Options for Guys

Men have two options when dressing for a black tie optional affair.

A tuxedo is appropriate for these events. Opt for a black tuxedo jacket with a pleated white shirt, black bow tie and black vest or cummerbund.

If you don't own a tuxedo or don't want to rent one, you're in luck. A dark suit is also appropriate for a black tie optional dress code -- appropriate colors include black, dark gray and navy. Wear a white dress shirt with a simple, muted tie to complete the black tie optional look.

Formal Wear for Gals

Like men, women have several options when dressing for this type of black tie affair. A floor-length evening gown would serve as the most formal option for this event and would pair well with a man who opts for a tuxedo. While women may choose dark colors such as black and navy, bolder colors, such as emerald, magenta and aqua, are also appropriate.

Cocktail dresses that hit around the knees also work for black tie optional events, as is the classic little black dress. Dressy separates, such as a well-tailored pair of slacks and a silk blouse, are also appropriately formal.

Black Tie Optional Accessories

Both men and women can complete their black tie optional look with the right accessories.

Men should wear dark leather shoes with their suits or tuxes, along with a coordinating leather belt and dark dress socks.

Women can add a touch of sparkle and embellishment to their attire with jewelry, such as chandelier earrings, a pearl necklace or a diamond or gemstone bracelet. High heels, both pumps and open-toe heels, complement dresses of all lengths.