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What Does Black Tie Optional Mean?

A black tie optional wedding is the most common format of this formal dress code. Unlike a completely black tie event, the word optional denotes simple formal attire is accepted. While this wedding dress code 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

Wedding guest are often asked to attend the event in a particular style of clothing. Black tie typically includes floor-length gowns and tuxedos in neutral colors, like classic black, and is clearly stated on the invitation. A black tie optional dress code may also be clearly stated on the wedding invitations. Other formal 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 attire to match the level of formality.
  • 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 traditional black tie 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 ‌dinner jacket‌ is also appropriate because of the satin material included. Wear a ‌white dress shirt‌ with a classic ‌black necktie‌ to complete the black tie optional look.

For the optional event, a ‌dark suit jacket‌ is appropriate for a black tie optional dress code -- colors include black, dark gray and navy blue.

Formal Wear for Gals

Like men, women have several options when dressing for this type of black tie affair. A ‌full-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. Women are able to choose neutral colors such as black and navy, soft pastel colors, and jewel tones such as emerald, magenta and aqua. Chiffon is an excellent material for the achieving an elegant look and suitable for the summer wedding because of its light weight.

Cocktail attire includes ‌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 pantsuit or well-tailored pair of slacks and a silk blouse, are also appropriately formal..

Adding Personal Style: 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, such as oxfords, along with a coordinating ‌leather belt‌ and ‌dark dress socks. ‌You can dress up the look with a conservative tie or pocket square in silver or gold, paired with matching toned cuff links.

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.