So, you received an invitation to a "black-tie" event. That's a good thing. It means that someone thinks enough of you to include you in something very special, very formal and sophisticated. But, if you've never been to a black-tie gathering, you may be wondering what to wear. At an important social event, the last thing you want to do is commit a fashion faux pas.
So, for a man, this should be easy, right? You have a black necktie, so you're good to go! Not necessarily. While the standards vary from country to country and even from event to event, the general consensus is that black-tie means a tuxedo. A black or dark suit with a white shirt and black neckties or bow ties may be acceptable, but could be risky. If you opt for the suit and tie, the shirt should be crisp and the tie should, if possible, be made from black satin-silk. In the long run, use your own discretion, but use some good old common sense, too. For instance, if you've been invited to a black-tie event at the White House, go with the tux with the classic black bow tie look! If you are uncertain about the formality, it is better to overdress. After all, traditional black tie means black tuxedo, black bow tie, and a white pocket square.
As for your date, this is an opportunity for her to flaunt her absolute best. Bring out the DeLaurentis! There are far less restrictions on black-tie attire for women, as long as it's very formal. While basic black is always a good bet, colors, sparkle and glitz are perfectly fine. After all, she's got the perfect accessory: You, dressed in a color that matches anything in her wardrobe. Although the classic full-length gown is probably most widely accepted, a skirt and top may work to semi-formal, or "black tie optional" events. The skirt hem should fall below her knees; anything shorter is generally not considered formal. Low backs or plunging necklines may be suitable, but consider the guest list before trying anything daring.
How about accessories? For the gentleman, cufflinks definitely belong, and those with a little bit of flash - diamonds or emeralds perhaps, will add a touch of class. If you don't have a dress watch, don't wear a watch. The ladies have more leeway here, as well. Diamond bangles, a small sequined handbag, cubic zirconia earrings and matching broche or bracelets - accessorize, but keep it tasteful.
Formal shoes are an absolute must for both of you and they should be immaculate. Guys, if you don't know how to shine your shoes, have them done professionally. Just like solid color black ties are needed, your shoes should be no other color than black and shined to perfection. Gals, wear the shoes that best bring your ensemble together. Coordination is the key.
Finally, remember that you need to look as good as your outfit. A visit to the hair stylist is in order. A clean trim for him, including any facial hair, and a simple up do for her. Consider a manicure. Yes, both of you. Check your smile and if necessary, get to your dentist for a cleaning or use a commercial whitening treatment. Remember the deodorant and mouthwash. It may be a long, warm night and you'll likely be in close proximity to people during your conversations.
Still confused? "Black-Tie Attire" is a snap if you mimic the right icons. Guys, think James Bond (any of them). Girls, go with Audrey Hepburn.