The Red Dress at the Black Tie Event

1Can you wear a red dress to a professional black tie event?  Reader “Confused in VA” writes in, wondering:

Is it ok to wear a red gown to a professional black tie event? The event will be in the evening with dinner.

Hmmn.  We’ve talked about what not to wear to a black tie event, how to do black tie on a budget, and whether cocktail dresses are appropriate for black tie events — but never what colors are appropriate.  To be honest, my gut reaction here was “If you are the honoree or the hostess of the event, knock yourself out.  Otherwise, step away from the red dress.”  But after some Googling, it seems like a red dress is becoming more and more popular — even Tim Gunn says “absolutely” to bright colors at evening affairs.

Still, for my $.02, I would stick to dresses in muted colors for professional events — a dark plum or an emerald, or a navy — and leave brighter colors to details like your clutch, or your bag.  Call me a traditionalist, I suppose.  I also suspect there’s some degree of variation based on the event — if you go to Charity X’s gala and find that color is completely acceptable, you’ll know that when selecting what to wear next year for Charity X’s gala.  But if this is your first time going to this event, I’d suggest staying with a black dress or a muted color.

Readers, what do you think?  Should you only wear black dresses or muted colors to a professional black tie event, or are red dresses acceptable?

(Pictured: Issa London Eye gown, which retails for $838 but is available for rental at Rent the Runway for $135, sizes 2-14 in petites, regulars, and longs. And can I just say that I love the user-uploaded photos so you can see how a variety of real women of different sizes and body styles look in the dress?)


  1. Or you could say [email protected]#K tradition, I look terrible in black, I’m going to show up in sparkly turquoise.

    You know, for example.

    • +100000

    • Amen. Black makes me sad.

      • I remember about 10 years ago looking for a pretty c ** k tail dress to wear to my brother’s wedding and being so utterly dismayed at the lack of options for those of us who like to wear coloured dresses. In the end, I bought this gold-coloured sheath with a black lace overlay on top of it. In hindsight, not a pretty colour on me anyway. I wore that dress twice more that year and then never again. Sigh. Things have improved though, I think.

    • Red Rules :

      I am with Ru on this one. Why not wear a tasteful red or blue or whatever color makes you happy dress?

  2. anonypotamus :

    I heart that red dress. I have an occassion coming up where that would be perfect, but alas, I already have a dress (boring black) to wear instead. I’m trying to decrease the cost per wear for the particular piece to justify the original purchase, but I’m filing that away for future events! :)

  3. Anne Shirley :

    I might shy away from anything neon/pastel, since I think they can read a bit prom, but that red dress? Crazy hot and black tie appropriate.

  4. If you’re more comfortable in the red dress, it fits you well, and is not too revealing, then go for it! Wear what makes you comfortable and confident!!!

  5. kerrycontrary :

    Can I take a second to complain about what people wore to my SO’s company party? The instructions are “cocktail attire”. Almost all of the men wear a suit, and you would think it’s not that difficult as a woman to get a cocktail dress. But you see everything hooker dresses to floor length embellished gowns to JEANS. How hard is it to wear a cocktail dress? It’s a male-dominated industry and company, so most of the women there are dates. Wouldn’t you want to represent your SO appropriately as this is a major networking event for them?

    • Male-dominated industry? Most women are dates (not wives)? Call me jaded but hooker dresses sound appropriate.

      FWIW, my ex was in a male dominated industry and I’d give him a choice between 2-3 dresses for “his” events. Even though none of my dresses were hooker dresses, he ALWAYS chose the most revealing or tightest dress of the bunch.

      • Red Rules :

        Hey now! My husband works in a male-dominated industry as do I! I went to events as his guest before we were married and I’m pretty sure nobody confused me with a hooker.

      • Was there an unwritten competition for who has the hottest significant other?

        • Anonymous :

          Is there ever not such a competition?

          • Giraffe with curls :

            I hope so. Your comment makes me very sad, and I don’t think I’m overly naive.

          • Clearly Speaking :

            Old, Jaded, been to way too many of these events over several decades. With most men, there is always a pissing contest that includes the arm candy.

            And yes, I am a professional woman who’s stomach turns at the thought and would get kicked out of that game after the first inning, but I am also a realist.

          • Signy Mallory :

            Anon & Clearly Speaking are correct.

            At my company, when there are events that allow employees to bring their kids, this is what happens. (As the wives are the ones who bring the kids in since most of the guys here are married to SAHMs.) The guys whose wives are deemed to be “hot” are congratulated, clapped on the back, yadda. The guys who do the congratulating try to do this sotto voce but people know about it anyways.

    • Heeeeey, some of our spouses are s e x workers. A little respect, please!


  6. Maddie Ross :

    My understanding of black tie (versus white tie, versus other formal events) is that it denotes the attire for men, and much like business casual, women are supposed to be informed by it. It does not necessarily mean “black dress” for women. I say rock the red.

    • Amen to this! I also thought “black-tie” was a nod to what the mean should wear. I think the red should be fine.

    • scarf lady :

      This is absolutely correct. Black tie means–literally–men wear a black bow tie. Seen Downton Abbey recently? Black tie means long gowns for women in evening fabrics and embellishments. Any color goes.

  7. momentsofabsurdity :

    I would wear the red dress, if you like it and it makes you feel confident. I am not sure why “professional” or “professional attire” needs to be synonymous with “muted” or “non stand-out” “not calling attention to yourself” or “clothes not remembered/unremarkable.” If the reason they remember your clothes is you looked like dynamite, hey, more power to you, IMO.

  8. Nice Cube :

    I am in a recipe rut. I need easy weeknight vegetarian dinner ideas that will also satisfy omnivore DH. I usually make quinoa salad one night, some kind of pasta with veggie crumble, fish, then the other says we end up eating out because i am out of ideas.

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      Veggie chili? Bean & cheese enchiladas? Some kind of tofu/vegetable stir fry?

      • Saacnmama :

        I made veggie stir fry last night and after I’d taken my portion out I threw in chicken strips I’d already sautéed, stirred it around a bit to let the meat pick up the flavors of the sauce on the veggies. DS loved it.

    • Anonymous :

      sesame noodles
      baked eggs on a bed of spinach w salsa
      breakfast for dinner
      just dessert for dinner

    • Stuffed peppers (with either lentils or rice, any veggies you like, and cheese)? Risotto? Vegetarian chili?

      Also, I just ordered this (my SO and I are a mixed veg/omnivore couple too). Haven’t received it yet, but will let you know how it is!

    • I like curries. My very loose recipe is: mince two shallots and two cloves of garlic. Sautee until fragrant in a medium/large saucepan over medium heat. Season with cumin and curry. Deglaze pan with splash of white wine. Pour in one cup rinsed lentils, swoosh around in shallots and garlic. Add two cups vegetable stock and one can of diced tomatoes; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25-35 minutes until lentils are tender. Pour in can of coconut milk. Adjust seasoning to taste.

      Add whatever veggies you have lying around at the appropriate point in the cooking cycle.

      Should make 4-6 servings (hooray leftovers). Serve over rice.

      • Diana Barry :

        This sounds awesome. Do you make with yellow lentils, or green, or a different kind? :)

        • Ummm whatever I grab in the grocery store. Usually green. I think. I am really precise about cooking. (Blame my mom.)

    • Anonymous :

      Try the “River Cottage Veg Everyday” cookbook. It only recently came out in the U.S. (as it’s a U.K. book), but we use it regularly. I love the Mushroom Stoup, Root Vegetable Frittata and Vegerre recipes.

    • Plain omelet on top of rice with sriracha and soy sauce (or veggies stirfried with egg on rice).
      Beans on rice or beans with tortillas (with or without an egg on top – can you tell this is my solution for everything?).

    • darjeeling :

      another veg/omni couple here and we like the following quick options, although we end up eating takeout a lot too

      – taco/burrito bar
      – make-your-own pizza (we use Trader Joe’s crusts, super easy)
      – pasta with pesto
      – baked ziti
      – beans and rice with avocado
      – chili in bread bowls
      – fried rice with veggies and baked tofu
      – mjaddara
      – veggie burgers and roasted potatoes
      – simple curries

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      Also — I’m not a vegetarian but I sometimes make some great typically meat-centered meals, using big portobello mushrooms instead of the meat (like a portobello, red pepper, spinach and pesto sandwiches). Maybe explore something like that?

    • Stir fry with veggies over brown rice. Can cook up some chicken sausage (microwave!) or chicken breast for your hubs to add to his.

    • I’m in almost the same situation: SO eats everything and loves meat, I eatmostly east veggies/fish only. Here’s what works for our dinners:

      — Veggie bibimbap (check out Martha Stewart’s website, it’s part of the “Everyday Food”)
      — Stir Fry
      — veggie or fish tacos
      — Gnocchi
      — Mrs. T’s potato pirogies with sauteed onions and peppers and a salad on the side
      — Polenta and whatever you want on the side (I like mushrooms and spinach, tomato sauce and a bit of cheese is also great)
      — farro + veggies (if you like quinoa, this can be a nice variation). My favorite easy option is to saute spaghetti squash until it gets all spaghetti-ish, throw in some toasted pumpkin seeds and a bit of crumbled parmesan
      — my recent winter staple: peel & chop beets and carrots into similarly sized chunks (1/2 – 1 inch), saute with 1 small onion and some garlic; add spinach and toasted pumpkin seeds. Add cilantro or other herbs, if you have on hand. It’s super easy, very hearty, and you can eat it alone or with quinoa/farro/brown rice/whatever
      — the trader joe’s multigrain veggie lasagna is awesome if you don’t have time to cook and you can just keep some on hand in the freezer
      — not quite for weeknights, but I often make a ratatouille or pisto manchego on the weekend and then heat it up on a weeknight for dinner. It’s really easy, just time consuming but reheats great (sometimes better because it’s had time to sit).

    • I’m in the same boat. We do stir-fry and rice a lot, doing two batches in the wok so we can each get exactly what we want. Otherwise, I think it’s mostly a few dishes and he’ll add a piece of meat on the side, since he prefers it plain. So we’ll have something like roasted veggies plus sweet potatoes and baked beans, quiche and a salad, lentil curry, pasta with lots of veggies and a salad, soup and paninis, or veggie paella with chickpeas.

      I always mean to search for blogs or cookbooks on this subject for more ideas.

    • So you’re pescetarian, not vegetarian. Just slap some seafood on every other recipe you have and you can change the flavor a lot. Try breading or grilling.

      I’m vegetarian but I often search for vegan recipes because there are a lot of creative ideas that you can modify to include whatever non-vegan items you want.

    • Black beans (spiced yourself or TJ’s canned Cuban black beans) over rice, topped with avocado & tomato

      Put dressed lentils (TJ’s sells vacuum-packed in fridge case) on a green salad

      Make your stir-fries with rice noodles (soak in hot water first) and call them pad thai. My favorite fast sauce: mix equal parts stir-fry sauce (general tso’s is good), crunchy or plain peanut butter and water; boil or nuke for a minute and stir, then finish cooking in the wok with the vegs and noodles

      Scramble eggs or tofu with veggies; add corn chips or toasted tortillas & salsa, cheese if you want and call it migas

      Use veg chik’n strips (I like smart menu but my son prefers gardein) in stir fries and other recipes. I like to sauté chik’n strips with garlic, chopped artichoke hearts, onions and green olives. Serve over rice (with a little broth or wine to deglaze the pan and make a sauce) or stuff into pitas or crusty rolls (I cut out some of the soft bread in the middle), with provolone or parmesan if you like

      “Tuscan white beans,” my dolled-up canned cannellini beans. Fastest version: saute some garlic in olive oil or spray, throw in a can of drained & rinsed beans to heat and then put in a whole bunch of baby spinach, cooking (covered) until it wilts; add some kind of liquid (water, broth, white wine) if it starts to stick. Add salt and pepper and drizzle each dish with olive oil. Serve with crusty bread or on rice or pasta. If you have more time, add more produce, sautéing e.g. zucchini and onions with the garlic, or add some chopped fresh tomatoes and/or basil at the end.

      Hash of potatoes – I sometimes buy fast-food plain baked potatoes on the way home – some kind of protein (marinated tofu/veg bacon/veg chik’n/veg sausage), onions, bell peppers, etc.

      Fried rice with veggies and proteins of your choice

    • This veggie “cheesesteak” ( is a super easy weeknight favorite in my house. I use roasted red pepper hummus instead of plain for a little extra spice. I also occasionally swap out the big hoagie roll for a pita.

      Also, if your DH enjoys chicken lettuce wraps a la PF Changs, these tempeh lettuce wraps are pretty good ( I would just add some chopped water chestnuts for a little crunch/texture.

    • I like to do rataouille, scrambled eggs (usually with a little cheese) and some roasted potatoes or french bread.

      Homemade tomato soup with fancy grilled cheese (he can add meat if he wants).

      Risotto with lots of veggies.

      Jamie Oliver has a gorgeous stuffed pepper recipe that you serve over toast with fresh mozzarella, you could leave the prosciutto off of yours. Google-able.

    • Thai peanut noodles with sirracha and shrimp
      Mushroom and red pepper quesadillas
      Breakfast for dinner–usually over-easy eggs and pancakes, sometimes egg bakes or omlettes
      Fish tacos
      Bean and potato burritos
      Salmon with brown sugar soy sauce glaze and roasted asparagus

    • Calibrachoa :

      Soups can be quick and easy! :) My favorite is simple enough; on a pan, sautee leek, carrot and potato (or sweet potato, or parsnip, or butternut squash, or….) and add sun dried tomato paste + ground pepper. After a few minutes, add vegetable – or chicken- broth and cook until potatoes are done. Finish with a splash of cream

    • anon in tejas :

      I made some great black bean burgers last night. also we’ve had kale and white bean soup, and lentil and escarole soup this past month. I also adore falafel sandwiches.

    • Pet peeve :

      If you eat fish, you’re not a vegetarian. You’re a pescatarian. Sorry, biggest pet peeve ever.

      • I get that it would be annoying to true vegetarians, but it’s so much easier to just say vegetarian… especially for work situations. Otherwise, you will typically get whatever seafood option there happens to be by default, which can be annoying if you don’t like to eat it other than on occasion.

        Plus, a surprising amount of people are even confused with what vegetarian means, I hate to confuse them more…
        I once had someone ask me if I eat chicken, because that’s not meat.

    • So it sounds like you are a pescatarian if you eat fish? Can you mix it up with more seafood? Cioppino one night, salmon fillet another. Scallops another.

    • Check out vegan month at serious eats. A full month of vegan recipes that actually taste great! My husband and I did this last year and added several new recipes to our (ok his) usual rotation. .

    • SO many options! My husband and I recently went “flexitarian” and eat vegan 1-2 nights a week.

      I make this once a week, we eat it hot for dinner and cold over salad greens with a little oil & vinegar for lunch: (roasted butternut squash, chickpeas, red onions & tahini-garlic-lemon dressing)

      You said you already do quinoa but I like this as a room temp “salad”:

      This post on “how to eat vegan for a week” has some tasty dinner recipes:

  9. Signy Mallory :

    Teeth-related threadjack

    One of my molars is slightly loose. Not outright wiggly loose, but just ever so slightly loose. Not sure if it’s related to my having all my wisdom teeth still.

    I am ancient. During high school, two of my lower wisdom teeth came in and they were perfectly aligned, so I kept them. The x-rays showed that some of my upper ones were impacted, but they never grew.

    It is possible for long-dormant wisdom teeth to suddenly decide to sprout, right? And if so, I’m wondering if it’s causing the looseness in that molar. I’m having this vision of one of my teeth falling out here at work. Oh well, it’d fit the space pirate image, no?

    • Wierd! I would get it checked out, but don’t let them talk you into $20,000 in unnecessary surgery without getting a second opinion.

      • Signy Mallory :

        Yah, this is my thinking, too. I have a dentist’s appointment anyways on Valentine’s Day, and I’ll ask them to look into it.

        The practice recently relocated to a newer, nicer office. My dentist(s) will get major props from me if despite the increased spending on real estate and decor, they don’t succumb to the urge to nudge me towards expensive but not really necessary procedures.

    • I just had a molar yanked. An abcess formed under the tooth and was pushing the tooth up, causing it to wiggle. Definitely go to the dentist.

    • It’s possible. One of my impact wisdom teeth sprouted when I was 28 and the tooth next to it felt loose like that. It went back to normal, but it probably would have been smarter to get them out instead of waiting.

  10. chocochat :

    Overheard at the company gym’s locker room today
    Woman 1: Omg that girl in the front row was rocking it so hard.
    Woman 2: Have you seen her husband? He’s like, gorgeous. If I were her, I’d work just as hard to keep him. I’m telling you, she’s here everyday.
    Woman 1: That makes sense. I’ve seen her abs, they’re amazing.
    Woman 2: I wonder if she’s gotten any work done.

    I am not that girl in the front row. I don’t know her. But when I look at her perfect forms and amazing strength, I see dedication and excellence, an inspiration and not an object for sharp words. Please don’t do make life harder for other women. That’s the instructor’s job

  11. Shoe issue :

    Hi all,

    I’m currently looking for wedding shoes. After much searching, I found a pair that fit all my specifications and seemed to fit at first glance. But then I noticed that there is a sizable space between the sole/arch of my foot and the shoe. They are high-heeled sandals, so you can see the gap from the side of my foot. I’ve never noticed a gap like that in other shoes I own. I am mostly worried about discomfort or worse, injury. Any ideas on whether there is a fix to this, (should I take them to a shoe repair shop?) or if I should just not worry about it and wear them? They feel comfortable enough, but I’ve only had them one for five minutes at a time.

    • Senior Attorney :

      I have this in pretty much all of my shoes. Mr. Senior Attorney thinks its crazy sexy. I wouldn’t worry about it as long as the shoes are comfortable.

    • As someone with high arches who deals with this on, like, a daily basis, I say meh. If they are comfortable you are fine.

    • SoCalAtty :

      Have you looked into ballroom dancing shoes? You can order them in custom colors and fabrics, and the fit can often be customized as well. I had 4″ heels made for my wedding and was able to wear them for hours, and dance in them, all night! I loved them so much I got a pair in black to wear when we go out and I know dancing will be involved. My husband ordered some for himself, too. Loves them.

      • Anonymous :

        Wait – he ordered a pair of 4″ heels? Not judging, I promise :-)

        • SoCalAtty :

          HA! Context is important.

          He ordered the men’s ballroom dancing flats in shiny black.

  12. Seventh Sister :

    I wear a lot of black, but I would be sorely tempted to try something slate gray or very dark red if I had to go to a black tie event.

    Black is kind of my color (or my absence of color), but it does get boring, especially when it’s a “please, please don’t notice me” kind of dress.

  13. Reposting from an earlier thread about the LSAT:

    Thanks all for your advice! The last time I took the LSAT I was scoring around 163 but I would like to score higher this time around. Based on this it sounds like it might be worth investing in a private tutor. I took the Testmasters course and I felt like it moved too slowly for me.

    Unfortunately I don’t live near a major city so would working with a virtual tutor be a good option? I live about 2 hours from a college town where I am sure there are a lot more options for tutors but that seems a little too far to drive…

    • not sure what people said earlier, but i think your best bet, if you’ve already done a course, is just to keep taking practice tests and build up your endurance. you already know most if not all of the skills to get the questions right, you just need to be able to get through it faster so you can spend more time on the questions you’re missing.

      i took a kaplan course, then took the test and got about the same score as you i think. i took it again the next time after doing lots of practice tests and my score went up four or five points (i honestly can’t remember…). my practice scores had been even higher, but i was happy enough with the increase and didn’t take it again. good luck!

    • You may want to get in touch with Kaplan/Princeton Review/other test prep options in College Town. They may have tutors in your area or who are willing to go to your area/somewhere closer for you. Also, there may be options for doing some kind of customized tutoring, where you meet with a tutor once or a few times to get feedback and develop a plan, and then do virtual follow-up. There may be some advantage to getting in touch with the same place you did your initial prep class.

      Disclaimer — I’m not in law, but I did teach other types of test prep courses when I was in grad school, FWIW.

  14. SoCalAtty :

    Report on the Frye Sylvia Piping boots – they are beautiful! They are a tiny bit narrow in the foot, but the leather is really high quality and will stretch. That’s almost always the case for me in dress shoes.

    The calf is definitely a 15″ circumference – it BARELY zips up on me, but my calves are .5″ bigger than they normally are due to that run of prednisone. Also, the leather will stretch a bit, and I’ve only got about 5 pounds to get back to my old calf size, so I’m keeping them. Gives me more motivation to get on the spin bike.

    I’ve been really good! I went to spin 2x the week of Jan. 22nd and 29th, and I went last night and am planning on tonight and tomorrow. My seat bones are officially back in shape, they don’t hurt after spin anymore! The scale is holding steady but I’m just focusing on eating clean / healthy and getting to the gym and not worrying too much about the scale. I’m still convinced I can do 5 lbs in 3.5 weeks.

  15. AnonInfinity :

    I disagree with Kat on this one! Wear a color that makes you smile.

    In line with the comment about considering the charity — February is a great month to wear red because a lot of heart associations are having their annual galas and balls.

  16. Another hive beauty product question. I typically like Makeup Forever foundation, but am trying to go for a cheaper replacement. I’m a dry oily person (yes, I have brutal skin) and like full coverage. Any suggestions? right now I prime with Laura Mercier and use her translucent setting powder

    Also, any suggestions on concealer? I use MAC’s and I hate it.

    • Pretzel_Logic :

      I’m also a MUFE devotee and I haven’t found a good cheaper dupe. I do love benefit’s erase paste–you don’t need much and it blends really well and hides my atomic dark circles.

    • SoCalAtty :

      I was at Sephora on Sunday, and they have a new gadget created by pantone that basically looks at your skin, gives you a pantone color, and then matches that color to foundations / brands in their database. I had been using the Tarte tinted moisturizer, but that brand didn’t even come up as an option for me! It had me switch to the Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer, and we pulled it out and it was a perfect match!

      It’s worth a shot, at least. I’ve been using it this week and I really like it. It is a much better match to my tone.

    • I like Dr. Jart BB Cream, but the color range is pretty narrow.

    • I replaced my Makeup Forever HD foundation with Maybelline Fit Me foundation and liquid concealor. Good coverage and 1/4 the price!

    • BusinessCasualty :

      Believe it or not, I’ve fallen in love with the new Covergirl 3-in-1 Foundation. I know… ACK COVERGIRL. This stuff is so good though! I’ve used more expensive foundation, including MUFE, and this definitely holds up to them. I have combo skin with a very oily t-zone.

  17. I don’t think you want to show up in a sequinned minidress or anything, but honestly – there’s nothing wrong with wearing color. If you want to wear red, wear it. It’s a classic. Likewise green, or turquoise or any of your other favorite colors. You can be appropriate and still be you.

  18. Red Dress :

    I am normally a black and white dresser…but I recently wore a red dress fora black tie event and LOVED it.

  19. Miss Cellaneous :

    Why is red in a tie considered a “power color” on a man but red in a dress considered too showy on a woman?

    Red dresses are not categorically inappropriate. Neon probably is, but red isn’t. Overly shiny or sequined red perhaps, but not just red.

    A few RTR and Nordstrom dresses I’d consider wearing around my coworkers. These aren’t all appropriate for every occaision, but depending…

    Only if I didn’t look too va-va-voom in this one. Body type will make a huge difference in how this one looks:

    Super dark, but still red:

    Both one shoulder but otherwise pretty covered. I’d only wear these if I knew other women would be in strapless or shoulder-showing dresses (as happens at a black tie event, but I think showing a shoulder is much, much more professionally appropriate than showing cleavage).

    And this one but only if I tacked the V so that it wasn’t so low cut:


  20. Miss Cellaneous :

    Stuck in moderation bc I added a bunch of links. Maybe it will get through. Until then, here’s what I said. Add “http://www.” if you want to follow the links.

    Why is red in a tie considered a “power color” on a man but red in a dress considered too showy on a woman?

    Red dresses are not categorically inappropriate. Neon probably is, but red isn’t. Overly shiny or sequined red perhaps, but not just red.

    A few RTR and Nordstrom dresses I’d consider wearing around my coworkers. These aren’t all appropriate for every occaision, but depending…

    Only if I didn’t look too va-va-voom in this one. Body type will make a huge difference in how this one looks:

    Super dark, but still red:

    Both one shoulder but otherwise pretty covered. I’d only wear these if I knew other women would be in strapless or shoulder-showing dresses (as happens at a black tie event, but I think showing a shoulder is much, much more professionally appropriate than showing cleavage).

    And this one but only if I tacked the V so that it wasn’t so low cut:


  21. Yes. You can wear red.

    The person who rocked a bright blue dress to a black tie event last year and got loads of compliments for it.

  22. Long time reader. First time poster! What about wearing a long sleeve just- above-the-knee sequin dress to a charity black tie event where clients will be present? Something like this.

    • If it hit me like it hits the model, I personally wouldn’t wear it. IMO, too short to be worn near business colleagues. Also potentially too sparkly. I don’t think I’d do all over sequins, and would instead go for ridiculous costume jewelry.

    • Just went to a charity event for young professionals over the weekend. This seemed to be the most popular dress choice. Just don’t go too short and it should be fine.

    • From experience: sequined dresses can be very scratchy. I’d try for a layer between my skin and the dress (e..g, spanx).

    • FWIW, that is a cocktail dress, not black tie formal gown. Probably fine for a younger crowd, maybe not for a more traditional group. I wouldn’t wear it to, e.g. the Opera’s Gala, but it would probably be ok for about a million other charity events.

  23. FYI, if you are concerned with “traditional etiquette” in attending a professional (or otherwise) black tie event, you should be wearing a long dress. How daring/showy you go with it is where the professional vs. otherwise determination comes in. The only exception to wearing a long dress to a black tie event is if the event is during the day (before 5:00); then a more formal and knee length style cocktail dress is appropriate.

  24. I’m 99% sure the only time “black tie” means black dress is at a black and while ball. And even then I’ve seen gray. I think you can wear whatever gown makes you look and feel gorgeous and strong, as long as it’s floor length.

  25. A bit late to comment, but I think that minimalistic look is most professional. Plain dress in solid colour, make-up and accessories kept into minimum. In terms of designers think about Tom Ford (remember Gweneth?), Victoria Beckham or Roland Mouret. Such dress, although can be a bit boring, makes a true power statement. Of course, everything depends on body shape, so the more feminine and model-like silhoutte, the more conservative the dress (unfortunatelly).

  26. An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who was conducting a little research on this. And he actually ordered me breakfast because I discovered it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this issue here on your internet site.

  27. What about wearing a red dress to a black tie wedding?


    I know this is an old thread, but I feel I must comment for anyone who may reference it. “Black Tie” does NOT mean you must wear a black dress!!! It is merely the description of the level of formality for the gentlemen. Any sophisticated color will do — leave the neon for prom-queens and pageant contestants. Here is a guideline for women:

    WHITE TIE: This is the most formal. You generally will not see this outside of State Dinners, very formal Charity Balls, or very, very formal large weddings. Gentlemen must wear White Tie, meaning a black tailcoat, black trousers, white pique tie, shirt, and vest. No exceptions. (This is what the gentlemen wear for dinner on the show “Downton Abbey”) LADIES: Ladies should wear a formal, full-length gown… this is your night to break out your finest jewelry too! A cocktail dress will be too casual.

    BLACK TIE: This is one step down from White Tie. Gentlemen wear a tuxedo. They have a bit more freedom here as to color, tie-style, etc., depending upon the tone of the event. A younger, more fun crowd, do a colored bowtie or a long “European” tie (think of the guys who attend the Oscars), if it is a work event, you can never go wrong with black tux, white tuxedo shirt, black bow tie. (Hey, it works for James Bond!) LADIES: You have more leeway too! You are invited to wear a long evening gown, or you may choose a very formal cocktail dress. Fabulous accessories are a must. If you are going for a cocktail dress, your go-to LBD may not be formal enough. Think embellishment, even if subtle. There have been some gorgeous lace dresses recently that would be perfect paired with your most fabulous stilettos and formal jewelry. Leeway does not make the choice easy, so never hesitate to contact someone in the know (a friend who has attended the event before, an event organizer, etc.) and ask them.

    BLACK TIE OPTIONAL: Gentlemen are invited to wear their tuxedos, or they may wear a formal, dark suit. Black/grey/navy. Keep the accessories elegant (tie, pocket square, cufflinks). LADIES: You may wear a simple long gown or a fabulous cocktail dress. You can be a bit more playful and creative here. Same advice for asking someone in the know!

    COCKTAIL ATTIRE: Men in dark suits. LADIES: this is what the cocktail dress was made for. No long gowns tonight! Keep it dressy and chic. A sedate skirt and top will not be dressy enough. It should feel a bit special.

    Remember two bits of advice from Coco Chanel:

    “Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.”

    “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”