Jacquemus Bridal Wedding Line
Image Courtesy of Jacquemus
May 10, 2024

The Territorie’s Guide To Black Tie Wedding Guest Attire

Your go-to guide for nailing dressing for a black tie wedding.

We love any excuse to dress up — so, naturally, we adore black-tie weddings. While dress codes can be confusing, old-fashioned, or restrictive, they can also act as creative boundaries that let our style shine through. Getting playful with our outfits and bending the rules a little can lead to outfits we never would have otherwise worn, revealing key pillars of our personal style. While the summer wedding season revs up, let us guide you through adhering to black tie wedding guest dress codes while having fun and remaining true to yourself. 

The simplest way to understand a black-tie dress code: for men and masculine-presenting folks, this usually translates into a tuxedo and bowtie; for women and female-presenting people, it’s evening wear, meaning floor-length gowns (but you can also get away with wearing certain cocktail dresses). A good rule of thumb is no sundresses. If it’s evening-appropriate, it’s probably a good option for black-tie. You should remember that accessories play a huge role in completing a look — but more on this later.

Image Courtesy of Jacquemus

Foolproof Black Tie Wedding Guest Attire

While an occasion like a black-tie wedding is a great opportunity to play with your style, there is no reason to stray too far from your own style ethos. Think of ideal evening wear as you, but glimmery (sometimes literally, but not always). With this in mind, there’s a wide range of possibilities to consider when selecting the perfect outfit. 


A gown is the obvious first choice, and although finding the perfect one is difficult, once you have it, you’ll only need to worry about accessorizing. Even though shopping in today’s world may seem overwhelming thanks to the overload of microtrends, odds are you will be able to find something that fits your overall aesthetic.

If you’re going for a minimalist look, a simple silhouette in a neutral color will make you happiest. However, remember that the magic is in the details. A satin texture and an interesting strap can ensure you look — and feel! — special.

Image Courtesy of Instagram/ Lori Harvey

Perhaps you want a romantic, bombshell look. Pearl detailings, ruffles, florals, and bows are all elements that make a gown romantic. An open back always adds interesting, old-Hollywood glam to a look.

If you’re looking for something more edgy, consider wearing metallics or focusing on an interesting neckline or silhouette. Asymmetric designs, cutouts, and distinguished textures are key elements that add a kick to your dress. A flowy gown in a bright color, like orange, can have the precise amount of drama you’re looking to add. A combination of an interesting texture and relative shapelessness, too, can be a great way to inject some edginess into evening wear.

Keep in mind that these adjectives are devoid of meaning until you assign them some — what’s most important is that you feel comfortable and stylish, instead of forcing yourself to conform to an arbitrary style personality. The possibilities are endless when having fun with gowns and experimenting with your style.

Cocktail Dresses

The wonderful thing about black-tie is that while gowns are more typical, some cocktail dresses can also work. The key here is knowing your audience: avoid short hemlines if you feel uncomfortable or if they won’t be deemed appropriate by the wedding party. With this in mind, so, so many options can make for a wonderful black-tie outfit — such as this romantic dress or this sleek one.

Image Courtesy of Instagram/ Yara Shahidi

The advantage of opting for a cocktail dress is that it may be more versatile and easier to incorporate into your wardrobe for future events, as opposed to a gown. You may even have an appropriate dress in your closet already.

Separates and Jumpsuits

Separates and jumpsuits are also great options if you want your garments to be more versatile and unrestricted by movement. Elegantly-tailored trousers with a fun blouse can be beautiful and comfortable; A maxi skirt and a matching bodysuit can give the illusion of a gown, but you’ll likely get more wear out of it; and, somewhere between a gown and a pantsuit, jumpsuits are a great option for a more modern take on black-tie. 

Keep in mind, though, that many separates and jumpsuits err on the side of semi-formal or casual wear, so stick to neutral colors (black, preferably!) and more lavish silhouettes (like strapless), and dress up the look in glam shoes and accessories.

Image Courtesy of Jacquemus

How to Accessorize 

While high heels are expected with gowns and cocktail dresses (and can elevate other pieces, like jumpsuits or pantsuits), it’s important to consider comfort and venue when choosing footwear for black tie wedding guest attire. Don’t arrive in twelve-inch stilettos when you know you’ll walk on grass or sand. Don’t be afraid to wear flats, either — a nice metallic ballet flat can look elegant and appropriate for a black-tie affair. 

Clutches and small handbags are typically preferred for black-tie. Avoid cross-body bags and opt for a more elegant and less utilitarian look. In terms of jewelry, you can add as much as you want to make your outfit pop. Unique pieces from your jewelry box can transform an off-the-rack garment into a spectacular and memorable outfit, so don’t underestimate them. 

Where to Shop

Department Stores for Black-Tie Wedding Attire

Some of our favorites include Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Not only are there plenty of options, but you can probably find the perfect shoes or matching jewelry if you need to on a single trip. Depending on your budget, you’ll be able to find excellent, dressy options at all of these retailers, including online.

Consider Renting

Rent The Runway or other rental services can be a better alternative if you truly believe you’ll never wear this same outfit again. 

Kendall Jenner Black Tie Wedding Guest Attire
Image Courtesy of Instagram/ Kendall Jenner

Go Custom-Made

While it sounds unattainable to most of us, up-and-coming designers look for gigs like this all the time. If there’s a friend or someone who you admire that you’d like to support, consider reaching out about custom options. This way, you’ll get an incredible and unique piece that you’ll be able to treasure for decades. 

Unexpected Tips for Black-Tie Wedding Attire

Shop During Prom Season

Right now, teenagers all the world over are panicking because they need to find the perfect prom dress. This means you’ll find an exponential supply of tulle and sequins. If you have a wedding invitation sitting on your counter, take advantage of prom (or even homecoming!) frenzy and hit your favorite department store.

Buy With More Than the Occasion in Mind

If you buy a new outfit, try purchasing something you see yourself wearing again, — even if you don’t foresee any other black-tie events on your calendar. If you want to wear your outfit more than once, you will feel great on the day of. Plus, the next time you wear it, you will be grateful to your past self that you opted for a more versatile option. 

Laura Rocha Rueda

Laura Rocha-Rueda is a fashion and culture writer from Bogotá, Colombia, living in New York City. In her writing, she explores the interconnection of fashion, pop culture, and literature, and explores the topics deemed banal deeply, and the deep topics lightly. She pushes the boundaries of runway criticism by exploring the stories that collections tell her, from her own Latina, literature-obsessed background. She draws parallels between personal style and writing style and considers the public/private aspect that clothes inevitably represent in our lives. Her writing has appeared in Vestoj, HALOSCOPE, and The Inquisitive Eater among others. She collaborated with Vince for their Spring 2024 campaign, writing an essay inspired by the magical act of getting dressed in the morning and creating a new persona. She writes experimental fiction in which she explores inhabiting spaces with a bilingual brain, and how English and Spanish intertwine through her existence. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School.

Skip to content