Skip to next element

What You Need to Know About Black Tie Optional

Black tie is one of the most common dress codes for fancy parties, ceremonies, or weddings. Even still, only some people know what to wear at a black-tie event. Dress codes can be confusing, especially if it’s your first time attending an event that requires one. If you have a lot of questions about what it means, you aren’t alone

To add to the confusion, guests may see “black tie optional” on their invitations. What does black-tie optional mean? Find out in this article as we help you navigate black tie optional attire. 

What Exactly is Black Tie Optional?

If you’re familiar with the black tie dress code, you know that it calls for specific components, such as a classic black tuxedo, black tie or bowtie, and a white dress shirt. It’s pretty formal, and although it can be a lot of fun to get dressed up in your best attire, not everyone wants to spend the money to rent or buy a tuxedo. 

Black tie optional gives guests more freedom, allowing them to wear what they may already have in their closet. It’s still considerably formal, but it isn’t as specific as black tie attire. For example, guests can swap their tuxedo for a dark suit and black tie for one in a dark solid color. 

The great thing about the black tie optional dress code is that you can dress your best while having the flexibility to change certain aspects according to your taste or budget. 

What to Wear for a Black Tie Optional Event

Black tie optional events are invitations to dress according to black tie if you can. Although it isn’t a requirement, we encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to wear your finest attire. If you are unable to follow the black tie optional event, don’t stress. The “optional” is on the invitation for a reason and no one will bat an eye as long as you keep your outfit formal. 

Below you’ll find the components of a classic black tie outfit and what is considered acceptable in the black tie optional dress code. 

Dark Tux or Suit

Black tie events call for a tuxedo, usually black or navy blue. Traditionally, the dinner jacket has a shawl or peak lapel but you can go with the less formal notch lapel if you prefer. As for materials, you can opt for silk, wool, or even a velvet tuxedo, depending on the weather and your preferences. 

If you don’t have a black tuxedo, a black suit will be just fine. If possible, choose a double-breasted suit jacket with pleated pants or a three-piece suit. These are slightly more formal options. 

White Dress Shirt

When you wear black tie apparel, your tuxedo shirt should be white and pleated with winged collars. There should also be holes in the sleeves for your cufflinks. 

Even if you wear a suit, you should avoid any other color dress shirt than white at a black tie optional event. Light blue is the next best thing, but pastels and dark-colored dress shirts are not acceptable with the formal dress code, even if you’re going to a summer wedding. 

Dark Tie or Bowtie

As the name suggests, traditional black tie events call for black bow ties. Neckties are also appropriate, and if it’s a black tie optional dress code, you can wear other dark colors. Burgundy, navy blue, or forest green are good alternatives. Although white ties are formal, they are actually too dressy for black tie events and should also be avoided.  


Black patent leather shoes are always the best choice at formal events. If you have loafers or oxford dress shoes, these will do just fine. If not, it’s a great time to add a pair to your wardrobe! 


If you’re wearing a tuxedo, you’ll want to keep your accessories to a minimum, especially if you will be wearing a cummerbund or a waistcoat. Top off your look with simple stud cufflinks, a nice watch, and a white pocket square. 

For black-tie optional attire, you can use a tie bar, a simple boutonniere, a lapel pin, or cufflinks. Try not to overdo it, and avoid casual accessories like a smartwatch.  

Top Tips for Wowing Guests with Your Black Tie Optional Attire

Now you know what to wear at a black tie optional event, so let’s talk about styling your formalwear! If you really want to look your best, you’ll need to avoid any faux pas and combine elements to create a put-together outfit. 

Ask Your Host

If you’re feeling unsure about your attire, the best thing you can do is ask your host. Before you purchase your ensemble, send them a photo and have them verify whether it meets their expectations. They’ll let you know if it’s up to par with the level of formality required. 

This is especially a good idea if you are a formal wedding guest since the bride and groom may reserve specific colors for their wedding party. If you want to avoid any embarrassment or confusion, you can learn more about wedding dress codes here

Don’t Be Afraid of Overdressing

The thing about black-tie events is that you can’t really overdress. As long as you avoid the white tie dress code, feel free to dress as fancy as you’d like. Your hosts will appreciate the effort you put into your attire, and you won’t feel out of place. 

On the other hand, if you go for a more casual outfit, you may end up being the only guest who isn’t wearing black tie formal attire. This may cause you to feel out of place for the wrong reasons. So, consider black tie optional wedding attire as an invitation to wear the best outfit you can pull together. 

Talk to Other Guests

If you still aren’t sure what to wear, ask other guests what they are planning on wearing. At the very least, you won’t have to wonder if you’ll be the only one wearing a tuxedo. 

Stick to the Classics

One of the great things about the black-tie wardrobe is that you aren’t left guessing what not to wear. If you stick to the guidelines, you’ll avoid the negative attention that comes with breaking the dress code. Even at a black tie optional event, which gives guests a little more leeway, it’s best to stick to black and white so you don’t stand out too much. 

Match Your Metals

One final tip that can help you look your best is to match your metals. If you wear silver cufflinks and a silver tie bar, pair them with a silver watch. This gives your outfit a polished look and keeps your accessories from clashing.

Dress to the Nines at Your Next Event with PRIME Neckwear

We hope you have a better understanding of the black tie optional dress code after reading this brief guide. Remember to refer back to this article as you get your outfit together or share it with other guests to help them plan accordingly. 

At PRIME Neckwear, we offer the best quality silk ties and bowties in a variety of dark colors, including black. In addition, you’ll find accessories to wear with your tuxedo or suit, no matter how formal or casual you plan on dressing. Browse them today! 

Share on:

Leave a comment

How To Guides
How To Guides

Practice makes perfect. Learn how to tie a tie or bow tie by following our simple video guides.

see the guides
Free Shipping, Easy Returns & Exchanges
Free Shipping, Easy Returns & Exchanges

We offer FREE First Class Shipping for all US orders $50+ & free, easy 30-day returns and 60-day exchanges.

Best In Class Customer Service
Best In Class Customer Service

Need help? Contact us. We will do whatever it takes to make sure you are completely satisfied!