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Style Rules

How To Wear... Black Tie

Pinko; Alessandra Rich; Alexander McQueen

Thud! That’s the sound of a 485gsm woven stock invitation landing on the doormat. Elaborate calligraphy on a luxurious card edged in shiny gold foil means only one thing: formal attire. Or does it?

We live in a stylish new world where women wear jeans to cocktail parties and cocktail dresses to lunch. So when it comes to high-octane evening events, are 'black-tie rules' passé? Let’s face the final frontier of event dressing together: here’s how to decode those loaded invitations...


Eighties Cocktail

Deciphering black-tie dress codes can be as fraught with uncertainty as a black run at Klosters. Fear not, I’ve checked Debrett’s and a shorter-length cocktail dress worn below the knee is perfectly fine (as long as it’s made from formal fabric, like silk or velvet). Cocktail dresses are distinctly '80s this season, so prepare to wear shoulder pads. Bear with me, it’s not as awful as it sounds. Shoulder pads provide structure to slouchy posture and, proportionally, I swear this dress makes my waist look smaller. If you opt for a shorter dress, go large in the shoe department. Avoid too much '80s-inspired eye glitz or lipstick and wear hair loose to keep things modern.

Pinko; Alessandra Rich; Alexander McQueen

Pinko jacket and trousers; Alessandra Rich earrings; Manolo Blahnik shoes; Alexander McQueen bag

Sexy Suiting

So do you have to wear black to a black-tie event? Apparently not. So what about white? I dare you to wear a white tux – just imagine how differently dressed you’ll be to every other woman in the room. When it comes to eveningwear, the new-season double-breasted trouser suit will ensure you’re confidence personified, especially at a dress-heavy event. While white is truly standout, I’d also wear a black tuxedo to a black-tie event. Always keep shoes simple (points or open-toe stilettos work best), but go all out with big, bold jewellery and experiment with shocking-red lipstick. As for what to wear underneath? Your best bra.

Goddess Gowns

At some lavish occasions only a long gown will do. Just a word of warning: not black. I tried it once and blended into the background so much that a fellow guest thought I was a waitress and asked me for a drink. Never again. It’s sequins all the way for me from now on – and there’s no better master of glitz than Alice Temperley. With an Art Deco feel, Temperley London sequins make a huge style statement and are perfectly matched for a vintage-vibe silhouette. For an ultra-modern statement, wear a twinkling all-in-one jumpsuit to a swanky evening event. Simply add a smudge of glitter across the eyelids and a box clutch by Edie Parker.