Attire & Accessories Forum

Black tie optional?

My FI was invited to a gala at his med school next month and the invitation says black tie optional. I am clueless here.  I know the rules and everything for black tie optional events but I am not really sure what I should do in this scenario.  Should I opt for a short dress since I don't go to the school and would just be a guest? That is what I am leaning towards but since it is a longer event with dinner I feel like a long dress may be more appropriate.  I don't know anyone else who is going to this so I can't ask any "what are you wearing" questions. It is at a very nice hotel with cocktails and dinner. That is really all I know and I am not sure what the appropriate course of action is here.  Help is much appreciated. 

Re: Black tie optional?

  • And this is why we tell brides not to put something so ludicrous as black tie optional on their invite, because as you are witnessing, it is confusing as hell.

    If I were you I would wear a nice cocktail dress and your FI can either spend money on renting a tux or just wear a nice dark suit that he already owns.

  • Agreed with PP. Black tie optional is all sorts of confusing. I would say go with a nice cocktail dress and FI can wear a dark suit. I went to a gala that was black tie optional two years in a row and I saw a range from short cocktail dresses to full length gowns. Mostly it was the VIPs (or VIWs?) wearing gowns and the rest were in cocktail dress. I saw very few men in tuxes. Most were in dark suits.

  • There is no such thing as "black tie optional".  An event is either black tie or it is not.  This is to prevent people from feeling uncomfortable because they are not dressed correctly.
  • what is your FI wearing?  If he wants to wear a tux then  I would say you should wear a formal long dress.  But since it is not officially "black tie" you could get away with a nice short dress (but make it somewhat fancy with nice high heels, etc) and FI could wear a nice suit.  An old job I had always had a holiday gala, and it was "black tie optional" and held at a nice hotel with hosted cocktails, dinner, dancing, etc.  I remember some guys being in a tux, but a lot were just in a very nice (black) suit.  All the girls wore long dresses.  If you are totally not sure, have FI ask his colleagues what they are wearing, and go from there.  Formal today is so much different than years ago, that I would think you could easily get away with a formal, but shorter dress and be OK.


  • I hate black tie optional. Hate hate hate it. H's work has a black tie optional event this year. Some of H's coworkers are getting tuxes but H flat out said that he's not renting a tux. He's wearing a black suit and I'm wearing a cocktail dress. If your FI is wearing a tux, go with a gown. If he's wearing a suit, go with a fancy cocktail dress.
  • I've always seen "black tie optional" to be interpreted as "Just make sure to be really dressy". If you're going to wear a short cocktail dress, make sure it's a very dressy one, and wear dressy shoes, purse etc. I'd be surprised if anyone rented a tux--guys wearing tuxes will be the guys that own tuxes. And any women wearing a long gown will be just because they have it, and wanted an excuse to wear it. 
  • Fran1985 Fran1985 member
    First Anniversary First Comment 5 Love Its Name Dropper
    edited February 2014
    Almost everyone will be in a dressy cocktail dress and suit. In my experience at these galas only about 10% of the ladies are in long dresses. So if you have one and want to wear one go for it, but don't go out and get one just for this.

    ETA: you should be able to google the event or do a search on the school's website for pictures, they usually have a photographer there capturing images. That might give you a good idea of what people are wearing.

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