What does Black Tie Optional Mean?
October 6, 2007 11:58 AM   Subscribe

What is acceptable dress for a black tie optional event?

I've looked all over the place online and askmefi but haven't found anything very specific. I know a lot of people will be wearing a tuxedo, but I neither own one nor have the desire to rent one. Some places say that wearing a "dark suit" is acceptable, but what does that mean? Will I be ok in a standard dark blue suite resembling this one with matching pants, and a shirt+tie?
posted by Autarky to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The darker the suit color, the better. Black, dark gray, really really dark navy. Your shirt/tie should not be flamboyant or too colorful.

My husband once attended a black-tie optional event and went the "optional" route. He was one of maybe five men (out of a few hundred) not in a tuxedo. He now owns one. Just FYI.
posted by cooker girl at 12:05 PM on October 6, 2007

According to the Dress Code Guide, "if you prefer not to dress so formally, a dark lounge suit will be sufficient."
posted by TrashyRambo at 12:28 PM on October 6, 2007

Generally speaking, acceptable dress for a black tie optional event is black tie. Sorry, but it is true.
posted by Justinian at 12:34 PM on October 6, 2007

You can check thrift stores. Tuxedo fashion hasn't changed that much (if you ignore the 70s).
posted by Eringatang at 12:41 PM on October 6, 2007

"Black tie optional" is passive agressive. It means, "If you don't think we are worth going to the trouble of wearing a tux, we won't kick you out, but are we really asking too much that you dress up nicely for once?"

Bite the bullet and rent a tux to be safe.
posted by dzot at 12:52 PM on October 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I should add, not only do I not want to rent a tux, I am incapable of renting a tux as I am probably 30 miles from the nearest place where I could rent one, and I'm a broke college student, and I don't have a car. I may just skip the event, as it's not really a big deal, or I may just go in my suit and ignore the looks people give me. I dunno.
posted by Autarky at 12:56 PM on October 6, 2007

If you live out in the country-and the event is similarly situated-the optional might be more optional than if you were in a big city.

Just sayin'.
posted by konolia at 1:02 PM on October 6, 2007

From DressCodeGuide.com:
If the invitation requests 'Black Tie Optional', then this means exactly that.

If you feel more comfortable in black tie or wish to convey your respect to your hosts or fellow guests, wear Black Tie. If you prefer not to dress so formally, a dark lounge suit will be sufficient.

Ladies also get a free choice of evening wear. Anything from Evening Gown to Cocktail dress would be more than suitable. Dressy separates could also be concidered.

Obviously some guests will be wearing Black Tie, so all clothing should be of the highest quality.
posted by k1ng at 1:27 PM on October 6, 2007

Seconding konolia. College-relatedness may matter, too -- there were a lot of "black tie optional" events at my college that were really "please, for the love of God, don't wear shorts."

That being said, I suspect there's someplace in town that rents tuxedos. It's a classic sideline for a small-town dry cleaner, shoe shop, or tailor, so it might be worth asking around, just to see if the option's there.
posted by backupjesus at 1:30 PM on October 6, 2007

Oops. I missed TrashyRambo's comment. I even stressed the same sentence :/
posted by k1ng at 1:30 PM on October 6, 2007

Best answer: Do you know anyone else who is going to the event? Can you ask them whether they are going in a tux or a suit? (The more you ask the better.) The answers you get will help alleviate your concerns. You might even find someone who is going into town to get a tuxedo for the event and is willing to give you a ride.

As to whether you should bother to pay for a tux (you should be able to get the whole thing, including shoes, for less than $100), I think it depends on who invited you. If it's a professor/mentor who invited you, then you should go (and go in a tux) these kinds of moments (in which you can make a great impression on important people) don't come along all that often.
posted by oddman at 1:31 PM on October 6, 2007

I would have said get thee a tux, but broke-college-student-without-a-car is the magic trump card here. Wear your darkest suit and be as tidy and well groomed as possible. Unless this is some kind of hyper-elite skull-and-bones type affair, I'd expect everyone to cut the impecunious college student some slack and just appreciate that he came. If this is a collegiate event, I doubt you'll be the only one.
posted by mumkin at 2:35 PM on October 6, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers all. I'll try to guage what people are wearing and either skip it and do homework or just wear a suit. Now to figure out how to mark a question as solved...
posted by Autarky at 2:47 PM on October 6, 2007

that suit will be fine. if the event is in honor of people you are very close to, they'll just be glad you're there. if you don't know them well, nobody will be offended.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:09 PM on October 6, 2007

Best answer: Yes, wear that suit. A lot of people like to have the opportunity to really dress it up, but don't care if everybody does not follow along (i.e. east coast bar mitzvahs). Wear a nice suit, dark, and everything is fine. You will likely have lots of company, especially if you are young. Most of us old farts own our own tuxedos. As long as the waist stays under control it is cheaper than renting in the long run given all the black tie optional events, charity dinners, black tie not so optional etc.
posted by caddis at 5:49 PM on October 6, 2007

Best answer: in lieu of a tux, or a two-piece suit....wear your dark, snappy suit, with a white shirt, and a black tie or dark tie BUT wear a dark vest as well

while three piece suits seem to be less common these days, they can almost pass for some tuxes i've seen

in fact, i recently rented a nice tux for a pretty fancy wedding, and i'll be damned but it looked like a three piece suit, and worked just fine!

And I second the thrift store idea, while i've never seen a tux of any sort at a thrift store, there are TONS of jackets and vests, maybe a few of which will fit and be in style. Pants are tougher, better to buy new, but you should be able to get outfitted with what you have an a stop by the thrift store

at the wedding, they went with something like this

which as you can see practically looks like a three piece suit

my two cents, but remember, it's always better to be too formal - other people feel stupid if that is the case, but if you're not formal enough, then you feel stupid!
posted by Salvatorparadise at 7:01 PM on October 6, 2007

Best answer: This is your mother speaking. Black tie optional means just that. The people at the event who are in violation of etiquette are not the ones in the tasteful dark suits. The ones offending polite society are the snarks who are looking down their noses at (or worse yet commenting on) the people that chose not to wear black tie. You do not need to rationalize or make excuses or apologize. Clearly whoever wrote the invitation understood that black tie may be out of reach for some guests.

Wear the nicest dark suit and tie you can get your hands on. If you are at least 20, please invest in a good quality tailored suit in black or deep midnight blue (very classy, by the way). You're going to need it. Your mother will faint with joy if you ask her to help you fund it. Trust me.
posted by nax at 7:54 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just returned home an hour ago from such an event. I was wearing a dark charcoal suit, a dark red plaid Izod tie, and a blue and white pinstriped button-down shirt, and I was fine (and comfortable).

This was a wedding reception at a rather ritzy place in an affluent neighborhood of Charlottesville, Virginia, for what that's worth. Very few people actually took up the offer to weat their tuxedos.
posted by 4ster at 8:00 PM on October 6, 2007

er, wear their tuxedos.

(and they looked fabulous)
posted by 4ster at 8:01 PM on October 6, 2007

Best answer: FYI, to mark the question as solved, pick a best answer (links beside each answer) and/or add a tag 'resolved' to the question.
posted by jacalata at 8:21 PM on October 6, 2007

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