Black Tie Invited

librarymom03September 9, 2005

Last month I went to a lovely wedding in downtown chicago.

The invitation read "black tie invited". After googling the net and two phone calls, I was told it meant "optional".

WRONG. My DH wore a Brooks Brothers Suit, white shirt and a nice tie. I wore a black crepe Skirt suit and Rhinestone jewelry.

Out of 200 people, we were 2/20 who were under dressed.

The women were wearing ballgowns and the men were wearing tuxes.

There's really no one to be mad at, but I think it's time to do away with the words "optional" and "invited".

For those who don't own and rarely wear formal attire, (like us) a white shirt and black bowtie for men and a long skirt for women is fine.

My unsolicited 2 cents!

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I agree. Unless the bride and groom travel in circles where people own tuxes, it is inconsiderate to expect their guests to go out and rent or buy one just for that occasion. As a protest, maybe your husband could have worn the ballgown and you could have worn the tux. If it's any consolation, its always considered better to be underdressed than overdressed.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2005 at 12:40PM
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"Black tie invited or optional" always means a long dress for the ladies, though the men can sometimes get by with a dark suit.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2005 at 1:02PM
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Whenever I see "black tie" on any kind of invitation, not just for weddings I immediately think formal wear. Meaning my best gown or long formal skirt and very dressy top. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   September 9, 2005 at 1:57PM
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According to Miss Manners, a dark business suit is "correct" even if the invitation says simply "black tie." But that is just the "rule" -- it doesn't do you any good if you feel underdressed.

I always try to guess (or I ask) what the hostess is envisioning. Is her dream of a very fancy event? Then I will dress for that. She's usually the one who cares most anyway, and hosts treasure guests who help make the party happen the way they dreamed, don't you think? And it is a sign that you are taking their event seriously if you bother to dress for the occasion (whether that means dressy clothes, a costume, or whatever they seem to want). We just got another invitation that said "Dress down!" Somehow I didn't like that -- what would be wrong with "Casual"? I can't put my finger on it, but I felt kind of bossed by that, and my daughter did, too. Or maybe it felt sort of like the hosts were criticizing or judging people who have fancy parties? I don't know, but somehow it hit us funny.

Big coincidence: I was just about to write that just this morning, someone called me to ask whether she should write "dressy" or "black tie optional" or something on her invitations. I told her that although I think people really do appreciate guidance so as not to feel self-conscious, I had just received an invitation (not the "dress down!" one) that didn't say anything about dress code, but the formality level of the invitation and the time and location of the event (Sat. night at a nice country club) made it clear that it is dressy but not black tie. Well, I happen to be sitting in a cafe right now, and just now the hostess who sent that invitation walked by! So I asked her, and she confirmed: very dressy but not black tie. Just before I typed THIS paragraph!

I guess what it comes down to is that usually people in a community understand what dress is expected -- it has more to do with custom than with what the same words might mean somewhere else. But it's a problem when you are from a different community; you don't know the customs. So in that case, I would call the hosts and try to get a sense of what they are envisioning.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 12:21PM
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I come from the same community! I've attended several other social events with the "black tie optional". Less than Half
of the guests were in black tie and almost none of the women in full length formal wear.

My point - Black Tie Invited is the same as Black Tie Required!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 5:58PM
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I understand Black tie Optional and Black tie Invited are to mean the same thing - But I can't understand who ever came up with the latter. to me it just doen't sound gracious. "Black tie Optional" would say to one, some of us will have formal atire, i.e. tux/gown but please come dressed to your comfort level of formal. "Black tie Invited" would say to me, We are dressing formal and you're invited if you wish to come in tux/gown.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 8:40AM
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And to make it even more complicated: at least in my community, "black tie" doesn't always mean long dresses for women (probably especially if it says "black tie optional," and please don't ask me why!) Very dressy shorter dresses/skirts or pants outfits show up, too. (A lot depends upon the year -- fashions change.) But when else would you wear those dresses and pants outfits, especially the ones with evening fabrics and trims? The dressiest dress I have right now is about "tea length," but it is made of taffeta, low cut, and has a full skirt with crinolines. I recently wore it to a black tie event where most of the women wore long, and I felt just fine -- in fact, I think I'd worry I'd feel overdressed for non-black tie. But I'm planning on wearing it (assuming it survives its current trip to the cleaners) to that party where the hosts didn't put any dress info on the invitation -- but when I ran into her she said "very dressy -- I'm wearing a long gown." My guess is that there will be a wider range of outfits than if she'd put something on the invitation. But it will all be fine.

librarymom, I'm sure you looked great. In fact, I always thing that the slightly underdressed people look very "classy"! :-)

    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 1:40PM
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gellchom, you are right, I shouldn't have used the word "gown". I too believe slightly underdressed is classy. But I still don't like the wording "Black tie Invited". Still sounds to me like, "stay home if you don't intend to dress formally.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 6:16PM
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