What to Wear to a Formal Black Tie Fall Wedding or Event
If you have a formal black tie wedding to attend this fall or winter, this post is full of ideas for what to wear!
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Image credits and shopping sources: 1. Mac Duggal One Shoulder Metallic Draped Gown from Anthropologie 2. Romance in the Making Floral Velvet Gown from Lulus 3. Anora Tiered Ruffled Maxi Dress from Astr the Label 4. Chelsea Gown from Rent the Runway
If our own experience tells us anything, it's that black-tie weddings are fun opportunities to get a little glamorous. But, if you're not used to donning tuxes and evening gowns, figuring out what to wear can seem a bit daunting. This post is here to help! (And if you're looking for semi-formal styles, check out this earlier fall wedding attire post.)
Top Picks for Formal Dresses to Wear to a Fall Wedding
These are our latest picks for black tie-worthy dresses that perfectly encompass fall formal style. We've updated these dress picks for the 2023 fall wedding season.
Women's Black Tie Attire for a Fall Wedding
For women, a formal black-tie event is a chance to break out the finery, but again there are various levels of appropriate finery even within a black-tie designation.
To narrow in on the best choice for attire, use input from the invitation, location, climate, couple, your own personal style, and what other guests are wearing as a guide.
Some black tie weddings are traditional, staid affairs where black, navy and other dark colors rule for dresses. At other more celebratory black tie weddings, couples may want their female guests to be in very festive and flashy formal attire. This is a chance to wear evening gowns that look straight from the red carpet with lots of color, sparkle and embellishment on display.
In general, a classic full-length evening gown or, in some cases, a dressy cocktail-length dress, with fairly subtle deep or appealing color, classic tailoring, and a beautiful bit of detail, is the perfect thing to wear.
Fall Black Tie Optional Attire
If the crowd is a little more fashion-forward, or the invite is black tie optional, one might choose a modern dressy maxi dress style with blouson styling, asymmetrical details, or a bit of a bold print.
While we love a bit of sequin, sparkle, and rich fabric in black tie attire, our only caution (and personal preference) is not to be too ostentatious with the sparkle (unless the couple or crowd you'll be celebrating with tends to prefer this style of dressing).
A good rule of thumb is to make sure the gown has only one stand-out feature (i.e. sequins) but in a subtle color, or a figure-flattering silhouette, balanced by modest details everywhere else. As always, even though we don't necessarily believe that anyone can truly upstage the couple on their wedding day simply with their clothing, it just generally seems to be good manners to select a gown that will not be such a showstopper that you could in some way outdo the bride and bridal party. In other words, if you choose gold or silver sequined make sure the dress doesn't cross into something that might be within the prom dress, bridesmaid dress, or bridal gown realm.
Tip: If you want a black tie dress without paying too much, read this post on affordable formal gowns!
Men's Black Tie Attire for a Fall Wedding
Tuxedo Jacket: Ready Made Regent Fit Tuxedo Jacket from Brooks Brothers // Tuxedo Pants: Regent Tuxedo Trousers from Brooks Brothers // Shirt: Ten Pleat Tennis Collar Tuxedo Shirt // Bow Tie: Silk Butterfly Bow Tie // Silk Socks and Pocket Square: Irish Linen Square Handkerchief // Cufflinks: Cuff Link And Stud Set by David Donahue //Shoes: Black Patent Lace Up Dress Shoes from Brooks Brothers // Suspenders: Formal Braces from Brooks Brothers
Fall Formal Weddings for Male Guests
For male guests, a black tuxedo, white shirt, black dress shoes, and a dark bow tie are standard black tie attire. As the name suggests, usually an actual solid black bow tie is preferred, but for more festive black tie events, a bow tie with a color or pattern is tolerated and even encouraged.
The complete tuxedo usually has some other accouterments: either a cummerbund or vest, but modern stylists say it's ok to forgo those--just suspenders are enough. You'll also want to consider a donning pocket square, cuff links, and button studs if the shirt requires them.
While black tie for men is fairly straightforward, there are some variations. For instance: a white dinner jacket is considered a very elegant formal choice in the summer or for warm climates, but generally, this should be reserved for daytime spring or summer black tie events.
Formal military uniforms or formal cultural attire also works for some black-tie occasions, but we're not sure of all of the rules there. We might research that more in the future, but for now, we're going to assume that if you own a particular uniform, you'll know best when to wear it!
A tailored black suit might also pass muster at some more modern black-tie events, as would a tuxedo-style suit worn with a 'normal' or skinny black tie. Let the formality of the event, the location, and style of the couple and family themselves, guide you on the level of traditional black tie style you should try to abide by.
Tip: If you choose not to rent; here are our current picks for tuxedos for black-tie weddings! Including some affordable choices!
The Best Dress Colors for Fall Black Tie Weddings
If you're not attending a black tie wedding, but have a gala, ball, or other formal event, feel free to break out the true ball gowns, and brighter colors, since a little more glamour is usually welcomed.
More Tips for Fall Formal Style
If you'll be heading to a church wedding and wearing a strapless gown, you may wish to bring a wrap, formal jacket, or overlay of some sort to cover your shoulders, as some houses of worship require modesty of this sort.
Are you feeling suitably ready to get fancy this fall wedding season? We hope so! If you're planning a fall or winter black tie wedding, and want to give your guests a hint about what to wear, link to this page on your wedding website, or share this on Facebook.
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This article was originally published on September 24, 2014 and updated most recently on September 17, 2023.
This graphic was included in the original article for formal fall wedding guest dresses. These dresses are now likely to be out of stock or sold out, but we keep the reference here just in case. Many of the dresses below are rentals from Rent the Runway. They still carry a wonderful selection of formal gowns!
Top: 1. Sachi Open Back Maxi Gown from Alice + Olivia at Shopbop 2. Nicole Miller "Midnight Sequin Stars' Gown at Rent the Runway 3. Milly 'Gold Metallica Pleat Gown' from Rent the Runway 4. Halston Heritage Twist Front Gown at Shopbop