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Black Tie Dress Code

Morning/Day For Her

(UK and Commonwealth)
     

In General

Daytime Dress
Evening Dresses are not normally worn before 6pm. For ladies, daytime dress for a semi-formal event would normally be Cocktail Dress, and then a change into Evening Dress for any reception in the evening.
Cocktail Dress
A short gown.

Also known as a 'Dancing Costume' or a 'Cocktail Gown'.

Ranging in length from just above the knee to about two inches above the ankle (Tea length), however the longer length is appropriate to semi-formal wear.

Popular materials include silk, satin and chiffon.

Less elaborate dresses are most appropriate for semi-formal wear.

Headwear

Hat
Hats are conventional at weddings and outside summer events such as horse racing.

Coordinate with your outfit.

Hats tend to be modest at weddings, but extravagent at the races.

Top

Camisole
Lace. To complement a Ball Skirt.
Sweater
Cashmere. To complement a Ball Skirt.
Dressy Top
To complement a Ball Skirt.

Bottom

Ball Skirt
Full long skirt as an alternative to a gown.
A relatively recent innovation.

Footwear

Formal Shoes
To suit your gown or skirt.
Sandals
To suit your gown or skirt.

Coat

Chesterfield Coat
The ideal accompaniment to Semi-Formal wear.
Luxury Coat
If weather permits.

Accessories

Jewelry
As much as you feel is appropriate.

Show off your best.

Alternatives

Scottish Dress
A White Gown with a tartan sash.

Alternatively a long kilted skirt with a jacket.

The tarten of the lady or her companion can be used for the skirt or sash, or a 'district' tarten approved for general use can be used.
Traditional Dress
Traditional dress is always appropriate for semi-formal events.

History

Formal and Semi-Formal
In high society, White Tie and Ball Gowns was the standard formal form of dress for social gatherings. It shows the wealth of the upper classes and their familiarity of etiquette, and is still expected at the very highest class of event.

However, such elaborate presentation is not very practical for frequent usage, and so the semi-formal dress code Black Tie, consisting of Dinner Jackets and Evening Dress or even the shorter Cocktail Dress was established, for dining in a sophisticated manner, without the impracticalities and lavishness of full formal dress. Overtime, this has become the more standard form of dress for most formal events.