The Dress

Black-Tie Dress Code: The Vogue Guide

Black-tie dress code dilemmas are ten-a-penny at Christmas. Even worse? The unhelpful cipher that simply serves to confuse – “evening”, “business casual”, “hipster formal”, stated in tiny italics – and gives no glimpse or hint as to what is de rigueur. The Vogue team’s Christmas party normally instructs an “elegant” dress code. But how to square that with looking fearlessly cool, too?

This year, it’s a choice between mini or maxi. The LBD is back, reimagined in sleeker and prettier iterations, often studded with crystals or swamped with sequins. Hemlines have been hiked up, in accordance with the Eighties disco style that’s having a major moment thanks to Saint Laurent – all the better to show off sheer tights and car-to-carpet shoes. Incidentally, if you can’t face pouring yourself into a dress, simply up your game with a pair of ice-breaker heels. Sequined, feathered, beribboned – Miu Miu and Dolce & Gabbana have got you covered, and require little more than a pair of black trousers and a white shirt to get your party look off the ground.

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For Christmas 2017 Vogue girls are also looking to emerald as a stand-out shade, along with unabashed metallics: soften regal gold and spaceman silver with a dash of cream (cashmere sweaters, far from looking like you came straight from the coalface, are the perfect accompaniment to this season’s statement sequined skirt).

Meanwhile at the other end of the scale, floor-length dresses have loosened up for winter, reworked in sumptuous velvet or revised as souped-up, vintage-looking peignoirs. That principle extends to evening cover-ups: pick a dramatic Prada cape or a sequin-studded edge-to-edge robe from Rochas and don’t bother to visit coat check. A guest who remains in her coat has the air of someone who has bigger and better things to attend to.

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Still feeling stymied? Here’s our guide to decoding the black-tie dress code on your party invites this season:

1. Consider the invitation medium. Old-school pigeon post? The thicker the card (and the more fanciful the calligraphy); the smarter the event. If it came via Facebook, you can relax a little. Don’t let Paperless Post confuse you – just because the invite came over email doesn’t mean it’s not a floor-length dress affair.

2. Assess the location and choose your shoes accordingly. Gravel, paving, parquet floor? Park the stilettos – or if you simply must wear your new blood red velvet Jimmy Choos, find a willing squire to ferry you across danger areas.

3. Get hold of the guest list. This provides you with both people to quiz about their interpretation of the dress code, and handy intel when you’re considering repeat-wearing an old favourite (N.B. this is no longer a faux pas – it simply shows you know your style). Above all, you don’t want to turn up wearing the same dress as someone else. If the worst happens, make it an Instagram story immediately, then keep well away from your doppelgänger.

4. Don’t be afraid to text your host for clarification. One man’s “dress to impress” is another man’s “barely-there Balmain mini dress”. Which may well be impressive – but entirely wrong for a charity gala.

5. If it’s a handbags-at-dawn kinda bash, you can’t go wrong with something short and glitzy. Sequins have shaken off their Strictly Come Dancing overtones this season, so flaunt them while you can. Gucci, Nina Ricci, Saint Laurent and & Other Stories make the best.

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6. If it’s a black-tie event, don’t be afraid to wear black. There’s a reason why everyone else is wearing it.

Always bear in mind: if your host is making a real effort, you need to make one too. And if all else fails, buy a cluster of diamante brooches and pile them on to lapels and necklines – or messy, bed-head hair. Tell everyone they’re heirlooms and prepare to sparkle.

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