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What Even Is Black Tie? TikTok *Clearly* Needs A Breakdown After Viral Debate

In the latest TikTok news, a well-meaning, wardrobe-challenged girl named Sadie asked her followers for a bit of help finding a black tie appropriate dress for a wedding guest. The comments were not pleased that her first attempts came from the virtual swamp that is TikTok Shop. While it’s probably apparent to most of us that a store that sells discounted laser hair-removal tools and multiple kinds of snail mucin might not be the best place to look for formal attire, what actually qualifies as black tie remains debatable, even to those popping off at Sadie in her comments.

Sadie, if you’re reading this, I’ve got you. In fact, to anyone desperately googling “What is the dress code for black tie?” keep reading for the definitive answer to your prayers. But before we dive into the advice, here is some context if you missed the viral TikTok about the desperate search for a cheap black tie wedding dress that sparked a serious debate in the comments. 

“Please Help!” Woman Asks TikTok For Cheap Black Tie Dresses For Wedding

@s.s.training please help #weddingguest #blacktiewedding #wedding #weddingguestoutfit #weddingguestdress ♬ original sound – sadie

Remember the days of the middle school trenches when you would answer a really obvious question with a totally wrong answer, and everyone laughed, but when your teacher asked for the correct answer, the room conveniently went silent? That’s essentially what happened to Sadie, who was looking for a black tie-appropriate option for her boyfriend’s sister’s wedding. She wanted to look good for the family affair. Still, she had a few strict stipulations: the dress she was looking for needed to be black (that’s fine), not have a zipper (not so fine when you’re talking formal gowns), and not have anything too trendy as accouterment (like those long dangling ruffles Sadie pretty accurately describes as “octopus tentacles”). She then made the critical mistake of asking TikTok for help. Sadie innocently asked her followers to weigh in on a 90% rayon-looking cropped set with a thin black lace cami and floor-length skirt. As you can imagine, the opinions were LOUD.

@s.s.training there’s just so many more options online but im looking at nicer websites now don’t worry #weddingguest #blacktiewedding #wedding #weddingguestoutfit #weddingguestdress ♬ original sound – sadie

Immediately, the comments were begging Sadie to google black tie, try Rent the Runway if she couldn’t afford more than TikTok shop, or just admit if she was rage-baiting. As her dress search continued, it became evident Sadie was not trolling. She was just a little clueless (she’s just a girl!) because she comes from a Mormon background where people go to weddings in jeans. Post after post from Sadie’s harrowing search, even when she ditched the internet for proper department stores as recommended, made it clear that it’s hard to find a black-tie-friendly wedding dress on a budget. It also showed that the apparent know-it-alls of black-tie expertise aren’t clear themselves on what makes or breaks a black-tie gown.

@s.s.training am i at black tie yet? #weddingguest #blacktiewedding #wedding #weddingguestoutfit #weddingguestdress ♬ original sound – sadie


Can it have a high slit, and does it have to be floor length? Does it have to literally be black? Is it even possible to find a satin option that doesn’t look too cheap? And that’s all before accessories. So on behalf of all the exasperated TikTok Joan Rivers in the comments (my favorite reply is a tie between “Girl…are you even reading our comments?? 😭” and “stay away from spaghetti straps at this point”), we have broken down the OFFICIAL black tie definition to put an end to the confusion.

What Does Black Tie Dress Code Mean?

Beyonce and Jay Z in black tie dress code
Image Credit: Getty Images

While the consensus for black-tie definitely means looking expensive in a long gown, whether or not a dress can be super sexy or trendy is up to the standards of the wedding host.

The dress does not, under any conditions, have to be black. But a loud, colorful pattern may not fit in at your cousin’s wedding to a pseudo-prince in the South of France. On the other hand, something tea-length but undeniably stunning may work for black-tie on the beach. If floor length is the end all be all, most of the cutout numbers the girls on Love Island wear around the fire pit would count (and they certainly do not).

Vogue encourages using context clues from the invitation (if it’s in black cursive font on thick card stock, you’re in the big leagues, babe) or when in doubt simply contact the host! Maybe their version of formal doesn’t include that bedazzled nude illusion Beyoncé dupe you’ve been dying to add to cart.

Black Tie Wedding Guest Dress Code

Sofia Richie in black tie formal dress
Image Credit: Getty Images

For women, following a black-tie dress code means “a floor-length dress in an evening-appropriate fabric, such as velvet, chiffon, silk, or lace, is the best bet,” at least, according to Vogue (which basically means you’re getting free styling from Anna Wintour). Cocktail or tea length options might work depending on the dress, but something that sweeps the floor before heels is the safest choice to fit the bill.

Black tie for men is a lot easier (surprise, surprise) with the simple requirement of sporting a black bow tie over a dinner jacket (tuxes are the standard for white-tie). Given the fact that it’s 2024, it’s totally fair game for a woman to slay in a dinner jacket or perfectly tailored formal jumpsuit as long as it’s “black-tie approved” by the host.

Marissa Dow
Marissa Dow
MARISSA is a trending news writer at Betches. She's more than just another pop-culture-addicted-east-coaster-turned-LA-transplant...she's also an upcoming television writer and aspiring Real Housewife (whichever comes first). Live, laugh, balegdah.