How to Dress for Black Tie Affairs on a Budget


Don’t Overdo Bling
When you get dolled up to head out for a night on the town, you’re all about the baubles: a dozen bangles, cocktail rings half the size of your hand, huge statement necklaces and earrings that reach your shoulders. We hate to bust your bubble, but none of these will work for a black tie affair. Dainty chandelier earrings are great, as are a pair of studs or drop earrings, and a single-strand bracelet, pendant or single-stone ring work great as accents to your dress.


Tresk “Amour” Dangle Earrings, $20 at Dillard’s


Betsey Johnson Earrings, $30 at Dillard’s

Select the right accessories
A fabulous formal ensemble can be ruined with by the wrong shoes or handbag. A mistake many women make is to talk into a ballroom with a big, bulky tote bag. Yes, we understand that for such an important event, you want to have your camera, hairbrush, makeup and other essentials close at hand, but all these items defeat their purpose if you’re carrying them in a garish purse.


Cantfield Handbag, $34.98 at Aldo


Glenladale Clutch, $17.49 at Aldo

Here’s a hint: Pack an extra purse full of less-imperative essentials and leave it in the car just in case. Take the items you know you’ll need– lip gloss, cell phone and powder– in a small clutch or wristlet. Narrowed it down and they still don’t fit? That’s where your dates pockets come in. Also, make sure you’re wearing heels. Formal gowns are made to be worn with heels, so your look won’t look quite right if you don’t have them on.

Show a little skin
And by little, we do mean little. A woman can feel drowned in a floor-length dress, so it’s more than acceptable to show off a little leg with a slit that goes to just above the knee. Moderate cleavage and exposed back are fine, too. When in doubt about how much to show, just ask yourself if you’d be comfortable wearing the dress in front of your boss.


Embellished One-Shoulder Gown, $149 at Arden B


JS Boutique Jersey Gown, $93 at Nordstrom

You don’t have to show a lot of skin to look sexy (remember Anne Hathaway at the Golden Globes?) so never underestimate the appeal of collar bones or shoulders. Find a dress that flatters your figure and you’ll look hot, even if you’re mostly covered up.

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