Greetings, friends! I have a different sort of try on haul today. I’m attending a wedding in October with a black tie optional dress code, and these are the dresses I’ve tried.
If you have a formal wedding or any type of gala coming up this fall/winter, hopefully this post will give you some options.
Of course, Rent the Runway is always an option for an event like this, if you think you’ll never wear the dress again, but I thought it would be fun to see what’s in stores right now and try some out.
But first things first…
What Does Black Tie Optional Mean?
Black tie optional dress suggests a tuxedo or formal dark suit and tie for men, and a long evening gown or a shorter cocktail dress for women.
At first, I wasn’t sure which way I wanted to go, so I tried some of both.
For size reference, I’m 5’5″ with an hourglass shape, and I typically wear a size 8 dress. Evidently vanity sizing hasn’t reached special occasion dresses because I needed a 10 in most of these. Let’s get started!
Black Tie Optional Dress Try Ons: Long Evening Gowns
Let’s start with the long evening gowns. I’m wearing a 4″ heel with all of the long dresses, so that gives you an idea of how much hemming might be involved.
Eliza J Lace Inset Laguna Crepe Trumpet Gown (size 10) // Well, this one is obviously not the best fit for me. The issue I’m having in most dresses is the chest. If you have a small or average chest size, this dress would be fine, but on me, it’s a bit much.
It’s also a bit long, but I’m sure it could be hemmed pretty easily.
Dessy Collection Lux V-Neck Chiffon Gown (size 10) // I really wanted this gown to work because I love the design, but it’s so revealing, the only picture I could post is this one with my phone in front of my chest. You’ll have to look at it online to see the way it’s designed.
It’s a gorgeous dress, and the color is perfect for a fall wedding. I also like the the slit in the full skirt. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work for me.
Show Me Your Mumu Milan Mermaid Evening Gown (size 10) // This one is obviously too long, and I’m not a fan of the fit in the top. Even if I didn’t have the chest issue, the straps are cut kind of far in on the sides for an odd fit.
It’s also kind of plain — reminds me too much of a bridesmaid, and I’m not a fan of the mermaid silhouette.
Social Bridesmaids V-Neck Georgette Gown (size 10) // Another pretty dress that doesn’t quite work for me in the chest area.
I like this a lot, but it would need to be altered to fit me better — if the straps were shortened, it could be nice. I really like the georgette and chiffon fabrics (is there a difference?)
Hayley Paige Occasions Square Neck Tie Back Crepe Evening Dress (size 8) // This one also reminds me too much of a bridesmaid, and it’s plainer than I want. And the chest… gah!
Dessy Collection Sleeveless Crepe Column Gown with Lace (size 8) // I actually really like the fit of this one, but I could barely get it zipped. I would need a size 10, and it would need to be hemmed.
Unfortunately, I have bra issues with the back. It’s all lace, and I’m not even sure what bra I could wear with that.
You may or may not have noticed, but all of these dresses are regular bra-friendly. I have a strapless bra that I like okay, but I’m feeling too old and crotchety to wear one all night. (And that wouldn’t even help with this dress. Sooooo…. it’s out.)
Calvin Klein Embroidered Illusion-Mesh Gown (size 8) // This is really pretty, comfortable, and flattering; but it’s overall too long. I know it looks okay in the picture, but it’s too low in the chest and under the arms. If the whole thing could be pulled up, it might work, but the lace is continuous over the shoulder, so there’s no easy way to make that alteration.
Besides that, there’s something about it that reminds me of a nightgown. It’s just not quite what I’m looking for.
Xscape Mesh Inset & Embroidered Evening Dress (size 8) // Cue angels singing!!!
I absolutely love this dress. It is by far my favorite of the bunch. The fit is perfect, the length is perfect, although the short train in the back is a pain. I love the mesh insets, there are no bra issues, and it’s comfortable. It also doesn’t look at all like a bridesmaid’s dress.
I do think it’s too formal for this occasion, though. If it were a black tie event, it would be perfect, but with that “optional” thrown in there, I think I’d feel overdressed compared to the other women my age.
In fact, I didn’t feel quite right in any of the floor-length dresses, although the red one with the lace back would be my top pick if it weren’t for the bra issue.
I just don’t want to look like I’m trying to be part of the wedding party, ya know? It’s been years since I’ve been on the wedding circuit, and back in those days, I was one of the younger set. These days, I’m one of the old aunts. I’ve definitely noticed the shift in roles at the last two weddings I attended.
All that to say, I want to be appropriate and feel comfortable with my choice of dress, and I think going the cocktail dress route is probably best. Here are the options I’ve tried so far.
Black Tie Optional Dress Try Ons: Fall Cocktail Dresses
Eliza J Lace Three-Quarter Sleeve Sheath Dress (size 8) // This dress fits well, but I’m not crazy about the fabric — it looks cheaper than it is. For whatever reason, I just don’t love this one.
Vince Camuto Sequin Cap-Sleeve Shift Dress (size 8) // I really like the design and fit of this one, and the material is kind of fun too. It flatters my hourglass shape without drawing undue attention to the chest area, and I love how the sleeves are cut.
I’m just afraid it’s a little too short for this event, more night club than wedding. What do you think?
I’m also aware that it’s not the most flattering color for me, although I like it, and the metallic mesh sandals go with it perfectly.
Eliza J Floral Lace Fit & Flare Dress (size 8) // This is pretty, but there’s something about it I don’t love. I think it’s the length. The color is gorgeous, though.
Eliza J High Neck Lace Sheath Dress (size 8) // This is very similar to the one above, just with an A-line skirt rather than the fit and flare style. I like this one better, but it fits weird in the back. It kind of bubbles where the keyhole opening is. Even my daughter mentioned it when I tried it on.
The skirt is also a bit longer in the back than the front, which looks odd. I think it’s a combination of my chest taking up an extra inch in the front, and then it’s not very flattering over the rear — it kind of flattens me out back there.
All that to say, it’s going back, but I think it would be a really nice choice for someone with a smaller chest.
Eliza J V-Neck Lace Sheath Dress (size 8) // This one is worthy of consideration, and I think it says “black tie optional dress” better than any of the other cocktail dresses I’ve tried.
The navy lace over the gold satin is really pretty, but the lace cocktail dress thing has been done so much in recent years, I’m kind of over it.
I also feel like it makes my chest look even larger than it is, although overall I think the dress is very flattering. I will say that it’s comfortable, which is a huge plus, so at this point it’s still a contender.
I was planning to wear it to my husband’s holiday office party last year, but they went with a more casual venue, so I never wore it. I just found it in the basement in one of my fall/winter storage bins, and I’m wondering if it’s the answer to this black tie optional dress conundrum.
I’ve also ordered this scuba crepe sheath to try, but I wanted to get this post up today, so I’ll include that in next week’s try on haul.
I’d also like to try this cowl back ruched sheath in a size 10. I tried the size 8, but couldn’t get it zipped, and it’s since sold out in my size at Nordstrom; but I just found it at Dillard’s, and I’m thinking of ordering it.
But after all of my shopping and try-ons, I’m tempted to wear my own navy sequined cap sleeve sheath and call it a day. I love it, and it fits great (or will if I can drop a few pesky pounds, which I usually do in the fall.) My only concern is the fabric.
With the combination of velvet and sequins, is it too wintery/holiday for an October wedding? Tell me what y’all think.
In fact, tell me what you think of all of the above, and if you’ve been to a black tie optional wedding recently, which style seems the most appropriate for this old aunt?
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