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What to Wear to a Black and White Gala
A Little History Behind the Black and White Ball
A black and white ball is a formal event which is a mix of "White Tie" and "Black Tie." The origins can be traced back to Victorian times.
White Tie was considered "full dress" which consisted of a white three-piece suit or tuxedo complete with tailcoat, white shirt, and cuff links, white vest and white tie. The occasion was generally a formal or ceremonial procession such as a coming out ball or wedding. For women, a white gown was required, as well as gloves and shawls; married women wore tiaras.
For a Black Tie Affair, the proper attire was a black tuxedo with black bow tie and black shoes. For women, dark dresses with modest hems and necklines were required, as well as sleeves. These were worn for charity events and art openings.
A black and white ball is a formal event mixing the two styles, the most famous of which was Truman Capote's Black and White Masquerade Ball thrown in June of 1966. Capote had reached the height of his popularity after publishing his novel, "In Cold Blood." Capote was reportedly inspired by the "Ascot Scene" in "My Fair Lady where the women were all dressed in black and white. It was reported that this Ball resulted in an upsurge of both masquerade and costume parties and was lauded as a "pinnacle of New York Society."
But What Do I Wear to One?
I'm Glad You Asked...
Don't show up in a red dress.
Helpful, am I not?
Okay, okay... The colors are non-negotiable - either solid white, solid black or a combination of black and white (such as a black tuxedo or well-fitted suit with a white shirt for men). Women should wear a gown, again in black or white or some combination thereof, and nothing with a pattern. The rules have loosened a bit now, so your gown can be either long or short, but nothing above the knee (or not much above, if you're feeling risky). Some even say it is apropo to wear black trousers with a ruffly white top or a white skirt with a sleevess black blouse. A strapless gown is also acceptable.
Styles are increasingly liberal in cities such as Los Angeles and New York, however events after six o'clock p.m. call for evening wear unless the invitation specifically states otherwise. "Daytime wear" should be avoided as well, unless specifically stated.
Jewelry, traditionally, consisted of clear (diamond) jewels, pearls, or onyx, sticking with the black and white theme. Some say the rules have loosened on that as well and sapphires, and emeralds are now acceptable. If your party is after six, I would err on the side of caution and stick with the black and white theme. If you do opt to go for something non-traditional, make sure it is formal and not too large or showy.
Men should be freshly shaved or have facial hair trimmed. For women, an up-do; long, loose curls; or styled cut are all acceptable.
If your invitation states "creative tie", you can be more inventive and add some casual elements such as boots or a print tie. (Just a note: if creative tie is not specified, where a solid color tie).
Now that I've got that all cleared up for you, go...have a ball! (Ladies, or some "grand ideas," see my Amazon module(s) below. Guys- you're on your own. I've yet to see a man who doesn't look fantastic in a tux...go get yourself one!)