By Nonso Nduanya
Tola was a ‘street boy’ whose flair for marketing and relationship management served him well as a fast rising banker. One of the bank’s major customers, whose accounts he managed, sent him an invite for their 10th anniversary commemoration dinner. Tola was excited to be considered worthy of attending such a V-VIP event. His efforts were actually being recognised in the right quarters.
However, there was a slight cause for concern. The invite read “this is a black tie event”, and he wasn’t too sure how to interpret it. He had attended many high-profile events and “Owambe” local parties in which the native “aso ebi” dress codes were specified. He was a smart dresser; most times relying on his instincts to swing-off any ensemble, so he never lost sleep thinking of any dress code requirements. But he had never attended this kind of event before, and knew if he were to make a good impression on his big customers and bosses that night, he had to show up looking prim and proper.
On many occasions, people find themselves in the same predicament as Tola when they get invited to black tie events. The question usually is, “Am I expected to wear a black tie?”, but it’s not just about wearing a black tie. There are specific dress items that must be combined to conform to the black tie dress code.
Specifically, when an invite says “black tie” a man is expected to show up in a midnight blue, black or even white dinner jacket with a bowtie, preferably silk, worn over a dress shirt – a formal white shirt with double cuffs. Shoes are also expected to be formal – black pumps or plain-toed oxfords in patent or calf leather. Trousers should be cut for braces and of same material as jacket, except for white jackets which should go with black pants. Accessories should include: silk pocket square and an optional black formal waistcoat or black cummerbund.
For ladies, two essential dress pieces to consider are the evening shoes and cocktail (knee-length) or dinner (ankle-length) dress. As much as the fine points of the black tie dress code apply mainly to men, it’s still important to understand that the lady must ensure her dressing is appropriate for the occasion.
On a final note, it helps to acquaint yourself with the intricacies of this formal wear, even if you hardly ever get invited to any black tie events. If you get invited to an event, and your host requests such a dress code, etiquette demands that you; if you must show up at the event, must respect the dress code.
Ladies: How to choose what ‘works’ for you walk
Your shoes make a distinct statement about your personal style. A beautiful ensemble can be made or marred by the complementing pair of shoes! There are no fast laws on what shoe to wear on what occasion, however there are usually dress codes to guide your choice of shoes. You can’t, for instance, wear slippers or plimsolls to work if your dress code is strictly formal; just as you wouldn’t be expected to go to the beach in heels. Whatever the case, the guiding principle is to choose comfortable shoes that ‘work’ for you and rock them with confidence.
Here is a simple guide to help you choose what ‘works’ for you.
Kitten Heel Shoes: if you are looking for elegance, style and sophistication, the Kitten Heels are your best bet. These dainty shoes work well with most female outfits.
Stiletto Shoes: This works just fine if you want to look chic or turn up your sex appeal. It makes your legs look longer.
Wedge Shoes: Called ‘Wedges’ because of their sole shape, these shoes can serve as a great way to gain height without sacrificing comfort and ease of movement.
Flat Shoes: From smart shoes to casual shoes, ballet pumps to lace-up brogues; ‘flats’ are the easiest to shoes to walk in when you go casual or semi-formal.
Sandals and Slippers: These are very essential items in every woman’s shoe collection and can vary from the very casual shoe to dressy, formal sandals with heels and other adornments.