readers ask: dear lucky about what length dress to wear to a black-tie wedding

Q: What length dress are you supposed to wear for a black-tie wedding? Can you get away with something shorter? And what qualifies a short dress to be black tie? —Diana

A: Dear Diana,
The fashion department became very somber when I asked them about this issue. There was a silence, which was broken after some minutes by fashion director Anne Keane. “This is a regional question,” she said. “If you’re going to a black-tie wedding in Virginia or New Orleans, you should do full length. Or at least a very, very full skirt. New York or L.A., you can definitely do more of a cocktail dress for black tie.” She thought some more. “Always err on the side of the more traditional look, though. And if it’s a conservative region, really stick to the classic interpretation of black tie.” Accessories editor Melissa Lum agreed: “I went to a black-tie wedding in Vermont, and it was people from Vermont and people from Boston. Everyone from Boston was in full black tie—tuxedos, long dresses—and everyone from Vermont was much more casual. It totally depends on where you’re from.” The conversation was going very red-state-blue-state, so I moved on to what qualifies a short dress to be black tie. “Lace,” offered accessories director Julia Kalachnikoff. “Organza, silk.” Anne concurred, then looked at me sternly. “Absolutely no minis,” she said. Pencil? I wondered. “Pencil’s really hard to say. Depends on the fabric.” “If you buy a cheap black pencil-skirt dress, it ends up being wrong for cocktail and wrong for black tie,” pronounced Julia. “But if it was, like, black lace Valentino, it’s perfect for everything!” The mention of Valentino visibly stirred them all. “Yes, Valentino,” said Anne. “You could wear a lace Valentino anywhere.”

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