How to dress in creative black tie attire is something that has only recently come up in my own social arena. Generally, my husband and I attend events that are either business, evening or black tie attire. I’ve been to a few themed events, like 1920’s, and one “festive attire” which was surprisingly casual — I should have checked what it meant before I went!

Later this month, the Hopewell Valley Arts Council will be hosting its first gala which will be held at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton and catered by Rats. The attire is “creative black tie.”

But creative black tie has throw me for a loop! And so began my internet search on how to appropriately dress for the occasion.

Creative black tie starts with the basic premise that you need to already know the rules of “black tie” because “creative black tie” requires subtly breaking the rules. The Art of Manliness has a great article about how to wear/pick a tuxedo, so for our fellas, please check that out (also see GQ article about the new rules of formal dress). As for women, Peggy Post for the NY Times said, “Today, ‘black tie’ gives women the choice of wearing a dressy cocktail dress, a long dress or very dressy separates.” The black tie world is certainly the proverbial oyster for women so, it seems like as long as you know how to make yourself look presentable, you’re all set.

Now we know what to wear for a black tie event, we have to figure out how to make it creative and exactly how far to take it. suggests that the creative element merely means that men should feel free to wear a black shirt or a red bow tie, while women are encouraged to take their look less seriously…”Think of creative black tie as trendy black tie.”

For men, velvet suits with a bow-tie or tartan pants paired with a well-tailored tux jacket all seem to fit the bill along with brightly colored ties and socks, black shirts with a black tux — think trendy fashion victims, according to GQ’s Style Guy. A few classy ideas on how to mix up your basic tuxedo, check out Articles of Style’s beautifully photographed article, “NYE: “Black Tie Creative.”

Stylecaster's example of women in creative black tie attire
Stylecaster’s example of women in creative black tie attire

As for ladies, the creative look means straying from the traditional black dress with formal hair and selecting something more trendy. Here’s a HuffPost article about what to wear — although it is somewhat uninformative. It looks like the object is to have fun by slightly deviating from the traditional black tie rules.

But the Hopewell Valley Arts Council gala is an event celebrating and supporting local art and artists at a sculpture garden — so our guess is that guests might get pretty creative! We hear someone is wearing a fun wig, another is coming in brightly colored sneakers, and yours-truly is making her jewelry out of shrinky dinks.

Tickets are selling quickly for the Hopewell Valley Arts Council’s “The Year of the Ox” gala. Featuring the talents of local chefs, dinner catered by Rat’s, and performers and artists in a uniquely creative space, the gala will be a night not to be missed.

Auctioneer Sam Freeman, from the famous Freeman’s of Philadelphia, will host a live auction of the “prized herd” of 11 Stampede oxen. The silent auction is open to all (whether attending the gala or not), and begins online on January 15. Learn more about the gala and auctions, and purchase tickets, at

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