The Easiest Way to Make a Formal Dress Look Cool

The challenge of making a floor-length black-tie dress look “stylish” is a fascinating topic for multiple reasons:

1) Red carpets, the most extensive resource for black-tie dress sightings, do not offer much inspiration in this regard given the main priority for most fancy celebrity occasions is wearing something flattering instead of something that expresses individuality.

2) Floor-length formal dresses have an immediate tendency to scream “PRINCESS” thanks to Disney’s penchant for pairing them with tiaras on fictional characters of royal descent.

3) Black-tie dresses somehow scored the exclusive of a lifetime in that they are frequently worn without any competing garments or accessories.

Considering this list of circumstantial hurdles, it’s no wonder the prospect of turning a black-tie dress into a component of a legitimate outfit that reflects your personal style seems like the sartorial equivalent of fitting a square peg into a round hole. In other words: it seems hard.

WELL I HAVE GREAT NEWS FOR ALL YOU GLAMAZONS OUT THERE: Turning a black-tie dress into a cool outfit is way easier than you think. I had this revelation about a month ago when Amelia posted a photo on Instagram:

As you can see, she is wearing a floor-length black-tie dress. On top of said dress, she is wearing a black blazer. That, my diamonds, is the easy peasy secret to making a black-tie dress look like a cool outfit. It’s so easy that sometimes you do it by accident, which is exactly what happened when Amelia’s shoulders got cold and her date supplied a handy solution. Not all heroes wear capes, but some do.

It’s not always an accident, though. Take this photo posted by one Leandra Medine Cohen featuring a delightful dress reminiscent of the bottom of a wedding cake and blazer of what looks to be the tweed variety. Without said blazer, the dress would certainly still be pretty, but with it, it’s distinctive. It’s cool.

Lest you think I’m merely obsessed with my coworkers, here is further evidence of the cool-inducing powers of a blazer over a black-tie gown as demonstrated by America Ferrera at the Oscars. Without the blazer, the black sequin dress would just be any other black sequin dress, but with it, it’s an ~outfit~.

What really cemented my conviction about this pairing, though, was Zoë Kravitz in a floor-length slip dress and a blazer with feathery cuffs. I came across this outfit in my Instagram feed just last week and as I dispensed a well-deserved “like,” I felt my fingertip flush with certitude that the outfit hack in question wasn’t too good to be true.

And look! It works with motorcycle jackets, too.

Any other tips for making a black-tie dress look cool in less than 30 seconds? Tell me in the comments. Wedding season is fast approaching and I want to be prepared. In the meantime, join me in perusing the ingredients for my new favorite formal sandwich: blazers and dresses, dresses and blazers…and maybe a corsage if you’re feeling particularly debonaire.

Photo by Tara Ziemba via Getty Images.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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