Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle Roundup July 2


I have a dilemma that I thought warranted your advice.  I have a wedding coming up that is “Black Tie Welcomed”.  First, what exactly does this mean?  

Based on previous “Black Tie Optional” weddings I have attended, very few people wore long dresses.  Is “Black Tie Welcomed” a step above this and requiring of a long dress or can I get away with a dressier cocktail length dress. If the latter, do you have any recommendations for shorter dresses that can be dressed up?  The wedding is being held at the end of July in a midwest city, so it will be hot!

Thanks! Elizabeth

It irks me when brides use a completely subjective dress code on their wedding invitation (Fancy Country Barbecue, for example).  If you have a vision for how you would like your guests to dress, then please, for the love of Gucci, be clear about it or just choose one of the standard categories.

My guess is that the bride would prefer all of the gentlemen in tuxedos and all of the ladies in gowns but didn’t want to specify in case people weren’t in a position to rent a tux or buy a gown.  So if I were attending this wedding, I would wear a nicer cocktail dress with good jewelry and an evening bag.

I would choose this course because I wouldn’t want to be overdressed or underdressed, and I agree with you that most people will be in short dresses to cope with the heat.  But like I said, this dress code is completely subjective and the outfits will probably run the gambit from traditional black tie to cocktail. 

If you need some more tips, check back to this past post about dressing for summer weddings.

Hi Belle –

Love your blog. Always enjoy the style pieces, but especially appreciate the posts about work-related issues. So valuable for a young professional like myself.

Question for you: My 24th birthday is later this month, and I’d like to ask my parents for a big-girl purse (don’t ask why it’s taken me so long to get here!). Thinking something neutral, but not boring; in style, but classic; leather, but not of the monogrammed variety. Would prefer to keep it under $200. Any suggestions?

Appreciate your help!


From Left, Ivanka Trump Ava Satchel ($150), Doone & Bourke Satchel ($208), Cole Haan Small Brooke Satchel ($198)

Polyvore Set Here.

I think that the satchel is the best choice for a structure, “grown-up” work bag.  While your first instinct might be to buy a black bag or a dark brown one, I would recommend a grey or tan bag.  These colors work in cold and warm weather and blend with almost any color palette.

Typically, I would recommend that, when buying a bag you want to use for a long time, you stick with an established handbag designer like Cole Haan, Dooney & Bourke, Coach, etc.  However, since you’re looking at a slightly lower price point, a bag by Ivanka Trump or BCBG would be fine as well.

Lastly, I would recommend that you keep an eye out for sales.  J.Crew frequently has more expensive bags on sale.  Dooney & Bourke often has sales on their website.  And Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s are all good places to hit the sales racks.  If you’re looking in a sub-$250 price point, try to maximize your dollar by shopping a sale or visiting a department store outlet. 

Your goal should be to get the best bag for the price.  So wait for a sale, choose an all-season color and select a shape that can serve you for years.



  1. chicago, not dc says:

    I find it interesting that you say you think the bride chose this language (Black tie Welcome) because she wants black tie but doesnt want to put guests out if they cant afford black tie (i totally agree with this analysis) BUT then you suggest wearing a short, c*cktail dress. That makes no sense to me — do what you think the bride wants you to do. dont spite her becasue you dont like her choice of words. if you are concerned about being overdress, dont wear a full ball gown dripping with diamonds. just go for something a bit more subdued — a plain-ish long black dress with a lovely statement neckless for example.

    July 2, 2012/Reply
  2. Belle says:

    Chicago: More than anything, I think the bride is trying to avoid guests in cotton sundresses on women and encouraging tuxes on the men instead of khaki suits. And in most places, black tie has been expanded to include very nice short dresses, so I think a very nice short dress with evening accessories is acceptable.

    And while I am usually an enthusiastic proponent of “give the bride what she wants,” if it's 110 degrees in July, you'll catch me in full length silk chiffon when hell freezes over. And since she doesn't specifically say that's what she wants, I'm going to take the out and wear the short dress.

    July 2, 2012/Reply
  3. CB says:

    Coach Outlet for big-girl purses around $200.

    July 2, 2012/Reply
  4. meg says:

    To me, black tie optional (or “welcomed”) means black tie. The bride is just trying to be polite and not make you feel horrible if you're TRULY not in a position to afford black tie attire for whatever reason. They do make long dresses in material other than silk chiffon. People wear maxi dresses in the summer all the time, and a lot of black tie-worthy dresses come in similarly casual material (just a more elegant cut/color). Personally, if I were attending this wedding I'd wear a long dress. And just thank your lucky stars that a long dress is still more comfortable in the heat than wearing a tux or even a summer suit.

    July 2, 2012/Reply
  5. gg says:

    I'd look at Furla and Kate Spade outlets in that price point as well. I think they have much better quality leather than say BCBG (which I love for other things, but not shoes and bags).

    July 2, 2012/Reply
  6. Kathleen says:

    I agree with everyone that “Black Tie Welcome” means black tie.

    Meanwhile I'm curious about what's wrong with silk chiffon? I'd much much rather wear that than for example polyester satin with polyester lining.

    July 3, 2012/Reply
  7. renee says:

    I have no problem with black tie, and I think that even if you are in a rough financial situation there are probably ways to get black tie attire (or, just wear a cocktail dress and deal with it). That being said, I think the term “black tie optional” is as confusing as it gets. If the black tie is “optional,” then why put it on an invite at all?

    Also, while I agree that long dresses are made in materials other than silk chiffon, in what world is a maxi dress (regardless of whether people wear them in the summer) black tie? That seems more summer bbq or swimsuit cover up than any event designated as black tie, optional or not.

    July 3, 2012/Reply
  8. XF says:

    Belle is right on point about picking a better quality bag on sale. But I'd be careful about Outlets for bags. Some outlets specifically manufacture items for their outlet stores and the quality is inferior to their non-outlet stuff, but you think you're getting a better deal. I bought a bag at the Coach outlet once and it didnt last long. The exception to this are department store outlets like Neimans and Saks. Also check out online flash sales and good old ebay.

    July 3, 2012/Reply
  9. Bekki says:

    Kate Spade is having a 25% off Sale items promotion today. I have purchased some great purses from the sale section on the website.

    July 3, 2012/Reply
  10. Angie says:

    I second XF on the concern about outlet bags- Coach's outlet leather is considerably cheaper (in quality) than the regular Coach, and at $200+ for bags it's not worth the discount. I would check out Piperlime in addition to nicer department stores, and also sign up for email notifications on flash sales (last year I got a Rebecca Minkoff bag for $250).

    July 3, 2012/Reply
  11. Susannah says:

    Rebecca, my dear. Subjects in your sentences won't kill you. I promise.

    July 4, 2012/Reply