Black-Tie Beauty: Fail-Safe Makeup For A Fancy Night Out

Katrina Lawrence

Beauty Writer

Sep 04, 2021

‘Dress code: Black Tie’. That’s easy enough on the fashion front: You can either wear a black tie literally – more on the re-emerging lady-tux trend in a minute – or you can grab the most glamorous, glitzy gown in your wardrobe (any colour will do, but black will always look appropriate).

But what about your makeup outfit?

While ‘smart casual’ usually entails an au naturel look (say, a BB cream, a whisk of bronzer and a slick of liner) and ‘cocktail’ something that’s fun and beachy (glowing skin, a pop of punchy colour on the eyes), ‘formal’ makeup requires a little more effort.

But it doesn’t have to be tricky – because the two most appropriate looks are classic, suit all ages, and are therefore beautifully timeless. Perfect one, or both, and you’re sorted for life.

For inspiration, let’s hand it over to Ashley Benson and Shay Mitchell, two stars of the television series Pretty Little Liars, who took to the New York red carpet for the season finale screening, each showcasing perfect black-tie beauty style.

Reverse Smokey Eye
Smokey Eye

Le Smoking (Eye)

Tuxes are back in high-chic – just look  below at Angelina Jolie at the BAFTAs. Ashley echoed Angelina’s sleek YSL look with this ensemble of Paule Ka top and Saint Laurent bow tie (worn with Alexander Wang slim black pants).

It’s a style that has actually endured in appeal since the legendary Monsieur Saint Laurent, back in 1966, first clad a female model in a ‘le smoking’ – and it’s no surprise that the smoky eye works back to it perfectly, with its shades of black and dark, dangerous ways.

Angelina Jolie

elongate eyes angelina jolie
Angelina Jolie attends the EE British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) held at Royal Albert Hall on February 18, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Here’s a quick class on smoky-eye how-to:

  • After prepping your eyes with concealer (go all around, it’ll not only disguise dark circles, which dark eyeshadow can accentuate, but it will also work as a great shadow primer), rim your lash lines in black pencil. Take your pencil to the inner rim if desired (warning: this can have the effect of closing in small eyes).
  • Take a small angled brush, load it up with black or dark grey shadow, and trace over the the lines you’ve just drawn, blurring and softening them.
  • Any gaps between lashes? Try the genius 3-Dot Liner from Clarins to fill them in.
  • Grab a small eyeshadow brush and whisk upper lids in a mid-grey shadow, using a back-and-forth motion. If you’d like a winged effect, extend outwards as you go.
  • Now, dip that same brush in a deep grey or black shadow, and work it through the crease.
  • Using a large eyeshadow brush (make sure it’s clean), blend everything until there are no hard lines.
  • Finally, add masses of mascara, on both top and bottom lashes.

As for the rest of the face, think flawless foundation and nude lips, plus a dash of bronzer if you need to bring some colour back in.

Luscious Lips

So, what if your black-tie outfit is of the more ultra-feminine kind – say, a lacy dress. This is the one where you reach for your most luxurious red lipstick, just like Shay (who is wearing a YeoJin Bae dress, for the record).

Black Tie Beauty Shay Mitchell

There are many kinds of red lipsticks … some are a fiery orange-red, others matte, others still cool and blue-toned … but the best one to go for is the one that makes you feel drop-dead glamorous. Once you’ve got it, here’s what you do:

  • After hydrating lips and letting the balm absorb, draw lipstick on straight from the tube. This way the colour grabs really well to lips, and you get a stronger pigment outcome.
  • Now, take a lip brush and neaten up the edges. Blot with a tissue.
  • Using a lip brush this time, add another layer of colour.
  • Blot once more.
  • If you’d like a shiny or shimmery effect, add a touch of gloss in the centre of your mouth.

Finally, make sure your statement lips are balanced out with well groomed brows and beautifully volumised lashes; go for a medium-coverage foundation, as red lipstick can bring out any discolouration in your skin.

And there you have it: the two faces of fancy makeup.

Tell us, are you Team Eyes or Team Lips?


By Katrina Lawrence

Beauty Writer

Katrina Lawrence has specialized in beauty journalism for more than 20 years. After starting her career as the beauty and lifestyle editor of Cleo magazine, she then went on to help launch SHOP Til You Drop magazine, where she held he reins as deputy editor/beauty director for several years. Next came a freelance role, based in both New York and Sydney and writing for titles including madison, Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan and Sunday Life and Katrina is one of Australia’s most awarded beauty writers, having won over ten industry awards. She now lives in Paris, where she wrote the book Paris Dreaming.


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