DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend invited me to attend his company's black-tie affair, but there is one problem: I am tattooed. I have a black sleeve on my right arm and some ink on my chest. I do not know how his company feels about women with tattoos, but I really want to go to support my boyfriend. What is the proper attire for black-tie events? -- Tasteful ink, Brooklyn, New York
DEAR TASTEFUL INK: Talk to your boyfriend about his company, and tell him your concerns. Ask him if any of his co-workers, particularly women, have tattoos. Ask him what he has noticed in general. If tattoos are the norm, yours may not be a big surprise to anyone. If his work environment is somewhat conservative and your tats are not, you may want to look for camouflaging techniques that will ease you into his world.
Since you wisely believe that being modest is the best way to go, you can shop for an outfit that covers your tattoos to the best of your ability. For example, black tie tends to mean a long dress -- an evening gown -- for a woman to wear with heels. You can even wear a strapless dress if that suits you, but add a cardigan or a dressy jacket to go over it. Many evening dresses are sold with covers for the shoulders, so this should be easy to find. As far as tattoos on your chest, you can look for a dress with a higher collar that either covers completely or mostly where the tattoos are most prominent.
Ultimately, you have to feel comfortable in your own skin as you support your boyfriend. You may not be able to hide your tats completely, but reducing their prominence at this formal occasion is a smart choice. This does not mean, by the way, that you will need to hide them forever from these people.