DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a woman who despises black-tie events. I do not like wearing dresses, and I usually opt for slacks or a men’s-style suit. As you might imagine, this doesn’t go over well with some of my peers. I have gotten comments asking if I have gained weight because I am not wearing a form-fitting dress! Is it unbecoming of a woman to dress in more masculine attire at these events? -- Suit and Tie, Reisterstown, Maryland
DEAR SUIT AND TIE: It used to be that women exclusively wore full-length evening gowns to black-tie events. Today, it remains the most traditional way for women to dress at these gatherings, but the rules have relaxed a bit. Some women wear cocktail-length dresses, while others wear ensembles with pants. These can range from something very masculine -- essentially a tuxedo for a woman -- to a satin pant with a fitted or flowing jacket. Sometimes the bodices of these jackets are adorned with sequins or some other kind of sparkle.
You can choose what makes you feel comfortable, but you must also accept that there will be people who cast judgment on your attire. What will be important is that you feel comfortable in whatever you are wearing and that you are prepared to deflect whatever criticism comes your way.