Guests at black and white balls should wear formal masquerade attire in black and white. However, guests should pay attention to the dress code described on the invitation for specific details on attire.
The black and white ball tradition started with a party that Truman Capote threw in 1966. The author wanted to celebrate the completion of his novel, "In Cold Blood," and threw a lavish high society party at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. It was a masquerade party with a creative black tie dress code. Guests wore tuxedos and ball gowns in black and white and covered their faces with elaborate masks. Capote had also requested that women carry fans; however, only some complied with this request. Many guests got creative with their attire and sported black and white patterned gowns and couture designs. Capote's Black and White Ball enjoyed a lot of press coverage and the event went down in society history.
Many black and white balls pay homage to Capote's original party. That means that the dress code is creative black tie and that guests should wear black and white attire. Most black and white balls are also masquerades, so guests should wear masks.
However, party dress codes can differ depending on who is hosting the event. Hosts almost always state dress codes on invitations. Guests should pay attention to terms such as "cocktail," "black tie," "white tie" or "creative black tie."