Everything You Need to Know About Dress Codes
Have you ever received a party invite with an expectation of a certain attire? I’m not talking about themed parties here. Rather, I’m talking about those invitations to weddings and other soirees that say things like “dressy casual” and “cocktail chic.” And then just when you thought that black tie was the fanciest of all, your invitation indicates “white tie.”
There’s a whole manual on social etiquette covering manners and such, but a huge part of it is following a dress code laid out by the host of the function. While most of us can identify what’s “casual,” “semi-formal” and “black tie,” you probably haven’t even heard of “creative black tie,” or didn’t realize “smart casual” was not the same as “business casual.”
Don’t freak out. The dress codes are a lot to take in, but they’re not as complicated as they sound. As you go further down the list, you’ll notice the subtle differences. From there, you’ll figure out if your chosen dress is appropriate for your upcoming event.
The attire that we wear on a daily basis, the casual dress code is something we all know very well. A casual outfit is something that you can easily pick out of your closet. It’s the most informal of dress codes, as far as events go. Just be mindful that your outfit is still tasteful and is free from holes, stains and tears. The key is to still look clean and put together.
Smart Casual/Casual Dressy/Dressy Casual
This is basically the dressier version of the casual attire. Generally, you want to avoid those distressed jeans, shorts and t-shirts. And definitely leave your flip flops at home. Ladies might also want to think about the length of their skirts, going for the Empire Waist Bow Tie Midi Skirt instead of a mini.
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Over here is where it gets a little confusing, as each company has its own idea of what business casual looks like. The best way to go about the business casual attire is by going slightly more formal than smart casual. Think modest hems, button-downs and tailored bottoms. Jeans are acceptable in certain workplaces. However, if you want to err on the side of caution, try to avoid denim pieces.
Garden parties can vary depending on the occasion, but for the most part, sundresses and lightweight fabrics are acceptable. What you’ll want to watch out for is your choice of footwear. To avoid poking holes or sinking into the dirt, wedges and flats should be considered.
Similar to garden attire, go for lighter, flowy fabrics for beach affairs. Florals, like our Sleeveless Floral Print Mini Dress, are perfect in this kind of setting. And remember that the beach has no place for heels and even ballet flats, so wear sandals. Check out our Summer Wedding Fashion Guide for more information on beach formal attire.
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The LBD is probably everyone’s go-to for a cocktail function, though you do have more options at your disposal. Knee-length skirts and dress pants are alternatives to dresses, pairing them with a blouse or sweater. Darker colors are often the safer option for cocktail chic parties.
This is pretty much the cocktail attire with a themed twist. So if the party falls on Christmas, think red, white or green cocktail dresses. If it’s a New Year’s shindig, feel free to wear a bit of sparkle.
Here’s where the blazers, pantsuits and pantyhose come into play. You can also wear something like the Dot Pencil Midi Dress, as long as you wear a jacket over it. Heels are often expected to match this business attire. After all, it’s all about looking professional.
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Somewhat similar to black tie optional, you’d normally expect cocktail dresses and dressy separates. Just don’t go for the ball gown—leave that for the formal dress codes.
Black Tie Optional/Formal
Instead of going full-on black tie with floor-length gowns, you have other choices, such as formal cocktail dresses. Dressy separates work as well. Just think of it as being more sophisticated than semi-formal, but not as strict as black tie.
Creative Black Tie
It’s black tie with some personality. Colored items are widely accepted in black tie attire, with the expectation of flashier gowns, like the Strapless Ballgown Cocktail Maxi Dress.
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Floor-length gowns or formal LBDs, heels, you know the works. Black tie mainly refers to men’s attire, so you do have free reign in terms of colors to wear. If you’re not sure about certain hues, opt for darker shades, or at the very least, muted colors.
The most formal of the attires, white tie is as fancy as it gets. It’s where you want to wear statement pieces, such as the Sleeveless Sequin Evening Maxi Dress. Don’t be afraid to finish off the ensemble with some long, satin gloves!
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