How to Dress When There is a Dress Code

What to Wear for Casual, Semi-Formal, Cocktail & Black Tie Events

When invitations come with a dress code, read carefully; learn what clothing is most appropriate for casual, cocktail, semi-formal, formal & black tie dress codes.

You want to make an entrance at a party and make a statement. To make sure that statement is “Wow,” and not “Huh?” read invitations with a dress code carefully, know your audience, and dress accordingly.

Casual Attire

Casual dress code basically means that (almost) anything goes, subject to good taste, of course. Dressing casually means that you can choose something that is comfortable, which probably won’t require a shopping trip to assemble the outfit, but please do make an effort! Casual – as in “Casual Fridays” does not mean that it’s okay to wear pajamas, sweat pants or track suits, fitness gear, or skimpy clothes.

Avoid wearing clothes emblazoned with slogans and logos, and while jeans are generally considered to be acceptable for casual events, for a more pulled-together look, it’s wisest to wear fashionable, designer, or dark wash denim and reserve worn, ripped or tatty jeans for yard-work or vegging out at home.

Dressy Casual Dress Code

Dressy casual – also known as smart casual – means that pants and trousers are acceptable, but jeans are not, even $300 designer ones. Trendy and fun tops are a great choice for dressy casual, but don’t wear a T-shirt. Business casual is a tricky variation of dressy casual in which low-cut, cleavage-baring tops are a no-no.

Cocktail Attire

Cocktail attire means you should wear a short dress, and you can let your most fabulously fun self shine when putting together an outfit for the cocktail attire dress code. Choose a fantastic short dress, killer high heels, and funky and expressive jewelry. Other dress codes which are pretty much synonymous with cocktail attire include: black-tie optional, informal, and semi-formal.

Black Tie Dress Code

Black tie attire is nearly always reserved for evening events in which you can blossom into a beautiful, butterfly and live the fashion fantasy version of who you are. Men are expected to suit up in tuxedos at black tie affairs, and women are expected to wear a long dress or a cocktail dress. But just because all the guys will be wearing black it doesn’t mean that you have to; take this opportunity to stand out from the crowd by wearing bold colors, fabulous jewelry, and any other accessories that help make your statement and entrance absolutely smashing.

Formal is the same thing as black tie. Creative black tie means there is a theme – but be careful that you don’t come off looking like you’re wearing a costume. And white tie is a souped-up version of black tie, where you should wear a ball gown.

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