Let’s face it, picking an outfit on a daily basis can be quite stressful, let alone when there is a specific dress code you have to stick to. Life is complicated, clothes exist in this world, and hence it has its own terminology, rules, and codes. But don’t fret, we’ve come up with a guide to get you through any code just fine. [You can thank us in the comments below]
White Tie or Ultra-Formal
This is the most formal dress code in western high fashion. The name comes from the white bow-tie men are required to wear to the occasion, along with a vest, shirt, and tuxedo. Women on the other hand, are required to wear full ball gowns and long white sleeves. Now don’t worry, events following this dress code are seldom and rare in the 21st century; unless you get the lucky chance of getting invited to a ball at Buckingham palace, we highly doubt you’ll need this dress code any time soon.
Since we won’t be meeting the Queen any time soon, we’ll be skipping this outfit.
Black Tie – Formal
If you thought the word formal just meant work appropriate you’re very much mistaken. In fact, formal in most countries actually means black-tie. This is usually the dress code that most people follow when attending high-end weddings in 5 star hotels and such.
It’s fairly straightforward for men [as always]; a black-bow tie and a black tuxedo.
Women are required to wear long evening gowns and high-end jewellery [think gold, diamonds, and pearls].
Black Tie Optional / Creative Black Tie
I’m guessing fancy posh westerners like to create dress codes to have an excuse to throw more parties! I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the difference between these two to be honest; they’re so similar and both are based on the idea of breaking the boundaries of the previous dress code.
This code kind of resonates with most weddings we see nowadays. It’s also an excellent option to go with if you’re attending a celebrity wedding by any chance!
For the men, it’s pretty straightforward; they could wear a dark suit with a tie or a black shirt without a tie, while opting for standout pocket squares, colourful cufflinks (that complement the dark suit) and a glinting tie pin.
For the ladies, it says creative up there, so there’s room to play around. You could go with a long gown, an ankle-grazing dress, evening separates, or a trendy but still formal gown. You can have fun with the jewellery with this one; try playing around with fascinators, and high end accessories too!
Specially designed for warm weather location events – winking here. This isn’t one we were accustomed to seeing, but with the rise of the “beach wedding” trend, we ought to mention it. Besides beach weddings, this is a dress code also followed in fancy banquets and beach parties of the rich and famous [may we all be them].
For the gentlemen, they should go for cotton/linen shirts (white or calm colours such as faded yellow and baby blue) over white/beige linen/cotton pants paired with boat shoes; this combination speaks comfy chic. They could accessorize with a classy wrist watch and possible wrist bands (an anchor looking one fits the occasion quite nicely).
The ladies can wear bright, lightweight dresses; patterns are also welcome.
Again, not to be confused with a type of work attire! Semi-formal is a less formal version of the previous dress codes. A semi-formal occasion could be held during the daytime or evening.
A daytime event, for example a reception or ceremony, would require a suit for him [you can skip the tie].
And a sleek dress or an elegant pant/skirt/dress suit for her. An evening event, also called After Six Attire, which could be a small wedding, would dictate cocktail attire.
Cocktail attire is one that you can find in invitations for receptions, holiday parties, and more casual weddings. It’s also good to invest in since you can always slip into an LBD or dark suit if you’re invited to a relative-of-a-friend’s wedding or a party with a vague dress code; it’s the safe bet attire.
For the ladies, the best bet is an LBD; it’s always a good investment to have a classy one in your wardrobe. You could also wear colourful feminine dresses, dressy separates, or an elegant jumpsuit; you can jazz this look up with fun jewellery.
The men could go with mildly coloured suits (the men could always skip the dark colours for this event) and chic tie. Accessories could be over the top in this one but a tie pin never hurts.
This is a dress code that is mentioned for parties during holiday seasons, like Christmas or New Year’s.
For the ladies, it’s about the material so you can go for silk, beaded, embroidered, sequins or fabrics with sparkle; or if you have a basic LBD or jumpsuit, you could compensate the festive fun with statement accessories.
For the men, they should opt for brightly coloured suits, with matching ties (under the condition that the colours complement each other and not scream “eye sore”). Since it’s festive, the ties could have holiday matching insignia or patterns. Accessories aren’t a must in these types of events and it’s preferable that the men keep only to their watches.
If it’s got the word business in it, then it is work related. This is what you’d opt for if you’re going to an interview or conference. So how to be business appropriate? Start by skipping anything too dressy or sexy, or awkward, or too trendy, or too casual. No, it doesn’t have to be boring! Dressing up for work can be quite fun if you have the right wardrobe.
Tip: you can still play with colour [unless your work has a colour code, then bummer!]
For the men, your basic suit and tie (could go for a three piece suit if you’re in a position of power) but paired up with cufflinks, a tie pin and a mildly coloured tie. The suits and ties should not be too bright nor too dark but something in the middle (suits are preferred to range between dark blue, faded grey and dark grey, paired with ties that match in colour, especially in the blue spectrum). Cufflinks and tie pin in this scenario will give you an empowered and chic look, a necessity when going into a meeting with “sharks” of the corporate world.
For the ladies, a pant or dress suit.
This is the go to dress code for most work places today, and just because it says casual doesn’t mean you can go for sneakers.
For the men, a tucked in collared shirt and khaki pants, or chinos, or slacks. Men should opt for a comfy yet business appropriate look, so ditch the accessories and the sore inducing formal shoes.
For the ladies, pants, pencil skirts, or khakis, paired with a blazer and a fun blouse. IF you want to go for jeans, make sure they’re a sleek dark wash, nothing ripped or too trendy.
Dressy Casual/ Casual Dressy
This is a dress code that you would want to stick to if you’re having dinner at a fancy restaurant, spending the afternoon at a lavish hotel, or just visiting your relatives [do not underestimate second cousin’s mom’s silent stares]. Shorts, t-shirts, and torn jeans are off this list.
For her, go for dress pants or sleek dark wash jeans, flared jeans or jumpsuit. Add a collared shirt and a pair of ankle boots or fancy shoes.
For the guys, a sports coat will do or spruce up those jeans with a blazer.
What college students are living in! T-shirts, jeans, sneakers, shorts, anything goes! Hey, admit it we all love jeans & sneakers!
Do you have any tips for how to dress to different occasions? Which is your favorite dress code? Do you have a go to outfit for some of these occasions? Let us know in the comments!