Dress Codes Defined: What Should I Wear to Events?

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​So you’ve got an invitation. Whether it’s a little party, an elegant cocktail or a fine dining affair, it’s important to pay attention to the dress codes that may be suggested:

Casual

Comfortable yet polished, flip flops discouraged, and when in doubt, head for the darker colors. It is important to choose a good fabric; whilst leather shoes and crisp fabric can elevate a simple outfit, canvas and linen can downplay it quite severely, especially the former, which tends to wrinkle.

Business Casual

Whilst this ambiguously-defined dress code is still rather debated, the general consensus is a polished look that is professional yet relaxed. For women, that includes suits, collared shirts, tailored dresses and knee-length skirts. Men could go with polo shirts, button downs, dress pants, khakis and trousers, tucked in for an added neatness.

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Business Formal

Professional yet dressy, this dress code is often suggested at rather semi-formal events like conferences. For a foolproof outfit, simply suit up – and that applies for both men and women. One should also consider the shoes, which can make or break an outfit. Heels, dressy leather flats and closed-toe leather oxfords are some safe choices.

Formal

Though becoming exceedingly rare, a Formal dress code cannot be ignored when suggested. It calls for elegant dresses and an impeccable suit-and-tie, and a rather glamorous evening.

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Jacket Required

Probably self-explanatory, but this dress code asks men to don a jacket, typically in the style of Casual Elegance – a dressier form of Business Casual. For women, ‘Jacket Required’ would call for something that would equal men’s formal suits, and that might include gowns, cocktail dresses and formal evening separates.

Cocktail

Dark suits for men and cocktail dresses for women. A safe choice is always that little black dress, elevated with some elegant, fun jewelry (since cocktails suggest a fun, rather than serious affair).

Black Tie

The agreement to which what black tie affairs actually require can be divided – whilst some consider the code more of a color guide, others also consider it an opportunity to be quite glamorous. The formal Black Tie demands a black wool suit paired with a white bib-front shirt, finished with an elegant silk black tie, complete with black shoes and socks. The optional part is the waistcoat and cummerbund. For women, go glamorous with long dresses, formal cocktail dresses or dressy separates. The trick is to consider the context of the event. For lavish weddings, gowns may be more appropriate, but for work functions, a little black dress or its equivalent will suffice. Remember to accessorize with excellent jewelry!

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