Dress codes can be a tricky thing. How casual is too casual? Does cocktail mean any ol’ dress is fine? If receiving an invitation always leaves you in a mild panic because you never know exactly what you’re supposed to wear, never fear! I’ve decoded the most common dress codes so you’ll be confident in the knowledge that you’ll nail every single event with ease.
A dress code that has become popular of late think of smart casual as a dressy version of what you’d usually wear in your downtime. So while denim cut-offs and thongs are a definite no-no things like tailored pants, a simple shift dress (leave the sequins at home!) or dark denim are perfect for this dress code. Just think: if you were meeting your partner’s parents for the first time over Sunday lunch what would be appropriate?
It is important to always consider the time of day for the smart casual dress code. Dressy shorts may be acceptable in the day during the warmer months, as long as they are not too short and coming into winter, leather pants are a great option for this. It’s fine to wear heels but leave the sky-high stilettos at home and opt for a more modest heel instead.
A silk blouse in neutral hues such as white or blush pink is ideal for pairing with everything from pants to a skirt for a smart casual look. It also always looks super luxe and polished so you’ll definitely win some sartorial brownie points..
For the guys…Men should think of a pair of nice jeans or chinos with loafers. Smart casual usually does involve a collar to differentiate from casual t-shirts.
Cocktail attire is a step up from smart casual but is not as dressy as black tie. Cocktail is a popular dress code for events such as weddings because it’s not super formal but is still dressy enough to elevate an event from just a simple gathering. Plus it’s the kind of dress code that guarantees guests turn up looking stylish but is free enough to allow people to inject a bit of personality in their outfit.
Go for a dress which is tastefully short (if you have to come up with a strategy on how to sit, it might be time to reconsider.). You can’t really go wrong with a little black dress as it’s classic and is a safe option when you’re not quite sure what other guests will be wearing.
When the weather is cooler a dress with sleeves is perfect for keeping you warm but on point. To liven up the outfit opt for a killer pair of heels, a statement clutch or a show-stopping pair of earrings.
If you’re after something with slightly more pizzazz, a cocktail dress code allows you to play with bolder hues or a print if you dare; sequins are most definitely welcome. As you can see cocktail is a dress code umbrella term that welcomes all kinds of looks – the above Lover Gypsy Mini Dress would be equally as fitting as the above pistachio-hued scalloped dress by Carven.
When buying cocktail dresses, I do often find that if you buy elegant pieces then you will be able to wear them again. Bear in mind that a simple solid colour is slightly easier to re-use than something like an animal print which is easily recognisable. If you’re looking to invest in one piece that is guaranteed to be worn time and time again then you can’t go wrong with a beautiful black designer dress that can act as a blank canvas and change to suit any occasion by simply switching up your shoes, accessories or bag.
For the guys… Men should wear dark suits, dress pants and dress shirts. Depending on the season and location, dressy jeans can also work well.
Black tie is popular for weddings and special events. For ladies, an evening gown is ideal but sometimes a demure cocktail dress may also be appropriate. It is usually best to opt for darker colours or neutral shades such as navy, cream or black as it always looks classic and elegant. Steer clear of white for weddings though!
There are varying degrees of black tie and I find it is always best to base your choice on what the host will most likely be wearing. For example, if it is a very formal wedding at an exclusive location then wear a gown, otherwise a formal cocktail dress with statement accessories may be more appropriate if it is for a work function.
The dress length can vary from mid to long and you are not restricted to only wear black. Think elegance above all else.
For the guys...Men are required to wear a tuxedo adorned with a black bow tie.
White tie is the most formal level of dress code and is usually reserved for royal galas or state dinners! If you’re lucky enough to have to attend a white tie event make sure you opt for a classic floor length gown. Gloves should also be worked into the outfit too. The key to dressing well for white tie, is balancing glamour and elegance. Think: what would Kate Middleton wear? Usually channelling royalty will ensure you’re on the right track with the dress code.
An elegant up-do is the norm and is the perfect occasion to show off a stunning pair of earrings. If you’ve got a dazzling piece in your jewellery collection – now is the time to let it shine.
For the guys…For men, a white bow tie should sit on top of a white formal dress shirt. White tie requires a black coat with tails and a white pique vest.