Solving The Dress Code

If you are invited to a wedding, a baby shower, a birthday party or any other event in between you will always be met with the same issue – what are you going to wear? Short or long? Printed or plain? Blinged up or down? The options are endless, so to assist with that the host of your gathering has given you a dress code to match the kind of event that they are throwing, whether it be a casual get together, a high society ball, or even a laid back soiree. They have an idea of what they want their event to be in their mind, and you need to dress the part.

The only issue is – what does it all mean? How can you dress the part if you’re not too clear on what the parts are? Well I am here to rescue you with a handy little breakdown for all of your events and future occasions.


Formal, Black Tie or White Tie:

Being handed an invitation that proclaims a formal dress code usually means that the invitation itself probably was hand delivered by a suited butler with white gloves and a silver tray. Maybe we’re being a little too dramatic, but it does mean that this event that you have been invited to is going to be a high-class affair that will probably be held in an extremely nice venue, and that champagne will probably be in free abundance.

There are two types of formal occasions and they are separated into the colours of black and white tie. White tie is the most fanciest formal occasion of all and generally means that the guys should be outfitted in a full black suit with crisp white tie and shirt, while the woman are absolutely required to wear floor length silk gowns that probably ended up costing a pretty penny. These kind of events are generally situated for the Oscars, or a White House dinner, so if you’re planning on throwing a formal affair, make sure you are aware of the extravagant lengths you are expecting of your guests if you mention “White Tie” on the invitation. When dressing for an event like this, you need to simply think “What would I wear to meet the President of the United States?” and then emulate it.

The second type of function is black tie, and this is generally more relaxed then a white tie event, but still requires the men to wear a traditional tuxedo or suit, and the women to wear something a little more extravagant. Women have a bit more to play with, and can opt for cute cocktail dresses as well, but the longer the better at a black tie function, and the less low cut or revealing the more appropriate. If you end up receiving an invitation that asks for guests to dress “formal” think of it like more of a black tie event and opt for something you would wear that is both glamorous and functional.


Photo by Beijos Events

Cocktail or Semi-Formal:

The idea behind the Cocktail Attire came about in the 50’s and 60’s, where men in their dapper and crisp suits, and women in their floaty and pretty dresses would meet for the cocktail hour between work (and general day to day activities) and dinner time. It was a “come as you are” kind of idea, but the way people dressed in these eras were generally more crisp and perfected. This was the time of the perfect American family after all, so the casual hour generally wasn’t casual at all.

Cocktail, or semi-formal as it can often be referred to, allows more room to reflect your personal style and are matched with fun floaty cocktail dresses, quirky accessories, and for the men more extravagant and decorated shirts and ties. The prints were more colourful, floral and out there, and the dresses became knee length or shorter to reflect the more free-flowing party hour. Cocktail attire is the more common dress code for events such as weddings or engagements, as it is generally more open and intuitive and gives guests more reasons to play.

Honey Skies Photography

 Photo by Bianca Juliet Photography (Formally Honey Skies)

Smart Casual:

If you have been invited to a smart casual themed event then chances are it will be an intimate gathering with close friends and family to the host. Contrary to popular beliefs and the clinging to the word “casual” you can’t wear your jeans, sweat pants or a hoodie for a smart casual ‘do. This isn’t a frat party.

Think of your smart casual gathering like an office party, or like you are going to run into your ex at this party and you want them to think that you are “winning” the break up by looking good (we all do this – tell the truth!). For women, make your outfit cute, respectable and neat with understated jewellery but maybe a nice bold pattern or dress. Cute matching flats or sandals are generally a good shoe choice and dresses can definitely fall above the knee line for this party! For the men, go for some pants and a nice shirt, perhaps a blazer on top as well. Dress like you are going out to a club and want to be “casual cool” and use a variety of different materials, such as linens and cotton as well. Basically you want to look good and not like you jumped off the couch and went to the party in your yoga pants and messy hair.

I tend to say that if you are going to any event that doesn’t have a dress code, and isn’t a high school party or even a summer beach vibe, than smart casual is the way you want to dress. It’s a great fall back if you aren’t going to a wedding or a dinner party with the President and you can guarantee that no matter the situation, you will always look good.

So now that you know what you need to look like to match the event like a fine bottle of wine, it’s time that you went shopping isn’t it?

One thought on “Solving The Dress Code

  1. Pingback: Be Our Guest: How To Behave At Weddings | The Party Connection | Your liaison to unique occasions

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