Common Dress Code Etiquette Everyone Should Know
If you’ve ever received an invitation to an exciting event only to panic when you notice a specific dress code listed at the bottom of the card, you’re not alone. Most people feel confused or don’t know much about the different dress codes—and who can blame them? People often only learn more about them in the workplace by being exposed to them.
We will break down six types of attire below. If I have anything to say about it, you will have a perfectly curated outfit for your next big shindig.
If an event calls for casual attire, you can assume that anything you feel comfortable in is appropriate. Feel free to dress informally, but you may want to put in some effort if the event is important to you!
For women, most things are acceptable, from jeans and a blouse to a sundress. Men can wear jeans or khakis with a casual button-down, sweater, or t-shirt. (Pro tip: If an invite specifies dressy casual, opt for the nicer shirt and shoes.)
This option is frequently used for work-related events, but it can be challenging to gauge the vibe of different company events. Generally, the clothes you would wear to work are appropriate. Although you may want to add some flair to show you care!
Women can wear skirts or slacks with a dress shirt or blouse, and dresses are also acceptable. Men typically stick to dress shirts, casual button-downs, and slacks. Ties and seasonal sports coats are optional, but heels and loafer-style shoes are a must!
Think of smart casual as a mix between dressy casual and business attire; you can combine pieces of varying formality to achieve this look. For instance, a nice blouse with a colourful cardigan will read well.
Formal blouses paired with good-quality jeans, dress pants, or skirts are excellent options for ladies. Men wear button-downs, blazers, sports coats, and dress pants or slacks. Some bright colours may be worn sparingly so as not to appear too informal, but stick to closed-toe loafers or casual heels so as not to appear too formal.
This attire is what you see on legal drama television series, such as Suits with Meghan Markle. Overall, suit jackets with matching pants or skirts are acceptable. However, if the event is significant, you can opt for a darker suit to appear more formal.
Both women and men often don business suits. Women can wear business dresses with jackets, stockings, and low or high heels. Men sport a conservative tie, leather dress shoes, and an optional matching vest. (Pro tip: Avoid distracting colours, patterns, or accessories to maintain a formal appearance!)
This option is dressier than corporate events, but it’s not too formal. Some weddings, fine dining experiences, and holiday parties call for this attire.
Women can wear cocktail, midi, or maxi dresses. Pantsuits and other dressy two-piece sets are also common. Dark suits with dress shirts and an optional vest and tie are perfect for men. Subtle jewellery and accessories are best!
You may need to dig in your closet or go shopping for spiffy new options if you’re attending a formalwear event. Certain weddings, funerals, dinners, balls, and other events require this sophisticated dress code, so you want to dress to impress.
Women should wear full-length formal dresses or pantsuits; this rule has few exceptions. Men must wear a tuxedo. If the event is white tie, men’s tuxedos must also have tails, formal footwear, and a formal white shirt, vest, bowtie, and gloves. If the event is black-tie, women can opt for an elegant cocktail dress, and men may add a black bow tie, vest, or cummerbund. To be sure you have dressed accordingly, perhaps contact the host or other guests before settling on an ensemble!
If you follow these guidelines carefully, you’re sure to feel confident walking into your next major function. And remember, always bring alternates in the car if you’re still unsure! Regardless, I suggest you walk in there with your head high.