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Decoding the Dress Code

These days it’s easy to get confused by all the various dress code options out there. There’s nothing worse than walking into a party and realizing your outfit doesn’t quite cut the “black-tie” requirement. To prevent this from ever happening, immediately bookmark this post and then read on. You’ll be glad you did!

White Tie (Also called Evening Dress or Full Dress): The most formal option. Usually reserved for very fancy weddings, galas, balls, or special ceremonies.

Ladies: Evening gowns that are floor length. You could also opt for a nice top and long formal skirt as well. Sometimes sleeveless looks are frowned upon, so think about either finding a dress with sleeves or bringing a shawl/cover-up.

Gentlemen: Dress coat, white bow tie, white shirt, trousers, oxford shoes. Often you can rent a dress coat for special occasions.

Black Tie: Used for most formal events – often weddings, banquets, or nice parties that want formal dress, this dress code is less restrictive than white tie.

Ladies: Long dresses or skirts are a safe option, but this dress code allows for shorter hemlines as well. Cocktail dresses made of nice fabrics are what you should generally be looking to wear. Heels are encouraged. 

Gentlemen: Black bow tie, black tuxedo, black trousers, oxford shoes, and waistcoat. Tuxedos and other aspects of the look such as a waistcoat can be rented.

**If the invitation says Black Tie Optional, this generally means that men can choose between a tuxedo or a very nice evening jacket.

Cocktail: This is usually the most popular dress code for weddings, parties, upscale birthdays, anniversary parties or corporate parties.

Ladies: Opt for a cocktail dress, heels, nice accessories, and a clutch, or nice pants and a pretty top.

Gentlemen: This means you can wear a button down, slacks, a nice sport coat and a tie/bow tie Loafers or oxford shoes are best. If you prefer to look a bit dressier, wear an understated suit.

Casual: This word pops up on invitations for day weddings, parties at outdoor venues, and usually in warmer locales or months. Remember, casual doesn’t mean sweatpants and gym clothes, – think relaxed, comfortable, and simple.

Ladies: Maxi dresses, sundresses or skirts, blouses, sandals or boots.

Gentlemen: A button down shirt, khakis, loafers or boat shoes.


Remember, if you look good you’ll feel good. Don’t get overwhelmed by the dress code – dressing up should be fun! If you are dressing for a wedding, try to avoid anything too bold or zany  – the attention should be on the bride and groom, not you. Follow these rules and have a great time!