You get invited to a private upscale event that states on the invitation a dress code of Black Tie Optional. You might be wondering to yourself, what should I wear so I won’t look out of place? Some dress codes are apparent, but without question, some can be confusing.
Most event planners encourage the host to include a dress code on the invitation. Having a proper dress code outlined for your guests will ensure that your event will stay as formal or as casual as you would like it to be.
As the receiver of this invitation, here is a simple guideline that can help you dress appropriately for any occasion.
If Your Invite Dress Code Says…
If an invite states that the dress code is casual, chances are the host wants you to arrive in comfortable clothing. This type of event might be a company-wide retreat or fun social event hosted by your best client. Casual can be tricky since it is the dress code most open to interpretation. Simply put, dress in your nicest most up to date casual outfit.
Jeans and a t-shirt paired with a nice pair of white bottom leather casual shoes are appropriate for this occasion. You might want to step it up a notch with a sports jacket, casual sport shirt, cool loafers, and dark wash or colored jeans.
Your favorite pair of jeans, a t-shirt with a nice pair of flats are appropriate for this occasion. We recommend your nicest summer dress with a few stylish accessories to add a little bit of flair. Depending on what type of event it is, your footwear can range from sneakers to heels. If you are unsure, our recommendation is to wear a nice comfortable pair of flats.
Business Casual or Smart Casual
If an invite says business casual or smart casual think of what you would typically wear to a day at the office, wear something that is appropriate for the office but can also be easily dressed up with a few accessories for the evening.
Wear a pair of nicely tailored cotton, linen or wool trousers paired with a collared dress shirt, leather or suede loafers and a nicely tailored sports jacket. You can go without the jacket during the day and save it for the event if you wish. Ties, vests, and other accessories could be great options to throw in the mix.
Dress pants or a pencil skirt are a great option for bottoms. Look for dressier tops that are fashion-forward and also office appropriate. A little black dress is always a great option, as it can be dressed up or down depending on the type of event. For evening, save your favorite statement necklace or heels to change into right before you arrive.
Business or Informal Attire
Think of business or informal attire as a step up from business casual. It should still be workplace appropriate but with another level of sophistication.
Always wear a suit and tie to this type of event. You may opt for a dressier belt and dress shoes. Classic accessories such as a stylish pair of cufflinks or a lapel blossom can be a great option to add to your outfit.
Wear a business suit or dress with appropriate heels. For this type of dress code, try and look for more natural colors such as black, brown, grey, or navy. Try and wear minimal jewelry and always keep your hair and makeup looking neat and professional.
When you see a semi-formal dress code on an invitation, your best bet is to wear your dressiest outfit shy of traditional formal wear for men or an evening gown for women. Think of cocktail attire.
Go for sophisticated and timeless. Wearing your best fitting dark, dressy suit in black, navy or charcoal grey, white shirt and matching necktie is an excellent option for semi-formal (think of Don Draper from Mad Men).
Wear your favorite cocktail or little black dress. You can also wear a dressy jumpsuit. With semi-formal attire, choose a fun pattern or design to make your outfit stand out in the crowd. Accessories can be a great option to elevate your outfit to the next level. We recommend wearing a pair of dressy heels to this event.
Don’t be afraid to go bold with your outfit but remember to avoid skirts or dresses that are too short.
Beach formal attire can be tricky to get right. The word beach automatically makes you think super casual, but then the word formal is added, so which is it?
We recommend a summer linen or cotton pant, paired with a linen or cotton collared casual shirt or nice knit polo. Finish your look with sandals or casual shoes that you can wear without socks and matching belt.
The key is to balance fashion and functionality. We recommend a formal sundress or maxi-dress paired with flat shoes, wedges, or sandals. Since you are celebrating in a tropical location, opt for fun, bright colors or exotic print.
A black tie dress code means you should opt for a floor-length formal gown. Although a floor length dress is preferred, you may opt for a very fancy mid-thigh or below length dress.
You should wear a tuxedo or formal dinner jacket with formal pant and formal shirt with formal shoes.
If you are unsure of what some of these items are here is a simple guide:
Defined as a matching base fabric such as black or navy wool with a contrasting fabric in satin for a high luster or grosgrain for a matte finish. The contrasting fabric of a tuxedo is typically placed on the jacket’s lapels, exterior pocket piping, and covers the jacket buttons.
On a formal pant, the contrasting fabric is typically placed on the waistband, front and back pocket piping and the stripe down the pant’s outseam.
Same as a tuxedo jacket in terms of the contrasting fabrics on the lapels etc. however the base fabrics are typically fancies that have more visible colors, patterns or textures. Some of the most popular are wool, silk or velvet solids and paisley’s in silk.
Same as tuxedo pants in terms of contrasting fabrics on the waistband, etc. however the base fabrics are typically black, midnight navy or grey. It’s important to note that a formal pant will never have belt loops or cuffs on the bottoms and can only be worn with a dinner jacket or matching tuxedo jacket.
Defined as a bright rice white french cuff shirt with or without pleats in front. A formal shirt can be a solid, solid with texture or jacquard print known as a white on white. The front placket can be covered, i.e., fly front or be uncovered and worn with formal studs that match the cufflink’s gemstone.
Your formal kicks can be a lace up or loafer. A formal lace-up can be in a high gloss finish such as patent leather or matte finish such as calf leather. The design should be a plain toe with no perforations, design, or lines on the toe. A formal loafer can be in a high gloss patent leather or matte finish. One of the most popular is black velvet loafers.
Black Tie Optional or Formalwear
Black tie optional means you may wear a tuxedo, formal dinner jacket and formal pant or a dark, dressy suit in black, midnight navy or charcoal grey with a crisp, bright white formal French cuff shirt and appropriate formal or dress shoe.
Opt for a formal gown of any length or evening pantsuit. Avoid wearing dresses that go above knee length. Wearing your hair in a fancy updo with your dressiest jewelry is a great way to add that extra level of sophistication. For handbags, a clutch or other evening bag should be paired with your outfit.
If it’s a wedding, the men’s side of the wedding party will be in formal attire, meaning their choice of a tuxedo, dinner jacket and formal pants or formal wedding suits. The bride will be in a formal wedding dress, and the bridesmaids will be in bridesmaid’s dresses. You should wear the best of what you have in your wardrobe – a tuxedo, dinner jacket and formal pant or dressy dark formal suit.
Black Tie Preferred
Black tie preferred is one of the most confusing invitations as it closely mirrors the black tie dress code.
We recommend wearing a tuxedo or formal dinner jacket and formal pant with a formal shirt and shoes. You can also wear a dark, dressy suit in black, midnight navy or charcoal grey with a dress shirt and necktie.
A formal gown of any length or evening pantsuit is acceptable.
White tie is the most formal dress code and has very specific rules of attire as an attendee. If you are lucky enough to get an invite to one of these galas, there is a strong expectation that you will adhere to this strict dress code.
White tie means wearing a black tailcoat jacket and formal pant. The white shirt is a textured pique with matching waistcoat and bowtie all in bright white. Men will only wear formal lace-up patent leather shoes and should have white gloves and a black top hat.
Long ball gowns are a must. You may choose to dress up your outfit with a pair of gloves, stylish jewelry, or a formal clutch.