Have you ever been stumped by dress codes? This post will provide everything you need to know to be best dressed at the next event.
This past September I attended a wedding in the Catskills. It was a weekend full of various events and when I initially received the invitation, I was perplexed by the dress code listed on the invite to the welcome dinner on the Friday evening before the wedding ceremony and reception. The dress code specified, “Smart Casual.” Although I had a feeling this meant dressier than jeans, maybe something akin to business casual; I truly had no idea what this actually meant. So to Google I went so that I could figure out what this seemingly nonsensical dress code actually meant. I’ve since learned that jeans are ok for smart casual – just not the ratty ones. I was also inspired to create a post describing each of the most common and not so common dress codes, so that we can all be better prepared for our next party. From most formal to least formal, know exactly how to dress for your next event.
A white tie affair is most formal. For women, a long gown is a must. For men, this dress code is more particular – think a tuxedo with a black dress tailcoat rather than a regular tuxedo jacket, white starched shirt, waistcoat and a white bow tie. A regular tuxedo will not do. Fun Fact: the 2014 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala or “Met Gala” was a white tie affair.
Black tie is relatively unambiguous for men; who should wear tuxedos. Women have a bit more flexibility – the safest route is to wear a floor length gown, but a fancy knee-length or midi-length cocktail dress would also be appropriate. A dress like the long velvet gown in the first photo above could be an option. I wore this to the Catskills wedding reception. However, depending on the venue you might want to go with something a bit fancier. I find velvet to be a perfect fabric for a fall wedding in a more rustic environment like the Catskills. That might not be the case for an ultra glam NYC or London affair. Additionally, the vibe you should go for is classically beautiful rather than overly sexy when attending a black tie event.
Manners & Manhattans Pro Tip: This one is for the ladies. If you’re ever in a situation where you don’t have anything to wear or you feel like you would only wear a dress like a super fancy gown once – use Rent The Runway. And no, this isn’t an ad, but just a plug for a truly wonderful service that I love. It’s great to be able to rent a fabulous dress at a fraction of the cost; especially if it’s an item you’re only going to wear once. I even have their unlimited subscription – this has cut down on my clothing expenses a ton!
Creative Black Tie
This dress code comes up less frequently (I’ve never attended an event that called for “creative black tie” attire). Basically, follow the same guidelines as the black tie dress code, but add some more personality. Whimsical jewelry or shoes or even something non-traditional like a sparkly jumpsuit or a tuxedo style suit. For the guys, choose a tuxedo or dress with bolder colors or accents. Speaking of the Met Gala again, I would say some of the gowns on display this year would fall right into the “creative black tie” category (or, ok, very creative black tie). Further, the bright pink and red Marchessa Notte dress I’m wearing in the second photo could be an example of a good option – if you look closely the pattern in the lace is of butterflies.
Black Tie Optional
If you’re invited to a wedding or other event that specifies “black tie optional,” men have the option of wearing a tuxedo or dark suit and women may wear anything from a cocktail dress to a long gown. The third photo in the montage above is an example – it’s a midi length black dress and I added some fun rainbow shoes to give those party vibes.
For men, this is easy – a dark suit and tie should be worn. For women, a little black dress is perfect or a cocktail length dress that is colorful and feminine would be great. The red Kate Spade dress I’m wearing in the fifth photo above is an example. I’m giving you guys the back view because the bow adds some fun to this outfit. I think it’s ok to show personality at formal events, too. Additionally, the red dress would also work for festive attire.
I see this on many holiday party invites (I’m planning to use it on my own this year) – think sparkles, glitter, color!
Last but not least, the dress code that stumped me. For men, I would go with nice jeans or chinos and a button down and a nice blazer and women could go with a not too dressy dress, a skirt or dress pants. I would say use business casual as a guideline, but don’t be so conservative. Color, leather, animal prints are all good in my book. My patterned dress with the over-the-knee boots or the leopard and leather combo in the last photo could be examples of smart casual.
Have you ever struggled with event dress codes? I would love to hear your experiences. Lastly, if you don’t want to miss out on future posts full of etiquette and entertaining tips, be sure to subscribe to my mailing list, which can easily be done by using the subscribe box in the sidebar. Cheers!