The Party Dress Code…Uncoded

22 Apr

“Never have a hurdle for someone to jump over to come to your party.”  (Cinda)

If people don’t know what to wear, there is a good chance they won’t show up!  Creative, fun party themes are terrific, but it is Not necessary for people to have to dress for the theme.  Make the dress code easy to understand, and easy to obtain.   (Terry O’Brien).

Banish pre-party jitters about attire with this quick reference to dress codes for social events.

 Black Tie or Formal

A Black Tie invitation calls for formal attire. Men wear tuxedos, women wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.

Formal usually means the same as Black Tie, but in some trendier cities like New York or Los Angeles, it could mean a black shirt, no tie with a tux. Women wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.

A White Tie or Ultra-formal invitation requires men wear full dress, with white tie, vest, shirt. Women wear long gowns.

MEN

  • Black tailcoat, matching trousers with a single stripe of satin or braid in the US; two stripes in Europe or the UK
  • white piqué wing-collared shirt with stiff front
  • white vest
  • white-colored (e.g., mother of pearl) studs and cufflinks
  • white bow tie
  • white or gray gloves
  • black patent shoes and black dress socks

WOMEN

Formal (floor length) evening gown

And this couple, nails white tie…regardless of what you think of him as President, Mr. Obama and his wife, clean up quite well:

Black Tie Optional

A Black Tie Optional or Black Tie Invited gives you the option of wearing a tuxedo or formal dress, but it should clue you into the formality of the event, meaning a dark suit and tie would be your other option. Women wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.

MEN

  • Either a tuxedo (see ‘Black Tie’ above) or
  • Dark suit, white shirt, and conservative tie
  • dressy leather shoes and dark dress socks

WOMEN

  • Formal (floor length) evening gown
  • dressy cocktail dress
  • a little black dress
  • dressy separates

Creative Black Tie

Creative Black Tie leaves room for trendy interpretations of formal wear. He can go more modern with a tux — maybe a black shirt, no tie. She wears long or short dresses or evening separates.

Sometimes, themed parties call for dress codes like Texas Black Tie or other variations of Creative Black Tie. In that situation, you can have more fun with it, choosing a dressy look with a theme (for him, it could be a tux with boots and for her it could be a long dress paired with Southwestern style silver belt and jewelry).  

MEN

Tuxedo combined with trendy or whimsical items, such as a black shirt or a matching colored or patterned bow tie and cummerbund

WOMEN

  • Formal (floor length) evening gown
  • dressy cocktail dress
  • your dresiest little black dress
  • fun or unique accessories

Semi-Formal

Semi-Formal or After Five means that tuxes are not required, nor are long dresses. An evening wedding (after 6 PM) would still dictate dark suits for him, and a cocktail dress for her. Daytime semi-formal events mean a suit for him and an appropriate short dress or dressy suit for her.

MEN

  • Dark, business suit
  • matching vest (optional)
  • dress shirt
  • conservative tie
  • dressy leather shoes and dark dress socks

WOMEN

  • Short afternoon or cocktail dress
  • a little black dress
  • long dressy skirt and top
  • dressy separates

Business Formal is the same as Semi-Formal for him, but for women it suggests that women opt for more tailored dressy suits and dresses (nothing too slinky or sexy).

Cocktail Attire

Cocktail Attire means short, elegant dresses for her and dark suits for him.  Women can also wear black flowey slacks with a great blouse or festive jacket.

MEN

  • Dark, business suit
  • matching vest (optional)
  • dress shirt
  • conservative tie
  • dressy leather shoes and dark dress socks

WOMEN

  • Short afternoon or cocktail dress
  • a little black dress
  • long dressy skirt and top
  • dressy separates

 Informal

Informal is often interpreted as the same as Casual but it actually calls for the same dress as Semi-Formal — dark suits for him, short dresses for her — especially when associated with a wedding or special event.

MEN

  • Seasonal sport coat or blazer and slacks
  • dress shirt, casual button-down shirt
  • optional tie
  • open-collar or polo shirt

WOMEN

  • Dress
  • skirt and dressy top
  • dressy pants outfit
  • nice jeans and dressy top

Festive Attire – usually for holidays.

Festive Attire is usually seen around the holidays, with the mood of the party being Informal or Semi-Formal. For her, it means to choose looks with a bit of sparkle or holiday bent (i.e. a beaded sweater with black pants, a red silk blouse with a black skirt).

MEN

  • Seasonal sport coat or blazer in color of choice, and slacks
  • open-collar shirt
  • dress shirt and optional “festive” or holiday-themed tie

WOMEN

  • Cocktail dress or
  • long dressy skirt and top
  • dressy pants outfit or separates
  • a little black dress
  • feature holiday colors and accessories

 

Casual

Dressy Casual calls for dressed-up versions of casual looks. For him, it could be trousers and a sportcoat, for her a dressy pants look. Jeans, shorts, T-shirts and other casual looks are not appropriate for Dressy Casual.

MEN:

  • Khakis or good jeans (clean, no holes)
  • cargo or Bermuda shorts—depending on occation and climate
  • plain t-shirt (no slogans), polo shirt, or turtleneck
  • casual button-down shirt
  • sweater
  • loafers, sneakers (with or without socks), or sandals

WOMEN

  • Sundress
  • long or short skirt
  • khakis or nice jeans
  • shorts (depending on occasion and climate)
  • plain t-shirt (no slogans), polo shirt, or turtleneck
  • casual button-down blouse

Casual generally means anything goes.

Note the gentleman with the flip flops…and note, no snarky comment by Moi.

Happy Good Friday…it’s a good friday to be alive.

xoxo,

T.

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7 Responses to “The Party Dress Code…Uncoded”

  1. Lisa Sykes April 22, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    Oh the beautiful people, how I wish I were one! All great tips and good info. Thanks for the another excellent blog. Happy Easter to all!

  2. Gina April 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    Love the information. And…just to share…without doubt if I am wearing an Etcetera piece…I ALWAYS get positive comments and know I am dressed appropriately.

  3. Carol S April 22, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    Nice!

  4. Robin Christoffersen December 28, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    Can you give me a resource for the long, black, tie waisted gown? It is beautiful! Thank you.

  5. shirley November 23, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    can I wear a long gown to an awards event at 4 in the afternoon / Black tie optional invite?

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  1. Ball Attire Requested « DRESSED TO A T - June 13, 2011

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