The Reader’s Digest Guide to Dressing Properly for Every Occasion
You’ve just been invited to a wedding, party or business event. Here’s a handy guide to help you decide what to wear, depending on the dress code.
Dress code: White tie
Definition: The most formal dress code, typically reserved for events such as state dinners and the Academy Awards.
- Women: Wear a formal, floor-length evening gown. Go all out with your most dramatic shoes and jewelry.
- Men: Wear a tuxedo, a long black jacket with tails, a white collared shirt, a white vest, a white bow tie, and black patent-leather shoes. White or grey gloves are appropriate.
Dress code: Black tie
Definition: Less dressy than white tie, but still pretty formal, and usually reserved for evening affairs.
- Women: Wear a floor-length evening gown, a knee-length dress with heels, or your dressiest black dress. Dressy separates, like a knee-length skirt and shell set, also work.
- Men: Wear a tuxedo, a black bow tie, a black cummerbund or vest, and black patent-leather shoes. In the summer or on a cruise, a white dinner jacket with black tuxedo pants would be appropriate, along with the rest of the black-tie wardrobe.
Dress code: Creative black tie
Definition: Formal, but with a trendy twist.
- Women: Skip the modest gown in favour of a more fun, but still formal dress. You can also wear a formal knee-length dress, a satin ball-gown skirt with a cashmere sweater or blouse, or tuxedo pants with a silk top. Your jewelry and accessories should be fun and unique.
- Men: Wear a tuxedo combined with trendy or whimsical items, such as a black shirt or a coloured or patterned bow tie with a matching cummerbund.
Dress code: Formal or black tie optional
Definition: Slightly less formal than black tie.
- Women: Wear a floor-length gown, a knee-length cocktail dress or little black dress with heels, or a dressy suit.
- Men: Wear a dark suit and tie with dressy leather shoes, or a tuxedo.
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Dress code: Semi-formal
Definition: Somewhere between formal and casual, depending on the time of the event.
- Women: Wear a knee-length cocktail dress, a little black dress, a dressy skirt and top, or even slacks with a dressy blouse.
- Men: Wear a suit and tie in a dark or light colour, depending on the season and the time of day, or dress pants with a collared shirt and jacket. Add dressy leather shoes.
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Dress code: Cocktail attire
Definition: Festive and fun, but not formal.
- Women: Wear a knee-length dress, or even dress pants or a skirt with a nice blouse.
- Men: Wear a jacket and slacks, with or without a tie. Colours or patterns can be a bit bolder than with semi-formal attire.
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Dress code: Business casual
Definition: Casual, but work-appropriate.
- Women: Wear dress pants, a casual dress, or a skirt with a nice blouse. Stay away from spaghetti straps or plunging necklines.
- Men: Wear khakis or dress pants with a collared shirt and loafers (or loafer-style shoes). You can also add a sport coat or blazer.
Dress code: Casual
Definition: Anything goes, but stay away from denim jeans, shorts, and tank tops for bigger events (casual weddings included).
- Women: Wear a sundress, a skirt or pants with a pretty top.
- Men: Wear khakis with a button-down, a sweater, or a polo shirt.
Sources: theknot.com, emilypost.com, evite.com, Ladies’ Home Journal, eHow.com