What’s the Dress Code?

What’s the Dress Code?

Attention ladies and gentlemen: Winter is upon us and your social calendar is calling! What you wear makes an impression, let us help you decode those invitation dress codes!

Black tie

There’s really nothing as sophisticated as a man in classic black tie—a black or navy tuxedo with all the trimmings. Studs and cufflinks might be momentos, a gift or have a family story. Neckwear can be a classic bowtie or a four-in-hand tie. The most refined look includes a pair of patent leather shoes, or have fun with a fashion forward black tie shoe.

Women will be wearing a gown or luxurious cocktail dress. If wearing a cocktail dress, keep colors rich so it doesn’t look too casual. This is your chance to wear the jewelry that’s locked in the safe. Choose a pair of single sole killer heels and handbag that pair back to the dress to finish the look.

Black Tie Optional

As Oscar Wilde said, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” Wear a dark suit with a classic tie and matching shoes or a tuxedo. If you own a tuxedo, wear it. Your date will also appreciate you in a tux—it’s like a military officer in a uniform.

Women will have the option to wear a full length gown or cocktail dress. Ladies, keep in mind your dress will have to stand up next to your date’s attire and to gowns that other women may have chosen to wear.

Cocktail Attire

This is the most misunderstood dress code. For men, it’s a dark suit, dress shirt and yes ties are still required. Black or brown shoes ground the look.

For women, a beautiful cocktail dress—think party dress, but skip the full length gown. You can’t go wrong with a little black dress. The hemline can be anywhere between mini- and midi-length. Statement jewelry paired with a thoughtful selection of shoes and a bag.

Business Casual

Many men think business casual allows for denim—it does not. It’s dressing down a business look, which can be as simple as wearing a suit and leaving the tie at home. A blazer or sport coat is also appropriate. Neckwear is optional, although it will elevate the look. Shirts can be worn in a relaxed state with the top button undone, just make sure your undershirt is not visible. A pocket square will make this a much more sophisticated statement. If going the blazer route, wear dress pants in solid colors like navy and grey. Loafers and tie shoes round out the look.

Women will have to make a little more effort at business casual. How you dress is critical to your profession and can make or break your career. Your image should never undermind your message or position. Tailor your outfit to your audience. Keep to neutral colors in classic pieces, but add a personal flare by carefully selecting your accessories.

All looks assume that you have a current haircut and current style glasses.

Smart Casual

Here’s where we have fun! Don’t forget to look like you cared about getting dressed. Example: A great pair of 5 pocket cotton pants; a pair of high end jeans; A fun sport shirt or knit, a vest and a tie if you want. Cool current sneakers (not your Nike unless they work back to your look). Almost any dress shoe will work here. A pattern or print can bring some personality to the look.

For women, think polished yet relaxed. There is some overlap with business casual, but think more fashion-forward instead of conservative. Add your own spin to a professional look with fun accessories and trendy shoes. Jeans and a top may be acceptable as long as the jeans are crisp and in a dark wash, and are balanced with a dressier top and accessories.


Casual attire is relaxed and informal—it emphasizes comfort and personality. This is the backyard barbecue, the family reunion. This event is not about what you wear. Shorts are appropriate and so is your hoodie. Boat shoes, drivers and loafers will elevate a casual look, while interesting sneakers also work.

The same goes for the ladies. Embrace the opportunity to be stylish and comfortable at the same time.

For both: If the event is casual and work related, keep the loungewear and athleisure wear at home.


The following applies to men and women. Theme parties can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be. The key is to not only plan in advance, but to wear something that makes you feel great. Start by researching the theme’s style on the Internet. The obvious option is to rent a costume. If this is too over the top, create an outfit based on what you already own and accessorize based on the theme. You can also visit Ebay for worn costumes or accessories. Try the outfit on prior to the event to make any last minute adjustments. Finally, make sure your date follows your lead. It should be an event where you both are excited to have fun together.

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