1 View
Marcus Kirby
by Published on September 12, 2019

There might be some modern trends that folks of yore could never have envisioned—people really wear sneakers with dresses to dinner?!—but there are a few holdovers from the Golden Age that are still kicking. First and foremost: the classical system of labeling invites to events with certain dress codes. For us, this ancient system of dress codes can be quite confusing—after all, we’re used to wearing our sneakers to dinner.

To help you navigate the landmine that is black tie, creative black tie, business formal, and beyond, we’ve deconstructed the 10 most often-used dress codes for you. You’ll never wonder what to wear to any event ever again.

Scroll down for a detailed list of decoded dress codes, as well as pieces to shop for each one.

A black-tie event is the epitome of formal. Cocktail-length dresses are only allowed if they are extremely dressy and sleek. What to Wear: A formal floor-length gown is preferred. Also allowed: a dressy cocktail dress or your best LBD paired with fancier jewelry, which will elevate the overall look.

A black-tie-optional event is still dressy but not as strict. In other words, you can wear a formal evening gown, but no one will look at you twice if you choose to wear a cocktail dress. What to Wear: A formal floor-length evening gown, fancier cocktail dress, a tux-style pantsuit, or LBD.

This is a professional look that isn’t overly dressy. Think something you could definitely wear to the office (i.e., something on the conservative side) but would feel comfortable wearing to grab a work drink. What to Wear: An open-collar shirt or sweater with a pencil skirt or trousers. You can also wear a dress, as long as it’s not provocative.

Imagine what you would wear if you were giving a very important presentation at work. That’s essentially how you should dress for a business-formal event. What to Wear: A tailored, polished dress with a blazer or a pantsuit. Whatever you wear, style it with appropriate heels. This is not the time for flats or super-high club shoes.

Your average brunch look will work.  What to Wear: A skirt (either long or short) and a plain tee, nice jeans with a button-down blouse, or a cotton sundress. Flats are fine.

Think black tie with some breathing room. Still formal and dressy but with a smidge of playfulness thrown in. What to Wear: A dressy cocktail dress, floor-length evening gown, or LBD, plus fun and unique accessories.

Think Olivia Palermo on just about any given day. A look that is casual but not at all lazy or frumpy. What to Wear: A dressy blouse with jeans and heels, a skirt and top set, a crisp pantsuit, or a dress. Flats are acceptable as long as they are not overtly casual (i.e., no sneakers).

As the name suggests, a semi-formal event is just that: semiformal. It’s certainly still dressy, but not as much so as a black-tie-optional event. What to Wear: A cocktail dress, LBD, floor-length skirt and blouse in appropriate fabrics (like silk), or dressy separates. You can also wear a long dress if you wish.

This is the most extravagant of all the dress codes—perhaps that’s why the Met Gala utilized it in 2014. Think full ball gown, elbow-length gloves, and all your best jewelry. What to Wear: A floor-length evening gown (mandatory), gloves (optional), and your best jewelry. Your dress should incorporate luxe fabrications like lace, silk, and chiffon. 

As the name suggests, this is a dressy event that is still meant to be primarily social and enjoyable. What to Wear: A cocktail dress (obviously), LBD, or a shorts suit in more formal fabrications, plus a sleek pair of heels. Flats are not recommended but can work in certain situations.

Available in sizes XS to L.

Up next, shop the $12 Amazon bras people are freaking out over

This post was published at an earlier date and has been updated.

Be the first person to like this.
Also from this author
by August 4, 2019
3 Views 3 Likes
SHADY LADY // RAY-BAN SUNGLASSES July 30, 2019 Thank you ShopStyle for sponsoring this post! ...
by August 29, 2019
1 View 2 Likes
Clearly, Who What Wear editors love skinny jeans as much as the next person. We've broken down the best It girl–approved ways to wear them, the best brands to buy skinny jeans from, and how to wear them like celebrities. As ubiquitous as they are, however, they are far from the only denim option you need. As Nicole Kidman just proved, a sleek pair of wide-leg jeans are an absolute wardrobe essential—and might even convince you to hold off on your beloved skinny jeans that can feel restrictive on...
by August 29, 2019
Kate Middleton's look for her latest public appearance was decidedly more, well, nautical than what we're used to seeing her wear. But as we recently reported, she has a new stylist (and former British Vogue editor) that's helping to craft her looks as of late, and she's keeping us on our toes. The nautical-inspired look is one that instantly gave us visions of chic Parisian girls. Sure, Breton stripes and navy, red, and white may be a bit of a French-girl cliché, but honestly, sometimes style c...