There is nothing quite like the excitement of being invited to a lavish cocktail party, black tie event, business dinner or networking event. But that feeling can quickly fade when the dreaded question “what do I wear?” pops into your head.
If choosing the outfit itself wasn’t bad enough, you have to try and work out what is appropriate to wear in each different setting. To help you, we’ve put together a style guide on what to wear for every occasion, so whether you are attending a casual BBQ with friends through to an extravagant societal ball, we have you clothed.
A casual dress code means that pretty much anything goes. Shorts, jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, and even thongs are perfectly fine for a casual affair.
If invited to a party or BBQ with a casual dress code, keep your hosts in mind. What do they usually wear and how might they determine what a casual dress code is? If they are people who tend to be more smartly dressed, take the same approach.
2. Smart Casual or Business Casual
This dress code is actually quite deceiving, because when it comes to smart or business casual, there’s nothing casual about it. Jeans, shorts and t-shirts are definitely not appropriate, instead go for dressier pants or a skirt with a nice blouse, or a more elegant day dress teamed with heels or ballet flats.
Really, you only want to be slightly less dressy than what you would wear to work (in a corporate environment) to meet a client. Go for a relaxed professional or polished look.
Business dress is obviously very sharp and professional. Opt for tailored suits – either pants or skirts – with buttoned up blouses, or a tailored dress with a jacket, combined with closed in heels and elegant accessories. It doesn’t have to be the same black, grey, red, white or navy colour schemes though. You can add a little colour through your accessories, jackets and blouses, depending on your industry and work dress code.
Think along the lines of Michelle Obama, or, for a more fictional example, the television character Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife. Both have a very classy, polished, confident look that is indicative of a business dress code.
(For more ideas on dressing up your business style check out Four Style Tips To Take Your Work Wardrobe From Drab to Fab)
4. Cocktail, Semi-Formal or After Five
This can be a rather confusing dress code, considering that a cocktail party can be anything from a glamorous societal affair to a quiet dinner with friends, so it is important to keep the audience in mind.
In a broader sense though, cocktail, semi-formal or after five style codes tend to demand shorter (just above or just below the knee) formal dresses. Your little black dress is often the best choice here, or a more glittery, patterned party dress made from satin, silk or another light fabric.
Of course, no cocktail dress would be complete without sparkly accessories and the highest heels you can manage to walk in.
5. Formal or Black Tie
When it comes to a formal or black tie style code, think red carpet elegance with beautiful, long dresses and gowns or elegant evening separates. While you can get away with cocktail dresses at some events, you are always better to choose the more formal, longer style – plus it can be more fun!
When it comes to dressing appropriately for any occasion, the golden rule is that it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Besides, if you do get really stuck on what to wear, clarify with the hosts of the event or ask a friend or colleague what they will be wearing.
Have an upcoming cocktail or black tie event? Check out our full collection for some outfit inspiration.
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