What to wear? 3 Dress codes explained

What to wear

“Dress for success. Image is very important. People judge you by the way you look on the outside.” Brian Tracy

When the dress code is printed on the invitation you receive, you have a clear indication of how formal or not the event is going to be. So although standing out from the crowd is encouraged, having heads turning and eyebrows raising for the wrong reasons, is not.

Here are three dress codes explained to make you feel comfortable and ultimately more confident at your next event.

Smart Casual

Many think that because the word ‘casual’ is printed on the invitation, then jeans can be worn. Wrong.

Smart before casual is there for a reason and if the invitation is printed (and not emailed), then that in itself shows that there is a level of formality to the event.

Women may wear a smart dress with a jacket and if they would like to take it a notch down, they may wear smart trousers with a shirt or blouse. A smart cardigan or tweed jacket are also good options. Hem lengths should be at the knee. The choice of shoes needs to be taken into consideration. Choose a smart pair.

Men may wear trousers and a jacket that complement each other. Chinos are a good option and a blazer for a jacket is also good. The choice of shoes needs to be taken into consideration for men too. Smart shoes are always safe.

Business Formal

Men should wear a suit with matching trousers and jacket (of the same fabric) and a dark colour. Usually solid colour, complemented with a white or light blue dress shirt (not with a button-down collar) and a tie as neckwear.

Women should also wear a matching skirt or trousers suit prefarably dark in colour. Blouses and shirts should be formal and a neck scarf may be worn to dress up the outfit and add a touch of colour. Overall look and grooming including attention to the choice of shoes is important. Court shoes are best.

Black Tie

Commonly referred to as DJs, for dinner jackets, Black Tie is one of the most popular formal evening dress code.

Women should wear a floor length gown or elegant dress and not limit themselves to black. The word ‘black’ in the dress code does not refer to the colour of a woman’s dress. A dressy cocktail dress is also appropriate however for a more elevated look, a longer dress is preferred. A clutch bag, coat or cape and evening shoes will complement this elegant look.

For a sophisticated and stylish look, this outfit features a jacket having silk peaked lapel facings and matching trims on the outseams of the trousers. Shawl collar lapel jackets are also good, however for a more formal look, peaked lapels are the best choice. This outfit is complemented with a pleated white shirt, bow tie, dress shoes and a cummerbund or waistcoat. Ties are not appropriate for a black tie event.

As the saying goes – ‘dress for the occasion’ – so, why not?

Ramona Galea
Ramona Galea

Ramona is an International Etiquette Coach and an avid believer of the importance these soft skills have nowadays. This passion kicked off from a young age when she questioned why elbows couldn’t stay on the table and her inquisitiveness continued and she founded First Class Etiquette, to address the developing need for people’s understanding of the importance of international business and social etiquette. It really is not just about elbows but confidence, attitude, assertiveness and knowing the how, the when and the why we do things. Amongst her hectic schedule, her two biggest indulgences are travelling with her family and reading with an Aperol Spritz in quiet surroundings - just being away from it all to de-stress.

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