Dress codes are intimidating — there’s no doubt about that. But with a little knowledge and a flexible wardrobe, you can conquer any hyper-specific dress code thrown at you.
If you’re the type of guy who freezes up when he sees an event invitation with the words “cocktail attire,” it’s time to listen up.
From black tie to casual, here’s what to wear when you have to look appropriate.
Black tie is often considered the pinnacle of modern formality (aside from white tie, which has been completely forgotten about, and is almost never worn aside from royal weddings). Attendees of evening events are, however, sometimes requested to wear black tie.
If that's the case, here's what you need to wear:
- A completely black tuxedo with a white formal shirt featuring a wing collar, finished with a black satin bow tie. Sometimes a black satin cummerbund is added, but that is becoming less and less common.
- Black socks and black patent leather shoes are non-negotiable for footwear here.
All three of these essentially mean the same thing: You're going to be wearing a suit.
If you see 'black-tie optional' on an invite, know that wearing a tuxedo is not required, but whoever sent the invitation will most likely be wearing one.
An appropriate outfit could include a navy suit with a formal dress shirt and a dark-coloured necktie. Cocktail attire is the least formal of the three, while business formal gives you the least leeway here.
Business casual is today's standard office dress code, and it's a lot more freeform than any of the stuffier dress codes.
Jackets are optional but encouraged. Dress pants or chinos are required, as well as a collared shirt and leather shoes.
Jeans are becoming more and more tolerated with every year. If you're going to wear them with a business casual outfit, ensure they are well-fitting, without tears, and in a dark wash.
The words 'dressy casual' on an invitation indicate that the party is not formal, but that the host is expecting a little something extra. Throw a blazer on.
If an invitation has no dress code, you can assume it's casual.
Good news! A casual dress code means you're free to explore and dress to your personal style.
It does not mean that you should just completely let your standards fall, however. You should show respect to the host by putting effort into your outfit while making sure you don't look out of place.
No three-piece suits, but no ripped-up jeans either.
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