When you receive an invitation to an event, chances are there’s a section telling you the dress code. This can range from very formal to relatively casual, so it’s important to understand the classifications so you can choose an appropriate dress.
Black tie is the basic formal dress code. It calls for tuxedos for men and long evening gowns for women. Shorter dresses are generally reserved for more casual occasions. Black tie attire is usually found at important, expensive events. Formal is a lot like black tie, but there’s a slight distinction for women. If the invitation simply calls for formal attire, cocktail dresses and separates are acceptable alternatives to a floor-length special occasion dress.
White tie attire is even more formal than black tie for men. It calls for full dress, including a tuxedo with a white tie. Women should follow the same rules as black tie when it comes to their gowns. The longer the better, as shorter gowns will seem too casual compared to the very formal styling of the men.
If the invitation lists attire as black tie optional, you and your date will have a little more flexibility than with the standard black tie event. Black tie optional lets the man have a choice between a tuxedo and the more relaxed look of a suit and tie. As for the dress, you should still stick with something formal, but cocktail dresses may be used in place of long evening gowns.
Sometimes black tie optional is referred to as creative black tie when it relates to a certain theme. When dressing for a creative black tie event, try to fit your outfit to the theme while still looking stylish and put together.
One of the most common dress codes is semi-formal. This creates an elegant, dressy event while keeping to attire that’s affordable and easy to pull off. High school dances like homecoming and prom are often semi-formal, although prom is more of a black tie affair at fancier schools. At a semi-formal event, cocktail dresses and other appropriate short dresses are perfect. Men should wear a suit and tie, preferably a dark one if the event is held at night. If the event is business formal, the same rules apply as semi-formal but your dress should have a more business-like air about it.
Cocktail attire is mostly self-explanatory. Cocktail dresses are the norm from women, ranging from longer more formal dresses to short, flashy dresses. You can use the time of day that the cocktail party is held to get an idea of how formal your dress should be. Your date should wear a dark suit.