Attire Guide: Every Dress Code Explained – Dress like a Pro

Dress codes and attire guide - faverie

Have you recently been invited to an event with a dress code? Alternatively, your employer may have instituted one at work, or you may be thinking about going on a vacation, and you’ve just seen that the resort or cruise line has a dress code. Regardless of where you have encountered the term dress code, the attire you wear needs to follow it.

Yet, you might think that whoever invented the dress code lived in some magical land because you have no idea how to apply the dress code to your wardrobe.

There’s no need to fear. This post will untangle all the information and give you plenty of ideas about what you need to wear each and every dress code.

Let’s get started!

Dress code vs. Attire

If someone has invited you to an event, you may be wondering what you should wear. The answer is it depends on many factors. Before we get started examining what to wear to an event, we need to be on the same page when it comes to language. In this chapter, we will discuss the differences between dress code and attire.

My friend Susan called me the other night, and she was pretty upset. She and her husband had made plans to attend a wedding. The wedding was held in a house of worship that Susan knew typically had a casual dress code, so she and her husband wore their jeans as they planned on going horseback riding after the wedding.

Before they got out of the car, they realized that they had made an embarrassing mistake because they were very underdressed for the wedding. They quietly slipped out of their parking space, but Susan was calling me to see how she could prevent such mistakes in the future and learn once and for all what to wear to a wedding, no matter what dress code appears in the invite. There are certain occasions when it’s vital you dress to impress, and weddings are just an example.

What are dress codes?

A dress code is a set of rules, often written, informing people what they should wear to a particular event or venue. Usually, a dress code is based on social norms. Therefore, you can expect a dress code to be very similar between different venues within a region, but there may be differences between regions.

While I will have much more to say about different dress codes in the following chapters, dress codes are strong suggestions of what you should wear to various venues. In fact, some places will not let you in if you do not meet their dress code, while you will feel very over-or-underdressed at others if you do not follow the dress code.

People have followed dress codes almost since the beginning of time. For example, in Ancient Greece, a woman could not wear any garment with a purple border unless she was a prostitute, and men could not wear a gold-studded ring unless they wanted to be with a prostitute. 

During the Tokugawa period, successful merchants who could afford better clothes were forbidden by law from wearing certain items as they were reserved for royalty.

In the Islamic faith, men are forbidden to wear robes that touch the ground as they are viewed as a man being too filled with pride.

Two men walking street qatar

By the 18th century, officials maintained dress codes to keep social classes. For example, many businesses outlawed the wearing of velvet, fur, brocade, and jewelry to work because lawmakers did not deem it to be a sober and practical wardrobe. Instead, men started wearing suitcoats as people saw them as practical and industrious.

Dress codes are constantly changing. You can see this as you look at Silicon Valley. Instead of wearing suits, most C+ suite professionals wear t=shirts.

What’s meant by attire?

Attire is the clothes that you wear. When you read a dress code, certain items of attire fit under each type of dress code. For example, if the dress code says black tie, the attire would be formal dresses and black suits.

The word attire comes from Middle English, which got it from the Old French word “atirier.” That word means to equip and to rank. Therefore, you can think of your attire as helping you rank by the clothes that you wear on your torso.

Attirer is closely related to the German word for ornament and the Old Norse word for glory or renown. Therefore, the very word attire means to adorn your body so that you bring glory to yourself. 

In other words, if you wear the proper attire, then you are sure to impress. That starts with recognizing that someone in authority has put enough time and effort into creating a dress code to help you wear appropriate clothing for the venue where the event is being held or the occasion.

You wear attire every day, assuming you are not a nudist. Most people own a variety of attire, and they have an attire that they wear to the game, other attire that they wear on casual dates, and other attire that they wear to semi-formal and formal occasions. More than most people realize, the choices you make are determined by social norms, which can be thought of as dress codes.

While everyone can have a fashion snafu on occasion, if you repeatedly do not wear the proper attire, you will lose friends and become less frequently invited to social events.

What’s the difference between dress code and attire?

Attire is the clothes you wear, while the dress code is the rules put in place by people in authority to make sure that you choose appropriate choices. While some would argue that setting a dress code is wrong, the United States Supreme Court has upheld the right of schools to write and enforce dress codes for schools.

Additionally, employers have the right to require you to dress in a particular way, and they must make sure that their dress code rules determine what attire you can wear to work. Generally, it cannot discriminate against any group of individuals. If an individual needs unique accommodation for medical reasons, there can be an exception to the dress code.

In some countries, there are weird dress code laws. For instance, in England, you cannot stand within 100 feet of a monarch if you are not wearing socks. You can be given a ticket for driving a car in Spain while wearing open-toed sandals or flip-flops. If you visit one of the historical sites in Greece, then you must not wear high heels.

Detail legs window car flip flops

We may think that dress codes are usually for formal occasions, and we may be unhappy about being told what to wear, but the truth is that many people must follow dress codes daily. Remember that you have the right not to work there or attend an event at that venue, so you have the final say on dress codes in most cases.

Unless you choose to exercise that right, you need to understand what attire you need to wear. Following the rules makes excellent sense and shows that you respect authority over your individual choices. Within each dress code are plenty of options to express your freedom through your attire.

Why is it essential to understand dress codes?

Dress codes let you know what attire you need to wear so that you do not embarrass yourself when you go to work, a house of worship, a venue, or an event. Making wise decisions within each type of dress code allows you to bring respect to yourself.

Most people would prefer to blend into a crowd rather than stand out in one, and you do that when you follow the dress code. You can put together beautiful and practical outfits within most dress codes. Often, as in the case of school and work dress codes, they help you stay safe.

Other times, dress codes help establish a tone for an event before it begins. For example, if someone invites you to a casual wedding, you know that guests can relax and have a great time celebrating with the couple. Alternatively, if someone invites you to a wedding with a formal dress code, then you know that the couple considers it a momentous and somber occasion in their lives.

Dress codes help you understand what may occur during an event. Using the same example, you may expect more laughter and lighthearted things to happen at a casual wedding than at one with a somber dress code. Preparing yourself mentally for these events helps you relax and enjoy them more.

If you are going to an event with someone else, following a dress code lets you know what the other person expects you to wear. Especially if that event might be a meeting with a new employer or a prospective spouse, then a dress code can help you know what attire to wear.

How do you know the dress code for an event?

The person or group hosting the event will often include it with your invitation. If not, a quick phone call or text to the event organizer will let you know. If the event happens at a particular venue, some restaurants and clubs post their dress code online.

A quick conversation with the event organizer lets them know that you care enough about the event to show up in the right clothes. That speaks volumes about you, and they will not see it as an imposition on their time.

Likewise, you do not want to be like my friends and plan to attend an event and not be able to participate in it. In some cases, you may be stopped at the door, while you may feel over or underdressed in other cases. Either extreme can be an embarrassing situation and reflects poorly on you and the person who invited you. Therefore, take the time to find out ahead of time.

On the other hand, if you are putting on an event, decide what you want the dress code to be and announce it well. This allows everyone time to prepare for the event. Brides often include it on their invitation or a separate card inserted with the invitation.

Paper cards evelope wedding invitation

If the event is open to the public, then have the information on your social media announcements and your event flyers. Remember that it might be the first time someone is going to an event like that, and you are doing them a favor by letting them know what attire is appropriate.

I hope you now understand why dress codes matter and the difference between dress codes and attire. In the next chapter, I will give you some definitions of what is meant when different dress code words are used. Therefore, you should keep reading this post as it is loaded with tips you will want to know.

Dress codes defined

Now that you understand the difference between dress codes and attire let’s start with definitions of different dress codes. This chapter will give men and women a basic definition of many types of dress codes plus outfit ideas.

Then, you can apply the information to what you already own and spot any weaknesses in your current wardrobe. Understanding different dress codes will allow you always to dress appropriately.

We have formed a list of 14 dress codes that you will want to know. It does not matter if you are a man or a woman, and you need to know these dress codes to know how to dress for different occasions.

The list includes suggestions on outfits you can wear when that is the stated dress code. There is plenty of room within each one to put together outfits that show your personality, so do not be afraid to experiment while sticking to the general guidelines.


An informal dress code does not have any specific requirements, so you can wear what you are most comfortable wearing. Generally, you will want to avoid dress shirts or button-up blouses. Instead, opt for pullovers or crew-neck shirts.

Man standing outdoors hands pockets
Source: Mohamad Khosravi on Unsplash

Men may want to wear their favorite white crew-neck shirt with a pair of distressed jeans and sneakers. Another fantastic option is a pair of khaki shorts with a collegiate t-shirt and leather sandals. You may also want to wear a hoodie with a pair of sweatpants. If you need a hat, consider a rimless beanie.

Women should also wear clothes that they are incredibly comfortable wearing. For example, they may want to wear their shorts with a graphic t-shirt and sneakers. 

Alternatively, women may want to wear their leopard leggings and a black t-shirt with their flip-flops. Like guys, women will want to wear a beanie or a bucket hat. This is an ideal dress code to wear your sneakers or flat sandals.

Dressy casual

This is a definite step up from casual, and you will not want to show up in a graphic t-shirt. While you do not need a suit coat, opt for clothes in fun colors and bold patterns. This dress code is often used for weddings where the bride and groom want you to look respectable but comfortable.

A jumpsuit is an ideal choice for women, and you may also want to wear an animal print skirt and a button-up blouse. This is an outstanding dress code to wear your kitten heels or ankle boots. Consider adding fun jewelry to your outfit and carrying a leather tote or a solid-color crossbody bag.

Men will want to wear dress slacks and a blazer to a dressy casual event. You may also opt to wear a pullover sweater with your khaki pants. This is a great place to wear your penny loafers, Chelsea boots, or chukkas.

Resort casual

If you are going on vacation at a resort, you may see the resort casual dress code listed. You may also see it listed on the information for some cruise lines. Generally, this is a step up from an informal dress code, but it does not reach the level of business casual. 

While you should still wear comfortable clothes in bright colors, you should not wear your sweatpants and distressed jeans. Men should wear button-down shirts with short sleeves pullover shirts with a collar. 

Cotton and other breathable fabrics are a great choice, and you will be frowned upon if you wear broadcloth shorts. Instead, opt for slim-fitting shorts or pants and your boat shoes. Khakis and chinos with collared shirts are fantastic options.

Women will want to wear linen or khaki pants with a collared shirt. They can also wear knee-length summer dresses and skirts. Boat and crew necks are both outstanding options in women’s tops. Regardless if it is a dress or top, avoid anything with narrow straps.

Business casual

Business casual is a clean-cut way of dressing that is a step up from casual. Under this dress code, it is not appropriate to wear jeans or shorts, and dresses should at least come close to the knee. It is best to stick to dark colors, although a pop of color is usually acceptable.

Men may want to wear their khaki pants with a button-down shirt and oxfords. You can also wear your chinos with a blazer, a button-down shirt, and loafers. A tie is usually optional in business casual attire for men. When the weather turns cooler, tailored wool pants, a button-down shirt, and a cardigan can be a fabulous choice.

Women can wear a dress that comes to the knee. One with a blazer and a pullover shirt is a perfect option. Likewise, skirts that come to about the knees are another fabulous choice. You may also want to wear dress pants and a button-up shirt. Business casual women should at least wear kitten heels, but taller heels are often preferred.

Business formal

This is one of the most restrictive dress codes you will find in the business world. Expect to need to wear a suit every day you work. All the pieces of your outfit need to go together beautifully. While you can wear white shirts, black or dark blue is the norm in other pieces.

Men should wear a white, beige, or light blue shirt and a matching tie. The tie should be average width and the correct length for your body. Then, you should wear a conservative color three-piece suit. You should wear a brown or black belt and socks that match your suit’s colors.

Women also need to wear a suit coat and a skirt in a conservative color along with their closed-toed high heels. You may also wear tailored pants, but they should end no shorter than mid-calf. You should also wear a tailored button-up top with a collar. Your makeup should be kept natural, and you should wear minimal jewelry, although your wedding ring is always acceptable if you have one.

Smart casual

Smart casual incorporates trendy clothing into a business formal dress code. This dress code can be trickier because it is further divided into two different categories. The first category is informal smart casual, where you can still wear your sneakers and other casual-style footwear. In contrast, the second category is business smart casual, where you have a little more color choice than in business formal but still need to wear a suit and high heels.

Men will want to stick with a jacket or blazer worn over a dress shirt of any material with dress trousers or chinos. Forgo your sandals and trainers by wearing lace-up shoes. You may also want to consider wearing a polo with your dress trousers, but you should leave the unstructured or graphic t-shirt in your drawer.

Women will want to wear a blazer over a smooth textured top, like silk and viscose. You can opt for a skirt in almost any style if it comes down at least close to your knees and pair it with a collared top. You can also opt for a dress that is no more than two finger-widths above your knee. You will want to wear kitten or regular heels.


Semi-formal attire is a sophisticated style of dressing that does not require a formal suit or tuxedo. Events held during the daytime tend to be more relaxed than events held after 6 p.m.

Men will want to wear a suit and tie to these events. A lighter shade, like a beige, is a perfect option for a daytime event, while you should opt for one in a darker shade for an evening event. You will probably want to avoid wearing black as it can appear too formal. You will also want to wear a tie and your dress shoes.

Women may want to wear a festive top with a pair of dress pants. They may also opt for a polished cocktail dress for evening wear. Be sure that it comes down close to your knees or longer. A tailored pantsuit can also be a great choice.

Beach formal

The goal of beach formal is to look formal at an event while allowing you some wiggle room to wear things that you will stay comfortable in when in the sun and walking on sand or a natural surface. This dress code is usually reserved for beach weddings or events, but you may also see it occasionally with outdoor garden parties.

Men should wear a summer suit with a tie when they see this dress code. You should choose one in a solid color, but avoid white, cream, and black choices. Options in linen, khaki, or seersucker are ideal choices. You should wear your dress shoes.

Women will want to wear a dress that comes at least to the knees in a lighter color. Like the guys, you should not wear white, cream or black. You can also wear a dressy pantsuit or a jumpsuit. Whichever option you choose, pick one made from a breathable material.


If you see this at the bottom of an invitation, you are being told to dress up for a special occasion. You need to wear nicer clothes than you typically wear to work, but a formal suit or tuxedo is not required. Choose attire that has a sheen or distinctive texture to it.

Men will want to wear a smart jacket and dress trousers. Depending on your outfit choices, you may wear a necktie, bow tie, or no tie as long as you look classy. Wearing color is essential for a cocktail dress code, but if you are not comfortable doing it, select colorful fashion accessories.

Elegant people smiling champagne

Women should wear a colorful dress that comes no longer than their knees and high heels. A silky jumpsuit can also be an ideal choice. Choose fun accessories that reflect your personality. Leave the bulky tote at home and carry a classy clutch instead.


A festive dress code is one of my favorites because it gives wearers a chance to play with colors and fun accessories while still dressing above what they wear to work every day. 

This newer dress code permits you to wear your favorite dress clothes as long as they are stylish. Especially around the winter holidays, you may also see this referred to as a holiday dress code.

Men will want to wear a suit when invited to an event with a festive dress code. They can choose one in almost any color, and they should also wear a colorful tie and a brightly colored pocket square.

Women can opt to wear their cocktail dress or a boldly colored party dress. Anything above the knee that has a celebratory vibe is a great choice. You can choose heels or flats that work well with your dress.

Resort Formal

If you see resort formal, ditch the shorts and wear long pants or a dress. While you may be tempted to think that it is a resort, so you do not need to wear your dress clothes, that is not the case. While not as formal as some dress codes, you still need to dress up.

Men do not have to wear a jacket, but it is considered a good idea in most cases. A solid-colored blazer, a checked cotton jacket, or a lighter-colored fresco jacket can all be good choices. This is a great time to wear your patterned dress socks with your dress shoes.

Women can opt to wear a full-length gown or a classy pantsuit. They can also wear a dressy skirt with a sleek button-up blouse. Dress sandals with or without heels are usually the best footwear option.

Black Tie

This is one of the most formal dress codes, so you need to look your best. If you hate dressing up, you can thank Edward VII, who invented this style of dressing in about 1885, and as the name suggests, guys, you will need to wear a black tie.

Men should wear a dinner jacket with a waistcoat to a black-tie affair. The dinner jacket can be silk, wool, or velvet. Midnight blue is an excellent choice because it looks blacker than black under artificial lights. You should wear a dinner jacket with suspenders. You should wear a wing-collar pleated dress shirt. Wear black patten dress shoes.

Women should wear a floor-length dress or gown. While black is a fantastic choice, you can wear other solid-colored options. Always stick to a dress that has a timeless design. You will need to wear your hair in an upscale and your high heels.

Black Tie optional

Black tie optional gives you some wiggle room over a black-tie dress code. Tuxedos and evening gowns are still highly appropriate. You can also opt to wear your cocktail dress or a formal suit. Black and other dark colors are the best choices for men and women.

Men can wear a tuxedo to a black-tie optional event, but they also can wear a structured suit. If you choose the latter, opt for a white dress shirt and an understated tie. Black dress shoes are the perfect footwear, especially black patent leather.

Women can wear an evening gown, but they also can wear a cocktail dress. Just make sure that your knees are covered, or the dress will appear too casual. You still need to wear your heels when attending an event with this dress code.

Creative Black Tie

You have a lot more freedom with creative black tie than with black tie optional or black-tie dress codes. Your sole goal is to create an elegant outfit. As long as it meets that goal, you can use textures, prints, and patterns to create an outfit, but the primary colors should be deep burgundy reds, plums, greys, and navy blues.

Men can wear velvet suits, paisley cummerbunds, textured or colorful vests, and colorful socks. While you will want to stick with formalwear, you can put your creative twists on it. Remember that it is always best to stick to one statement piece so that it draws extra attention instead of trying to go too crazy.

Women can wear long dresses to creative black-tie events, and this is an ideal option to wear colorful choices or those with sequins. You can also wear shorter cocktail dresses and pair them with a colorful blazer. Pull out your statement jewelry and wear them with tuxedo pants and a white button-up shirt.

White Tie

White tie is the most formal dress code. While this dress code is uncommon now, it became popular during the 19th century and began to wane after World War I. This dress code is reserved for the most formal events. If you do not own a white tie outfit, consider renting one as you are likely to wear it only once or twice in your lifetime.

Men should wear black pants with a suitcoat or waistcoat with tails that reach at least the knees. A dress shirt with cufflinks is also mandatory. The waistcoat, shirt, and bowtie should all be white while wearing black shoes.

Women will want to wear a ballgown and opulent jewelry. The best choice is one made from elegant fabric. Long white gloves and a tiara is also expected. There is no wiggle room on this one to wear a different option but a ballgown.

Now that you know how to define each dress code and some options of what to wear when you see each one let’s take a deeper dive into what you should and shouldn’t do when putting together each type of dress code.

Do’s & don’ts for each dress code

While I covered many types of dress codes in deep detail in the last chapter, I will cover quick points about each one in this chapter. I think of this chapter as a cheat sheet because it helps remind you in brief snippets of what I covered in deeper detail in the last chapter, and I also designed it to emphasize essential points to remember about each dress code type.

If you wonder whether a particular outfit you dream of wearing to an event is appropriate, check this list. If it matches the dos and doesn’t break the don’ts, you can feel great about wearing it as long as you use your common sense. There are many choices within each category, so everyone can easily find an option that they will enjoy wearing.

Instead of looking at dress codes as rules where someone has forced you to do something against your will, consider them friendly advice. Someone was kind enough to tell you what they expected you to wear while giving you enough wiggle room to make intelligent choices.

Due to the general nature of this chapter, I have mixed tips for males and females, so make sure that you keep this chapter’s general nature in mind when reading through this list.


Make sure you follow these tips:

Do wear close-fitting clothes

Casual clothes should stay close to your body as you want to stay comfortable. At the same time, choose options that allow you some breathing room. It would help if you did not go too far toward either extreme with this dress code. The best options usually move as you move.

Do wear brightly colored clothing

Woman posing arms air

This dress code is a great place to play with color. Consider making 60% of your outfit one color. Then, travel across the color wheel and make 30% a split complementary color. Finish by adding 10% of a third color, such as a neutral or the other split-complementary color.

Don’t forget to wear comfortable clothing

There are so many great casual and informal clothing choices that there is no need to be uncomfortable. Send or take it back if you don’t feel great wearing the outfit. When you wear clothing that feels comfortable to you, your self-esteem gets an instant boost.

Don’t forget to consider the weather

While you can wear casual clothing all year long, do not overlook the current weather. If it is cool, go with a warm sweater and jeans or if it is hot wear shorts and a crop top.

Dressy casual

Here you’ll find some dressy casual tips:

Do wear fun colors and patterns

While you will want to wear long pants, dresses, or skirts, dressy casual is a great time to play with bold colors and patterns. Generally, you should stick to one pattern. The exception to this rule is that if you wear a large pattern on part of your body, you can wear a smaller version of the same pattern somewhere else.

Do consider animal prints

Animal prints are an excellent option for wearing when putting together a dressy casual outfit. Stick to patterns and colors that appear naturally in nature. You should not wear more than one animal print at a time. If you usually do not wear animal prints, consider starting small and wear bigger prints as you become more comfortable.

Don’t wear high heels

There are many options in footwear that you can wear with dressy casual outfits. Women can wear kitten heels and low-heeled pumps. Men and women can wear various styles of flat sandals. This is a great place to add a pop of color or to wear animal print footwear.

Don’t wear clothes that are too formal

Dressy casual can be a tricky dress code for picking out the proper clothes. Women should wear dresses and skirts that end a little above their knees. Men will want to avoid wearing suit coats. A blazer can be an excellent option for men and women, especially if the weather is a little cool.

Business casual

Here are critical business casual tips you should consider before selecting your attire:

Do dress conservatively

While business casual is a little more relaxed than business formal, you still need to dress conservatively. Women should wear dresses that come about the knee. Avoid outfits that are too colorful, but you will still want to add pops of color to your outfit.

Do consider wearing a blazer

Both men and women will want to consider wearing a blazer. Men can wear it over a dress shirt or a nice pullover shirt with a collar. Women can wear it over a dress, with a button-up shirt or a pullover knit top. 

The great thing about adding a blazer to any outfit is that you can take it off if you are too hot and put it back on if you get chilly. Additionally, it helps pull your outfit together and gives it a more elegant look.

Don’t wear jeans or shorts

While you may see the word casual and think that jeans and shorts are appropriate, they are not business casual dress code appropriate. Instead, opt for fitted pants worn with a belt. Ladies, you can also wear skirts and dresses that come almost to your knees. Keep the outfit casual by choosing options that stay close to your body.

Don’t forget your accessories

Your accessories can be a great place to add a pop of color while staying in tune with this dress code. Women can wear statement necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Animal print footwear is a great choice as long as you choose high heels. Men can add a fun belt or choose pants that end at the ankle before wearing fun-colored shoes.

Business formal

Here are some helpful business formal tips you must take into account:

Do wear appropriate footwear

Women need to wear high heels when following a business formal dress code. If you are heading to work, remember that they must be close-toed. Men need to wear shoes that lace up the front and match their suit coats.

Do dress in dark colors

Men and women should stick to dark colors. They may want to wear dark gray, brown, navy, or black. Depending on the exact dress code, only black or midnight blue, which appears black under artificial lighting, may be acceptable.

Don’t wear mismatching pieces

Your top and bottom need to match perfectly. If you choose dark gray for your suit coat, select the same dark gray shade for your dress trousers. Furthermore, they should be made from the same material.

Don’t wear unstructured tops

Make sure to wear a suit coat. There is no room for deconstructed blazers or other options in this dress code. Furthermore, you need to wear a button-up or button-down top with a collar. While white is the preferred choice, you can also wear a very light beige or blue.

Smart casual

Here are some smart casual do’s and don’ts:

Do consider the event

There are two levels of smart casual, with one being a little more relaxed than the other. Therefore, make sure to consider the event when picking out your outfit. Choose timeless pieces that work well together as you will still need to wear a suit coat.

Do wear a collared shirt

Regardless of the level of formality, a collared shirt is a requirement for smart casual wear. A button-up or button-down shirt is the best option. While you will want to stick to lighter colors, there is more wiggle room to wear other colors that appear almost white.

Don’t forget to wear colors

While you will mostly want to stick to dark colors and a white shirt, you should add some pops of color to smart casual attire. For example, consider a boldly colored pocket square or a boldly colored tie. Women may want to add a bold-colored belt or wear more colorful jewelry.

Don’t wear sandals

You need to wear formal-style shoes with this dress code. Women should wear high heels, while men will want to stick to formal lace-up shoes. Dressy flats and fashion and designer sneakers may be acceptable during less formal events.


Take into account the advice below:

Do consider the event’s time

Woman having drink outdoors

Events held before 6 p.m. are less formal than those held in the evening. Therefore, you can wear dresses and skirts that come to a tad above your knees to earlier events, while you need to wear dresses and skirts that come to at least the knee for evening events. Likewise, men can wear blazers and jackets to earlier events while they should stick to suit coats for evening events.

Do wear light colors

While you are restricted to wearing dark colors for many formal occasions, you can wear light colors for semi-formal ones. Of course, you will want to wear options that work well together. 

Think about choosing a primary color and then going across the color wheel to find its opposite. Instead of choosing that color, move one place to the left or the right and wear that color.

Don’t wear black

While you need to wear many of the same items, like a suit coat or a dress, to a semi-formal event as you would to a formal one, do not wear black as your primary color. It will make your outfit appear too formal. Instead, opt for other neutral colors.

Don’t wear casual footwear

You do not want to wear sneakers or other styles of casual footwear. Instead, opt for those options you would wear to a formal event, like high-heels and lace-up men’s shoes.

Resort casual

Consider the following tips:

Do wear tailored clothes

While it may be tempting to wear loose clothes on vacation, it is not acceptable at a resort. Instead, opt for tailored clothing. You can wear dress slacks, dress shorts, chinos, and many other choices if they stay close to your body. Additionally, you should wear tops that do not have big and bulky sleeves.

Do consider the fabric

Since most resorts are in warmer climates, choose clothes made from breathable fabrics. Cotton, chambray, rayon, and linen can be great choices. Since the clothing needs to stay close to your body, consider options that will not show sweat easily.

Don’t wear loud colors

Unless you want to stand out as a tourist, avoid bright colors. You can never go wrong when basing your outfit on neutral colors. Then, you can add a pop of color to your shoes or jewelry to keep the outfit casual. Instead of wearing colors that are too loud, consider playing with fun patterns in your wardrobe.

Don’t wear broadcloth

Guys, the broadcloth shorts are not appropriate for a resort. Choose fabrics that have an elegant appearance.

Beach formal

Here are some beach formal tips:

Do wear shoes you can walk in

The shoes that you wear should be supportive and comfortable. Usually, flats are best, but you can wear bulky kitten heels if you can walk in them well. Avoid wearing shoes with a pointed heel as they will sink into the sand or dirt.

Do wear breathable fabrics

You will be outside for at least a couple of hours at most events with a beach formal dress code, so be sure to choose breathable fabrics. Fabrics with a loose weave encourage moisture to wick away from your body. A cotton/polyester blend is an ideal choice.

Don’t overlook your headwear

The sun is hot at most outdoor events. Therefore, you should consider wearing a hat. A straw hat can be a beautiful choice. Choose one with a wide brim so that you will stay in its shade regardless of how the event organizers arrange the event’s seating.

Don’t forget to wear sunscreen

Sunscreen is essential for beach formal attire regardless of the time of year. Especially if you have acne-prone skin, use mineral-based sunscreens. People with sensitive skin should avoid wearing sunscreen containing oxybenzone, octocrylene, or avobenzone.


Here are some cocktail dress code tips you should take into account when selecting your attire: 

Do choose distinctive clothing

While you do not need to wear a formal suit or tuxedo, you should dress up when attending an event with this dress code. Choose options with a sheen or a distinctive texture. A cocktail dress code is an ideal place to try mixing different textures if your outfit does not become too busy.

Do wear dress shoes

Detail womans legs heels

Men and women need to wear dress shoes. Women will want to wear pumps or heels, while men can choose between oxfords, monkstraps, or loafers. Of course, you should make sure that your shoes are clean and odor-free.

Don’t dress all in black

Even if you usually wear a cute little black dress to a cocktail party, you should add some color to your outfit. Since cocktail dresses should end above the knee, it is a great dress code to add taller colorful footwear. You may also want to add statement jewelry. Guys will want to add some color to their outfits too.

Don’t forget to accessorize your outfit

You should wear accessories to a cocktail party. As I already mentioned, it is an excellent option for wearing a statement necklace, and guys should wear a fun-colored bow tie or necktie.


Pay attention to the following festive dress code tips:

Do wear colorful clothing

An event with a festive dress code is an ideal place to wear colorful clothing. Since this dress code is often referred to as the holiday dress code, consider greens and reds during the winter holidays. Jewel-toned outfits are an ideal year-round choice.

Do wear shorter clothing

The festive dress code is a casual dress code, so if you wear a dress, it should end above your knee. You may also want to consider pants that end about your ankle and wearing sequined shoes or another fancy option.

Don’t forget the weather

Make sure that you are dressing for the weather. Jeweled cardigans, patterned blazers, or statement coats are great options in the winter. You can also have fun layering by playing with different patterns and textures. In the warmer months, consider wearing fun hats and sandals.

Don’t wear a bland outfit

Your outfit should not be bland. Liven it up with sequins, faux diamonds, and other embellishments. Choose colorful options and play with different textures.

Dressy Resort

Take into consideration the following advice:

Do wear tailored clothing

While you may think that since you are at a resort, you can wear casual clothing, that is not the case if you see a dressy resort dress code. Instead, you should opt for tailored clothing that fits close to your body. If you choose to wear shorts, choose a pair with a finished hemline and tailored waistband.

Do wear a blazer or jacket

Men and women should wear a blazer or a jacket to events when they see a dressy casual dress code. Choose options that are structured. If you avoid bright colors, you can choose any structured blazer or jacket. Therefore, add some visual interest to your wardrobe by wearing options with an interesting pattern or texture.

Don’t wear shorts

You need to do some further investigation before wearing shorts to an event. If you remain unsure, then wear tailored long pants. If shorts are allowed, make sure they come to at least your knees and are tailored.

Don’t wear casual clothing

Your clothing should be neutrals or dark clothing. Do not wear anything that ends too far above your knee. Likewise, when choosing accessories, avoid brightly colored ones.

Black Tie

Consider the following black tie dress code tips:

Do wear formalwear

You need to wear formalwear to a black-tie event. Men should wear a black waistcoat and a jacket with tails, and they also need to wear tailored dress pants matching their black jacket and a black bowtie. Women should wear dark-colored formals.

Do wear dress shoes

Dress shoes are mandatory. Women need to wear their high heels. Select options to move in easily as dancing is often part of the festivities. Men should wear opera pumps, oxford, Venetian loafers, and slippers. Options in black patent leather are best. Make sure they are spotless and well-polished.

Don’t get too colorful

Outfits should be dark-colored, with a preference given to black. Women have a little wiggle room as long as their dress reaches the floor and is dark-colored. Sorry, guys, yours must be black.

Don’t choose the wrong accessories

Women should stick to gold, platinum, diamonds, and pearls. This is not a time to wear a ring on each finger. Consider wearing only your wedding band or a similar ring. Your necklace should be extremely simple. This is a great place to wear the jewels you usually keep locked in a safe.

Black Tie optional

Here are some useful tips that will help you make a better choice:

Do wear formalwear

Men need to wear a tuxedo to a black-tie optional event, and women need to wear a formal. While one that reaches the floor is often the best choice, you can also wear options that end at or below your knee.

Do wear black shoes

Men will want to wear black shoes with their tuxedos. The best choice for women is usually black, but they can opt for shoes that work well with their dark-colored dress choice. High heels are mandatory and conservative choices are generally the best choice.

Don’t wear short dresses

Short dresses are for more casual affairs, so make sure that your dress comes at least to your knees. There are many beautiful options to choose from, and a ballgown is an excellent choice. You can also wear mermaid, bodycon, and other long options, and avoid those with a long train so that you do not have to worry about someone stepping on it.

Don’t wear too colorful an outfit

While there is more wiggle room in this dress code, men and women will want to avoid options that are too brightly colored. Browns, blacks, deep reds, and deep blues are fantastic choices.

Creative Black Tie

Consider the tips below:

Do have fun with patterns and textures

You can have a lot of fun mixing different patterns and textiles under the creative black tie dress code, but you still need to stick to formalwear. Men can opt to wear a three-piece suit instead of a tuxedo. Make your goal creating an elegant outfit, so be careful that you do not create an outfit that becomes too busy.

Do stick to dark colors

You should still stick to dark colors, like deep blues, deep reds, blacks, and deep browns. Make it a point to incorporate different patterns and textures in your elegant outfit instead of opting for colorful clothes.

Don’t forget to accessorize

You will not want to get gaudy, both men and women have more freedom to accessorize their outfit so that it shows their personality. Men can add a colorful pocket square or designer cufflinks. 

While it is still expected that you will wear a tie, you can opt for a solid-colored one in any dark color. Women can opt for a statement necklace and hoop or dangle earrings.

Don’t wear short clothing

While women can wear shorter dresses, they should still look elegant and come to at least their knees. This option allows you to dip into a cocktail or party dress if it is elegant. The best options usually have a sheen to them.

White Tie

Consider these tips to ensure you are among the best dressed:

Do wear formalwear

You need to wear high-quality formalwear to a white tie event. Tails are expected for guys, and women need to wear a ballgown. Choose an outfit you are likely to only wear once or twice in your life because it is too fancy for most occasions.

Keep your outfit opulent

Detail woman hands gloves fur

Vintage diamond jewelry is perfect for a white tie, even for women. Opt to carry an elegant clutch. Men will want to wear white cufflinks, white gloves, and a white bowtie.

Don’t choose casual fabrics

There is no room for casual fabrics at a white-tie event. White cotton shirts with a white cotton pique bib-like component and French cuffs are mandatory. A Marcella shirt is an ideal option. Satin and silk are great options for women’s dresses as they should have a sheen to them.

Don’t buy these outfits

Since you are likely to wear these outfits only once or twice in your life, consider renting instead of buying them. That way, you can be sure that they are in style. Besides, the rental company knows that you are going to a white-tie event, so they’ll provide you with the white vest, tie, and cufflinks that you need.

In the next chapter, I will provide you with some more ideas about what to wear when attending events with different dress codes. These ideas will be very particular, so they are a great way to see the difference between dress codes. Therefore, please keep reading.

Dress code outfit ideas

If you are in a hurry, this chapter is perfect for you. I’ll share quick outfit ideas, but I want you to go back and learn why I have chosen these ideas. Then, you can learn to put outfits together, and they will better match your personality. But if you have only a day or two to an event and have put off securing an outfit to wear, then this chapter is ideal for you.

I have a friend who never does anything until the last possible moment. I am not sure how they exist because they do no pre-planning of any type, including the outfits they are going to wear. Therefore, I often get these frantic phone calls, usually late at night the day before an event, asking for help or borrowing certain clothing items.

If this scenario sounds too familiar, and you are the person making those phone calls, do yourself a favor and use this guide a week or two ahead of an event to put together an appropriate outfit. You will find that your life becomes a whole lot less stressful.

I have created a man’s and woman’s outfit under each dress code. Consider reading them both because you will have the perfect answer the next time you are shopping with a friend or receive one of those last-minute frantic phone calls. 

These ideas are not exhaustive in all but the white tie dress code because other beautiful options will work. Take each idea and put your personal spin on it.


Men can wear their favorite jeans with a crew-neck shirt. If the weather is cooler, then top it with a denim jacket. Be sure that the two shades of denim do not match. Then, wear your sneakers. 

Accessorize this outfit with a dog-tag necklace and sunglasses big enough to cover your eyes. Choose sunglasses that will make your face look more balanced. For example, if your face is round, choose square lenses, or if your face is oblong, select round lenses.

Women can wear their favorite jeans too. Then, put on an animal print top and your black jewelry. If you are heading outdoors, grab your sunglasses, a straw satchel, and a sunhat.

Dressy casual

Your chinos are an excellent choice for a dressy-casual dress code. Wear them with your favorite loafers and a button-down shirt with a collar. Then, wear a blazer or a sports coat. If the weather is cool, consider wearing a brimmed beanie.

Women will want to wear their tailored trousers. Avoid ones that have pinstripes because they will look too formal. Then, wear a button-up collared shirt. You will want to put on your favorite wedges with a low-to-mid-sized heel. Wear a simple bracelet, and do not forget your sunglasses.

Business casual

Your wool drawstring trousers are an excellent choice for a business casual wardrobe. Top them with a button-down shirt to create a monochromatic outfit. Then, wear a matching pullover sweater, and you can tuck a tie underneath to add some color and visual interest to your outfit. Finally, wear your leather lace-up boots. A trench coat is an ideal choice if the weather is cooler.

Women can wear their chinos with a tailored top and a blazer. It is best to stick with neutral colors, like tan, gray, black, navy, white, brown, and beige. Your ballet flats are ideal, but you can also wear pumps, T-straps, slingbacks, and wedge heels as long as they have closed toes.

Business formal 

Men will want to wear a three-piece suit in a conservative color if the dress code says business formal. A regular-width necktie that matches your suit coat is a must. You should wear a belt and a pair of lace-up shoes. If you must put on a coat, then wear one in a luxury fabric that comes at least to your knees and has a lapel.

Women should dress similarly to men. They will want to wear a tailored button-up blouse with a knee-length skirt and a structured blazer. Stick to monochromatic dark colors, like black, deep blues, and deep browns. You will need to wear your closed-toe heels. Keep your jewelry at a minimum, and choose a conservative option, like gold or silver.

Smart casual

Men will want to consider their needlecord trousers and a flannel button-down shirt. When the weather is cooler, a cardigan that buttons down the front is a great choice. Make sure that all items that you choose fit your body very well. Consider wearing black or brown wingtips with this outfit.

A paisley dress that comes about your knees is an ideal start to a smart casual outfit. Choose one with a modest neckline. Then, wear it with your closed-toe sandals or your ballet flats. While you should limit the number of pieces, wear statement necklaces or some fun earrings.


A suit with matching pants is a great choice when following a semi-formal dress code. Opt for one in a lighter shade for daytime events, but you will want to go darker in the evening. Wear the suit with a button-down collared shirt and a regular-length tie.

A dressy pantsuit with a sheen to its fabric is ideal for a semi-formal dress code. While it will depend on the exact location, consider wearing your strappy heels. This is a great dress code to wear sparkly jewelry. If the weather is nippy, you may want to add a shrug or shawl.

Resort casual

Start your cruise or stay in a resort by putting on a pair of linen pants. Stick with light colors so that you will stay more comfortable. Pair the linen pants with a polo shirt. Try adding some visual interest to your wardrobe by wearing stripes, polka dots, or another pattern. Driving moccasins or boat shoes are a fantastic option for your feet.

Man sitting garden white outfit

Women will find this the perfect place to wear bold colors. A collared golf shirt is a fantastic option when paired with a light-colored pair of capris. You may also want to add a shawl if the weather is a little chilly.

Beach formal

Men, you still need to wear a suit coat to a formal beach event, such as a wedding. Choosing one in a lighter color and made from breathable material can help you stay cooler. Then, pair it with a button-down shirt. Cotton is an ideal choice. A light-colored pair of chukkas are the perfect choice for your feet.

A lace dress suit is an ideal option for a beach formal dress code. Formal flat sandals, especially faux diamond embellishments, are ideal for your feet. This is the perfect time to wear a diamond necklace and earring set. You can choose almost any color but try to stay away from whites and black.


Consider wearing a plaid blazer with a button-down shirt to a cocktail party. You can wear one in about any color, but dark colors are still preferred in many settings. Your button-down shirt needs to be a shade or two lighter than the colors in your blazer. 

Choose linen dress pants that work well with the jacket, but you should choose a shade that is different from the blazer but works well with it. For example, you might wear a brown plaid blazer, a light brown dress shirt and a pair of white trousers. Oxfords are the ideal shoe choice.

Women will want to wear a fun cocktail dress. Wear the dress with your favorite heels. Then, add some sparkly jewelry. You can opt for any color that you want.


Men should consider wearing a patterned tartan jacket with black dress trousers and a white button-down shirt. You can wear this look with black oxfords and a black bowtie, and a solid-color pocket square is perfect if your jacket needs one.

Women will want to put on a dress that comes just below the knee. One with an interesting texture or jeweled tone is the best choice. You can easily add a jeweled cardigan if it is nippy outside. A pair of booties is a fantastic footwear option, especially if they have jewels or other decorative features.

Dressy Resort

Pull out your dinner jacket and wear it with a button-down shirt if you see a dressy resort dress code. You can wear long or short sleeves under the jacket, but you should put on long pants. Your dark-colored derbies are a great footwear choice.

A skirt with a tailored button-up top is an ideal choice for women. Choose one that comes down at least to your knees in almost any color. Then, wear your strappy high-heel sandals. Keep your jewelry simple by wearing gold or silver pieces that stay close to your body.

Black Tie

A silk black dinner jacket is a must for a black-tie event. You can choose a notched or peak lapel, but the most prevalent choice is a shawl lapel. You should wear fitted trousers matching the jacket. Additionally, put on a pleated dress shirt under the dinner jacket. Wear black patent leather shoes on your feet. You should also wear a cummerbund and a black bowtie.

You need to wear a long dress to a black-tie event. While floor-length remains the most popular option, you can also wear one that is ¾ length if it is in a luxurious fabric, like velvet or satin. This is the perfect place to wear your high heels and jewelry that you usually keep tucked safely away.

Black Tie optional

While you can wear a tuxedo under a black-tie optional dress code, event organizers leave you a little wiggle room because they realize that not every man has a tuxedo. Instead, consider wearing a dark-colored three-piece suit. Opt to wear a white dress shirt under it and a regular-width tie. Black leather oxfords are the best footwear choice.

Women can wear a floor-length formal gown, but they can also wear a chic jumpsuit as long as it fits them properly. High heels are still the norm. Pair the jumpsuit with chandelier earrings or a sparkly headband. If the weather is cooler, consider wearing a faux fur wrap.

Creative Black Tie

A creative black tie dress code encourages people to add pops of color to their formalwear. For example, men may want to wear a velvet suit. Then, wear a white tuxedo shirt and a black cummerbund with it. Wear bright color socks that coordinate beautifully with the velvet. Add a luxurious pocket square and vibrant cufflinks.

A long dress with lots of sequins or a fun pattern is an excellent choice for women. Keep the formal look by wearing your opulent jewelry, such as a diamond tennis bracelet or drop necklace. You will still need to put on your high heels.

White Tie

The white tie dress code is the most formal, and you may never attend an event with this dress code. You will need to wear a black tailcoat with tails that come below your knees and peaked lapels. Put on a low-cut white waistcoat under the tailcoat. 

You need to wear them with dark trousers with two lines of braid down the outside. You will need to wear a stiff white shirt with a winged collar, and single-fold cuffs held shut with cufflinks. A white bow tie and a cummerbund are also required.

Women will need to wear a fancy ball gown to a white tie event. This is a great time to wear the family heirloom jewelry that has been lovingly passed down through the generations if it is gold or diamonds. 

Women will need to wear long white gloves that come almost to their elbows. Consider wearing a tiara, especially if you are married. If you need a coat, wear a fur stole.

I hope you now have a great idea of what to wear under each dress code. The fun comes in putting your spin on the outfit. In the next chapter, I will share some concluding thoughts, so be sure to keep reading.


I hope you have a firmer grasp of the meaning of different dress codes and how to put terrific outfits together under each one. While I have tried to be very plain in my information, be sure to ask if you have any questions.

Likewise, if you have a terrific idea for one or more of the dress codes that I did not mention, then share it with us so that we can have that information posted.

While I would love you to share this post with many people, be sure to send it to that one friend who calls you the night before an event with no idea of what they are supposed to wear. They will love learning the information in this post.

Now that you have some general guidelines and specific outfits that fit beautifully under each dress code, could you read our other posts? They are loaded with helpful information about many types of attire.

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