Let’s start by decoding the invitation dress code:
- Black Tie/Formal let you know it’s a formal affair. Men wear tuxedos, women wear elegant cocktail dresses or long gowns. In trendier cities like New York or LA, men can wear a tuxedo with a black shirt and no tie.
- Black Tie Optional/Black Tie Invited gives men the option of wearing a tuxedo or a dark suit and tie. The wording gives you a clue to the formality of the event. Women’s options include cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.
- Semi-Formal/After Five means that tuxedos are not required, nor are long dresses. An evening wedding after 6 PM dictates a dark suit for him and a cocktail dress for her. Daytime semi-formal events require a suit for him and an appropriate short dress or dressy suit for her.
- Business Formal is the same as Semi-Formal for him, but for women it suggests a more exquisite and tailored suit or dress. Since it is a business function, women need to beware of dressing too slinky or sexy.
- Country Club /Dressy/Resort Casual/Casual Chic these all indicate apparel that you’d wear to a private country club for lunch or dinner. Dress trousers with an oxford or knit polo shirt, a sweater or sport coat and leather shoes are great for him. Ladies should consider a skirt and cardigan, sheath dress, tailored pants and tops. Check the Club’s dress code, denim is rarely acceptable.
- Cocktail Attire/Informal means short, elegant dresses for her and dark suits for him. Often Informal is incorrectly interpreted as Casual. To better assist your guests, use another description.
- Dressy Casual for him, it could be trousers and a sport coat. For her a dressy pants or pencil skirt and blouse.
It’s up to you to dazzle them in what you wear. Give yourself permission to spend a bit more if you’ll have the occasion to wear the outfit again. Spring brings an influx of dresses, which are easy to wear. Consider a new silhouette of a sheath wrap or tailored shirt dress.
If nothing seems appropriate in your closet and you don’t want to buy something new, pair a pencil skirt with a silk blouse or, for a more chic look, add a short sleeve knit top and wide belt. Wear both with heels. Similar tops can be worn with dressy pants for casual events. To add some Flair, add colorful printed shoes in polka dots, fruit or spectators.
Men have it a bit easier. All they need is a good suit, great shoes and a sports coat and they meet all the above requirements. A quality sport coat is a great investment, not only does it look great with dress trousers and dark denim, but if well tailored, the jacket can minimize the mid-section, broaden the shoulders and create the inverted triangle look that men strive to attain at the gym.
Eliminate what to wear anxiety by deciding your outfit in advance. It will give you time to find the right shoes, purse and wrap. In the future, when you run across a great outfit but don’t necessarily have anywhere to wear it, BUY IT. It’s always helpful to have a horse in the stable.
Photographer: Neysa Ruhl Photography