Party Dress Code Guidelines – Pick the Right Attire

We all love to get party invitations, but we don’t like the stress and confusion about what to wear – the often unspoken party dress code. To help you choose the right attire for your events, we have put together a guideline to help decipher the party dress code speak. Read on to help alleviate those pre-party jitters of what to wear.

Decoding The Party Dress Code

Black Tie Attire


This is as laid back as it gets. Casual dress typically means that anything goes. It’s likely that jeans are acceptable as are tennis shoes. Leave the sweats and yoga pants at home though.

Dressy Casual / Business Casual

This type of attire calls for dressed-up versions of casual clothes. For men it means pants or khakis, or even dark denim, and a collared shirt or jacket. For women it means a skirt or dressy or trouser style pants. Light colored jeans, t-shirts, shorts and other casual looks are not appropriate for dressy casual events. 

Festive Attire

This term is typically used around the holidays. You have to keep the type and mood of the party in mind. Is it informal or semi-formal? For men it means adding a little holiday color to his shirt. For her, it means to adding a bit of sparkle or holiday color. A good example would be a sweater with hints of sparkle or metallic with black pants or a red silk blouse with a simple black skirt.

Cocktail Attire

For men, cocktail attire means a dark suit. You can add subtle pops of color. Think sophisticated cuts and colors. For women, an elegant knee  or tea length dress or skirt is recommended. Tailored pants and a fancy blouse would also work well.

Informal / Semi-Formal / After Five 

People often think that informal is the same as casual, but this is not true. Informal is actually the same as semi-formal. For this type of event, tuxes and long dresses are not required. An evening event still requires men to wear a dark suit. Women can wear a cocktail dress or elegant separates. For daytime semi-formal events, men can wear a suit of a light or dark color, and women can wear a knee-length dress, dressy suit, or dressy separates.

Business Formal 

Think of this as nice office attire. For men, they should follow the same rules as for semi-formal events. However, women should choose dressy suits or conservative dresses. Stay away from dresses that are too slinky or sexy.

Creative Black Tie 

This type of event give you flexibility and lets you be a little creative. You can choose more trendy options of formal wear. For example, men can choose a more modern tux option like a black shirt and no tie. Women could wear a cocktail or long dress, or elegant evening separates.

Black Tie Optional or Black Tie Invited 

This type of event is still formal, but you have a little more flexibility in what to wear. Men can wear a tux, but they could also choose a dark suit and tie. Women should wear cocktail dresses, long dresses, or dressy evening separates.

Black Tie or Formal 

For a formal or black tie event, men should wear tuxedos and women should wear cocktail dresses, long dresses or dressy evening separates.

White Tie 

A white tie event is the most formal event of all, and the attire should reflect that. For this type of event, men should wear a tailcoat and a white tie, vest and shirt. Women should wear long gowns, with gloves being optional.

We hope these guidelines help you prepare for you upcoming event. Remember, it is always fine to ask the host or other guests what is acceptable attire for the event. Be sure to plan your outfit in advance and have a wonderful time!

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