Picking out an outfit according to a dress code can be difficult, but once you learn the basics, you can choose the right thing to wear more easily. Whether your party invitation includes a dress code or it doesn’t, you can figure out what to wear with a few simple tips.

Learn more about party dress codes to pick the right look for every event, and you’ll have little trouble in choosing the right clothes even when your invitation lacks any recommended dress code. Here are the party dress codes explained, from the most elegant to casual.

White Tie

When you receive an invitation to a white tie event, only the best of your wardrobe will suffice. Think formal evening gowns and jewelry that you only wear on special occasions. For most white tie events gloves are optional, but they’re always welcome and can help you achieve the white tie dress code more easily. For hair and makeup, stick to simple and sophisticated: updos, long strands of pearls and French manicure.

Black Tie

Very formal events, but a bit less dressy, black tie events are one of the party dress codes that is misinterpreted most frequently. You don’t have to stick to long gowns or even knee-length dresses. You can wear separates for black tie events, as long as your look is truly polished. The perfect bag is a clutch and the right way to go with jewelry is one statement piece: either a necklace or chandelier earrings.

Womens Dress Code

Black Tie Optional

The optional part is a tip for men, who can wear dark suits instead of tuxedos. For women, the same rules apply as for the black tie party dress code. Keep your hemlines at the knee or below. If you to wear a shorter dress or skirt, make sure it’s truly a show stopper.

Creative Black Tie Formal

While party dress codes for white tie and black tie usually imply a simple and elegant look, you can take more risks when it comes to creative black tie. That means less restrictions for hem length and dressy pants become another good option. Pair a dress with a sweater or go for separates in more expensive fabrics. You should still stick to a clutch, but the updo is no longer recommended.

Cocktail Attire

The little black dress is truly the star of your outfit when your invitation says Cocktail or Semiformal. Party dress codes allow for a lot more freedom, especially in the makeup department, when you can try a shimmery body lotion or even glossy lips. Braided puns and high ponytails are good look for your hair. You can also take a few more color risks with cool pastels and jewel toned looks.


Also known as Holiday Attire or Creative Cocktail, the Festive dress code tests your creativity when it comes to color. Go bold in your color choices and your jewelry without wearing anything too tacky. You’re also allowed to sparkle when it comes to your shoes and purse, but don’t overdo it with a lot of flashy elements. A cardigan over a dress is a good combo, but you can also opt for separates.

Mens Dress Code

Casual Chic

When it comes to party dress codes, Casual Chic is also known as Smart Casual or Dressy Casual. You can try a dark shade of jeans. Blazers and even jumpsuits are among your options. When you’re not sure if your outfit is too elegant for casual chic, wear it anyway. For dressy casual, it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. For hair and makeup, don’t fuss too much and think office or job interview looks.

Casual / Come as You Are

The casual look doesn’t mean gym clothes or graphic tees. You can wear jeans or capris, depending on the type of event or a simple dress. You don’t have to worry about your makeup and hair too much, but mascara and lip gloss are an appreciated effort.

What to Wear When There’s No Dress Code

If your invitation lacks any mention of party dress codes, take a closer look. Embossed invites usually mean at least cocktail attire. The time of the event is very important, you can pull off casual chic for anything before 5 PM, but go for a more elegant look when the event starts at 5 or later. Finding out more about the location is also helpful, since outdoor events usually mean a less formal look will be fine.

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