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The Dress Code Invitation Guide for Events from Black Tie to Fancy Cocktail

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Welcome to the ballroom! We're so glad you could make it. As you scan the room, you can't help but notice that everyone is dressed a bit differently. And by different, we mean not at all like you were expecting. Shorts, sneakers, and even jeans abound!

Here's a classic example of why a host needs to make sure they include a dress code on invitations. You need to make sure the wording is clear to avoid surprises!

Dress Code Request: White Tie

While a sense of elegance has largely faded and become more optional, when you specifically mention "white tie," it lets your guests know that this is a formal event. This means men will have to wear white ties (surprise!) and women can break out their most formal gowns - complete with long-sleeved gloves if they're so inclined. Delicate jewelry is the order of the day, and no expense is spared in terms of accessories.

White Tie for Men:

  • · Black tailcoat

  • · Matching trousers

  • · White shirt with studs and cuff links

  • · White bow tie

  • · Suspenders (yes, I said suspenders!)

  • · Black patent-leather shoes and black knee-length socks

Black Tie for Men:

  • · Black tuxedo. If the tuxedo in your closet is old, ill-fitting and makes you look like a penguin, rental tuxedos are available at most men's clothing stores.

  • · A white dinner jacket if the event is in a tropical climate

  • · White starched shirt with studs and cuff links

  • · Cummerbund (No, not the actor - and that's Cumberbatch) or formal vest, vests can vary by color or theme of event

  • . Black Bow Tie or Satin tie that compliments the formal vest

  • · Black patent-leather shoes and black dress socks.

If you mention that “tie" is optional, be prepared for guests to wear whatever they want. Be specific on your invitation and make sure to mention that ties are not optional.

Dress Code Request: Semiformal

Casual attire is all well and good, but sometimes a man needs an occasion to break out the ol' dinner jacket. And by "occasion," we mean your friend's wedding where you don't want to look like the only dude in a tux.

Semiformal, as defined by us, simply means "wear a jacket." A sports coat will do in warmer weather, but in the colder months a dark suit is the way to go.

As for ties, it's always best to be overdressed than underdressed. Go ahead and rock a tie bar if you're feeling saucy. Just don't wear sneakers or jeans. No matter how fashion-forward you think they are, people in formal attire will judge you for it.

So, to rock that semiformal look, try:

  • · Dinner jacket or suit (in colder months) / sports jacket (in warmer months)

  • · Open-collared shirt with matching tie that can be removed

  • · Shoes, pants/dress slacks slacks, and socks that are coordinated.

Casual Events

Dressing for a casual event can be tricky, but if you know where the event is being held, that could give you an idea of what to wear, but also what not to wear! For example, if you're on a boat, rubber-soled shoes would be worthwhile having for safety reasons.

A beautiful sundress might be stunning, but if it's windy and you're spending the whole time holding the skirt down, it's not very practical. Besides, a wine glass in one hand and canapes in the other make this virtually impossible! For a barbecue, shorts and sundresses are appropriate attire but be sure to mention "no T-shirts or jeans" in the invitation to avoid any fashion faux pas.

Fancy Dress

Make sure you're aware of what country you're in because it will make a world of difference to your grand entrance!

In the United Kingdom, if you're invited to a fancy dress party, you probably need to visit your neighborhood costume shop and try on a few superhero costumes, or did someone say Shrek?

However, in the United States, if you're invited to a fancy dress party, it's time to break out the sequins and fake fur! A little bit of glitz and glamour will make you feel like a million bucks. And don't forget the jewelry – it'll add that extra touch of elegance. So put on your best outfit and get ready to have some fun!

Whether you're dressing for a black-tie event or a casual barbecue, it's important to know what the dress code is before arriving. This guide will help steer you in the right direction so that you don't show up underdressed or overdressed. We hope this helps make your next special event a little less stressful!

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