We all have busy schedules, and we all are trying to keep up a social life. While some of us have a slightly more active social calendar than others, we all have the same questions at some point in our lives about the dress codes or “attires” that certain events require.
If you have a job change or your employer changes the office’s dress code, what does that mean for you and your wardrobe? You may be invited to two or three different weddings this year, and only two of them have a dress code, but the last one does not have a dress code at all. What do you do? What do you wear?
These types of questions are the reason why we are here. I’d love to answer all your questions, even those you did not know you have. I want you to be and feel prepared for any social event, job interview, job promotion, wedding, or funeral you have to attend during your lifetime. Let me start by explaining what attire and what dress codes are.
- Attire and dress code
- Cocktail attire
- Business attire
- Formal attire
- Wedding attire
- Funeral attire
What does attire mean?
Webster Dictionary states that the meaning of attire as a noun is as follows “splendid or decorative clothing,” As a verb, it means “to put garments on.” Often, when a person uses the word “attire,” they refer to the whole outfit in general. To have a “look” that expresses who you are while also staying within a socially acceptable standard.
There are two vital elements to creating a fantastic wardrobe and having the perfect attire every time: Know your color scheme and what your body type is. For example, if you have the body type of an inverted triangle, which means you have broad shoulders, then an off the shoulder, strapless, or spaghetti strap neckline dress or top would not look favorably on you. However, a V-neckline will look amazing.
Take the time to know what your body type is. Not every article of clothing looks good on everybody. Clothes would in a beautiful world. However, they do not. Also, consider your height. Knowing how tall you are will give you a good idea of the length of skirts and pants you can pull off or not.
Now that we have quickly gone over body shape, the next topic I’ll go over is the colors you can pull off. How it is determined is by the contrast between your natural hair and your skin tone, what color your veins show up under the skin on your wrist, and what color and shade of color your eyes are. There are four “seasons” that people fall into, each with three tones.
Each season and tone have different colors and shades that go with them. Find out what season you are here. While we are still on color if you decide to wear eye make-up, knowing the correct colors that bring out the hues in your eyes is a tremendous secret that you can use to your advantage. For example, if you have any shade of brown eyes, then browns, golds, and purples are perfect for you.
When it comes to jewelry, the first question to ask yourself is, do I look good with junky or delicate jewelry? The second question will be, do I look good in gold or silver? Once you have those answers, then decide which necklace will work with your top or dress’s neckline. Some clothing items do not need a chain as it would take away from the top or dress’s overall look.
Of course, you must wear shoes you are comfortable in. Some dresses do look better with high heels than they do with flats. Not all dresses require 6-inch heels to look amazing, but some might need a kitten heel. The color of the shoes must be considered. If you are wearing any prints, then you must wear a solid color shoe. Too many patterns at once can clash and be considered “loud.”
If you have short hair, then you already have at least one, if not two, hairstyles that you wear all the time. On the other hand, if you have longer hair, deciding if you will be wearing it down or up can be slightly tricky.
The best advice is for you to choose based on the weather first and the type of event you will be attending. This is because if you know how hot or cold it will be outside, you will have a decent idea of how cool it will be inside. You will prevent unnecessary sweating or shivering this way, especially if you naturally have a low body temperature. The event’s occasion or theme should give you an idea of wearing your hair because of the outfit you have already chosen to wear.
Now that you know what it means to have an attire, you have one more thing you need to double-check. You will need to double-check whether the location of the event you will be attending has a dress code or not.
What is dress code?
Dress code means “formally or socially imposed standards of dress,” according to the Webster Dictionary. Places that you typically encounter with a dress code written in place would be schools, clubs, restaurants, offices, or workplaces—each with their own rules and regulations.
Each location has its reasons for having a dress code. More often than not, a dress code is in place because of the need to provide a sense of security or uniformity, in schools and clubs for instance. Restaurants and in the workplace have a dress code to eliminate any outfits that could be risqué or of poor taste. More than anything, a dress code allows for the creation of togetherness while still allowing you to express yourself.
Without assigning actual uniforms, a business or an establishment having a dress code instill a form of etiquette that people may not realize that they are subconsciously following. Something happens when you dress up in nice clothes. You walk a little taller, and you feel better about yourself.
What does etiquette mean?
Etiquette is defined as “the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group” (Oxford English Dictionary). You possibly remember being taught from a young age to say please and thank you to anyone who did something for you.
You may believe that this is only having good manners when this is a form of etiquette that everyone’s sociality expects. This expectation is applied to how one dresses. You can see this when watching how people interact with those dressed nicely or have a “put together” outfit.
Men and women who go about dressed nicely in wrinkle-free clothes have a higher potential of being treated more politely than those who are not. This interaction has to do with the way of thinking taught to many of us when we were children.
Whether you like it or not, many people do judge a book by its cover. For many, if you dress nice, it means that not only do you take pride in how you look, but you take pride in yourself as a human being. You care about yourself, so others must care as well. If you dress poorly, others should not care about you, at least it’s how some people think. While this is not fair, it is what many people believe.
Now that I’ve gone through the definitions of attire and dress code, let’s have a look at their differences.
Differences between attire and dress code
What is the difference between attire and dress code?
While they both may sound somewhat the same thing, there are some small but well-defined differences. Dress code is a predetermined set of standards of what you can or cannot wear to a specific location. These standards may limit what colors may be worn or not, such as black ties only for men’s events.
Depending on your style, a dress code could make you feel confined at times. One thing about dress codes is that not all of them are written down but observed. You can see this in an office setting with a corporate culture with an unwritten dress code that is more acceptable than not.
To have attire is to have a look. You could have a preference to dress more “pin-up,” “elegant,” “classic,” or “casual.” Attire is an outfit that is appropriate for the occasion or event that you are going to attend.
A beautiful example of what it was to have “appropriate attire” for women in the past was all the different dresses they had throughout the day. You had a morning dress which was then changed to an afternoon dress and then into an evening dress. A lady had a dress for every part of the day because it was essential to dress appropriately. Not only did her reputation depend on it, but she also had to show that she was a proper member of society.
We have something along the same lines today, but we refer to it now as being over or underdressed. If you wear a three-piece suit going to the grocery store, one would think you were overdressed. Most would assume that you just got off of work. If you went to a job interview wearing jeans, you would be underdressed and not appropriately attired.
What does your attire say about you?
As you grow older and mature, your sense of style changes. You’ll slowly move from bright colors to the primary solid colors (black, navy, tan, and grey). Thus, having a classic but straightforward mix match wardrobe or dark colors and adding a few brighter pieces. How you express yourself is personal. Your overall style says so much about you without you having to say a word to anyone!
This form of self-expression becomes extremely important to every woman or man because this is the first thing that others see.
While many people do not dress to show off their social status as blatantly as they did in the past, people do dress to show who they are as an individual. What you wear shows the people you encounter how you view yourself as a person and as a human being.
As touched upon above, how you treat and dress is how the people around you think they can treat and interact with you. This may seem a backward way of thinking, but it is a fact of life. Though this doesn’t mean that if you dress up all nice every day, you will not meet a rude person. In a perfect imaginary world, we would all get along, but that is wishful thinking. However, if you are committed to your look and looking good for yourself, others will see that and share in that energy.
Why you should care about dress code?
Why should I care about a dress code if we do not live the same way we did in the past? If you want to be invited to more parties, events and still have a promising working career, you still need to care. If you can not show that you can follow the rules, even if you bend them a little bit, many people and employers will not want to work or even deal with you. In no way does this mean completely change who you are as a person.
Think of a dress code as a fun little test. Rules are just guidelines to see if you can follow them while making your way through the event or even through life. Every dress code from every new location or for a different party is just another piece of the overall life puzzle. Not many people can dress and pass in both mannerisms and styles in many different walks of life and survive. Why not be the person who can have that knowledge to do so if needed?
Let me share a piece of advice with you! There is a way to ensure you are ready for any event with a dress code: having primary colors in your wardrobe. Have a minimum of four pairs of pants, tops, skirts, and several types of jackets in primary colors that mix and match. You can add a few skirts and tops of color from your color platelet to bring out your eyes or a great color. It is a bonus. With this wardrobe, you can dress up or dress down your outfits with jewelry and shoes at any point.
Now that you have learned about the meaning of dress codes and attires, let’s move onto Cocktail Attire.
What is cocktail attire?
Cocktail attire is defined as a “standard dress code for parties and evening functions.” Both men and women have a simple but strict dress code to follow for cocktail events unless specified on the invitation. The invitation will say if men can tone down their attire or not, no matter the cocktail theme. You will also want to know the cocktail party’s location—the reasons will be explained below.
Cocktail dress code
At least eight different types of cocktail party dress codes happen throughout the year that both men and women attend annually. No matter how busy your calendar is or is not, it is still good to understand what they all are.
Cocktail Party Dress Codes:
- Formal Cocktail.
- Festive Cocktail.
- Resort Cocktail.
- Business Cocktail.
- Garden Party Cocktail.
- Casual Cocktail.
- Beach Cocktail.
- Wedding Cocktail.
The primary cocktail dress code rules for women are that you wear a dress, and the length of the dress itself stops at or just above the knee. You also wear high heel stilettos or pumps for the more formal cocktail functions. The high heels can be open or close-toed. The choice of color of the shoes will depend on your dress and the event.
The primary cocktail dress code rules for men are wearing a dark suit with a white button-up shirt, a tie, and dark leather dress shoes. Think more along the lines of going to a black-tie event. More details will be given in the men’s section of this post.
Cocktail attire for women
Your attire will be dictated by the type of cocktail party you are attending. Like Formal, Festive, Business, and Wedding events, the more formal parties require solid colors. You would wear darker shades for traditional cocktail party colors (blacks, navies, and maybe dark purples), while at a festive cocktail party, you can wear bolder colors (reds, purples, greens, and burgundy). Business cocktail events can be slightly tricky because you want to dress up but not too much to feel like you are going into the office.
Try to find a dress that is more of a neutral tone but also still chic or trendy. You can pair the dress with either silver or gold jewelry and nice black heels. The shoes you should wear to these events must be solid colors with neutral or darker hue tones.
When it comes to a Wedding cocktail event, you mustn’t wear white! Never try to compete with the bride. The wedding location and its theme can explain what type of fabrics you can wear for your cocktail dress. The year the wedding is held in can give you good ideas of what color you would want to wear if you do not know the wedding colors. Your safest bet is to find out and wear one of the wedding theme’s colors if you do not have a lovely, solid, dark color cocktail dress.
The shoes can be high heels, kitten heels, or flats depending on what you are comfortable with, the location, and the wedding couple’s dress code. Use your best judgment. Wearing six-inch-high heels is not a good idea to wear to a beach wedding.
You can have more fun with your outfits for more casual or relax cocktail parties. These would be Resort, Garden, Casual, and Beach cocktail parties. You can wear a solid color dress at this kind of event if you choose, but you also have the freedom to wear a print dress. The dresses can be made from more breathable fabrics and have flowing skirts in fashion right now. Besides, you can wear sandals or wedge sandals of different colors if you wanted. You can find more in-depth information here.
Dos and don’ts of cocktail attire for women
Now that we have gone over the information on what cocktail attire is for women and the different types of cocktail events you can attend, we need to summarize what is and is not acceptable for you to wear. No matter your age or social standing, the rules below apply to everyone.
- The cocktail dress stops at or just above the knee.
- Do wear solid dark colors to formal cocktail events.
- Do wear prints or lighter colors to more casual cocktail events if you desire.
- Do wear some high heels.
- Do accessorize your outfit.
- Do not wear a dress that stops mid-calf or longer as that starts to fall into evening wear.
- Please do not wear a dress that stops three inches or higher than the knee as it would be deemed inappropriate.
- Do not wear flats to a formal cocktail party.
- Do not over accessorize your look.
- Do not wear prints to a formal cocktail event.
Cocktail attire for men
Before we go into the dress code for a cocktail party for men, I’d like to briefly go over the history of its development as it was men’s fashion that helped shape this attire. During prohibition, the upper classes liked to stick their noses up to the government by secretly having a small get-together where they met before dinner drinks. This created a need to have a dress code that transitioned men from the day’s casual dress into the early evening before changing into the evening’s white-tie dinner attire.
Cocktail attire for men may seem simple at first. However, men have less wiggle room than women when it comes to the formal dress code. The dress code calls for you to wear a 2- or 3-piece suit of darker colors. Preferably charcoal or navy but not black as that is considered to evening wear. You must wear a white or, if allowed, a soft muted color button-up shirt and a tie. If you are feeling ambitious, you can wear a bow tie. Either way, the tie or bow tie needs to have like small prints or be a solid neutral color. The shoes need to be dark leather dress shoes. Black or dark brown only.
You can dress up or tone down your cocktail wear depending on the cocktail event you will attend or if the host or hostess is okay with you not strictly following the traditional cocktail dress code. To find out the essential details of the dress code for cocktail attire for men, click here.
Dos and don’ts of cocktail attire for men
Now that you have read the dress code for cocktail attire, I’ll be going over the dos and don’ts for men’s wear. It may seem relatively straight forward of what you should and should not wear. However, if you are allowed a more relaxed attire, say for a wedding or a resort cocktail event, then you have even more options that are not permitted in a formal setting. The do’s and don’ts listed below are for the proper attire dress code only.
- Do wear a two or 3-piece suit that is a dark color.
- Do wear a white button-up shirt.
- Do wear dark dress shoes.
- Do wear solid colored socks.
- Do wear a solid or soft print tie or bow tie.
- Do match any jewelry and cufflinks to your shirt or suit.
- Do not wear a bright color suit.
- Do not wear a bright colored shirt.
- Do not wear socks with a print on them.
- Do not forget the tie or bow tie.
- Do not wear bright colored shoes.
- Do not wear any shoes that do not dress shoes.
- Do not wear any loud ties or bow ties.
- Do not ever wear denim jeans.
Cocktail party attire
There are eight different types of cocktail parties that you can attend at some point in your life. The more formal cocktail parties happen more than the casual ones do, but that does not mean you should not be prepared. For men having a lovely two- or three-piece suit, dark suit, and white shirt will work for formal and casual cocktail parties.
If you know your host and he has stated on the invite for a casual cocktail party, you may be allowed to forgo the tie, and he or she may let you wear khaki and a muted color button-up shirt with a nice blazer instead. A woman can not go wrong with a little black dress and a nice pair of heels. Open or close-toed is up to you.
As part of proper etiquette, you will want to find out the dress code for your attending cocktail party. There are many reasons you want to do this. The main reasons are not wanting to be overdressed or viewed as wanting to compete with the host and hostess. The best example of this would be not wanting to dress or take away from the bride on her special day.
Cocktail wedding attire
When you attend a wedding cocktail party, you will always want to know the wedding theme and the location. The reason being it may give you an insight as to the attire that is expected. When in doubt about what you should wear, then always ask the bride and groom or check their website about the standard dress. You will be thankful that you did.
Wedding cocktail attire allows women a range of solid colors and prints they can wear while men have the option of either formal attire or a slightly toned-down attire. Remember, for shoes, ladies can wear nice high heels or wedge sandals, and the gentleman can wear dark dress shoes unless otherwise specified.
Choosing one of the wedding theme colors is a safe option you can wear. Whether your shoes or handbag has the wedding colors in it or your pocket protector does, you have the power to use your accessories to your advantage. You end up looking good not only to the bride and groom but also to the whole wedding party. You will be viewed as paying close attention to the dress code and adding to the bride and groom’s special day.
Once you master cocktail attire and how to dress up or tone down your outfit, you will be able to do the same with the dress codes in the workplace. What business attire is will be discussed next.
This attire is not to be confused with the company’s dress code that you are working for now. Why do I say that?
Some companies believe that their dress code is business attire, it is the best dress code for their work environment, and it does not need to change. There is 100% nothing wrong with that way of thinking. However, if you have a job in an office setting dressed like Jake from State Farm, you are not in professional business attire but the subcategory of “business casual.”
The same is true for anyone who works for a construction company. What their dress code is, is their “uniform” and not business attire. What the company sets as a dress code is not always what business attire is. It is essential to understand what the differences are if you decide to change jobs.
Business dress code
The rules for business dress code have changed a little bit for men and women over the years, but not a tremendous amount like many people fear. Many conflicting articles on popular sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and some websites found on Google believe keeping up with “trending” is more important. Thus, they completely miss the mark.
A 2-piece suit is a safe bet for both men and women. Unlike cocktail attire, men can wear both bold and bright colored button-up shirts. You also can forgo the tie and cuff links if you wish. For you ladies, you do have to follow the cocktail attire length for your skirts and dresses.
Business attire for women
Women’s business attire rules are relatively straightforward and less strict than what you should wear for job interviews. You can wear bolder jewelry, and you have the option of wearing either open or closed-toed shoes. Whether you decided to wear a loose-fitting blouse or a button-up shirt. You have more comprehensive color options you can wear without going into the “no-no” color areas that the interview dress code has. With business attire, you can wear colors from your color palette that brings out the colors in your eyes and complements your complexion. What colors you should not wear for job interviews will be discussed later in this article.
Elaborating further on the shoes, I want to discuss what you can wear for business attire appropriate outfits. There are three questions you need to ask yourself. Are they comfortable, can you walk in them, and do they clash with what you are wearing? Base your work shoes around your job and what your job description entails. If you are on your feet for hours on end and have an extraordinarily little downtime, then high heels will not be the best option for you unless you are used to being in them. If you are not comfortable in high heels or flats, then do not wear them! People will be able to tell whether you are comfortable in your shoes or not.
The last rule about shoes is that they can either make or break your outfit. What I mean by that is your shoes should complement your outfit and not compete with it. If your shoes are to be the focus of your look, then go for it. You can wear a nice, dark-colored suit with a white or pastel-colored top and a bold red or blue high heel, for example. However, if you want your blazer, necklace, or skirt to be an item that draws a person’s eye, your shoes need to be black or a nude color.
Dos and don’ts of business attire for women
Now that we have gone over the appropriate business attire for women, it’s time to summarize. This summarization helps you feel comfortable going to work, knowing that you may be the prime example of the dress code.
- Do wear comfortable shoes.
- Do keep your skirts and dresses to knee length or longer.
- Do wear colors that complement your skin tone.
- Do wear clothes that flatter your body type.
- Do wear jewelry that compliments you and your outfit.
- Do not wear clothes that are too tight.
- Never wear shoes that hurt your feet.
- Do not wear colors that clash with each other.
- Do not dress in too loud colors or prints.
- Do not over accessorize.
Business attire for men
Unlike cocktail attire, business attire allows for more freedom for men to express their style without breaking the rules. For one, gentlemen, you do not have to wear a 3-piece suit. A well-tailored 2-piece suit will work just as well. You can wear a tie or bowtie if you want, and if you do, the options of going with bolder and brighter patterned ties are available. Your shoes will need to be dress shoes still; however, you can venture out to different brown shades. You do not have to stay in black shoes unless you want to. What you will wear for your tops depends on if you are doing a “business casual” or “business professional” dress code. A tucked-in white button-up shirt is a safe option for both occasions.
You will want to make sure that your slacks fit you well both in the waist and hip area, as well as in length. The best test you can do when buying new work pants is to do the sitting down test. If you must pull up your pants in the thigh area when you sit or kneel, you will most likely need to go up a size if you can. Furthermore, if your pants are too tight when you are sitting, you will not want to wear them, which wastes time and money. It is always better for your pocket to invest in great quality clothes that are fitted well. Not only will your wardrobe last longer, but you will look better.
Like the rules with cocktail attire, business attire requires your socks to be calf-length. Now unlike cocktail attire, you can wear printed or solid color socks. Just make sure the print on your socks is work appropriate.
Dos and don’ts of business attire for men
The dos and don’ts of business attire for men are clear cut and to the point. Men’s fashion has hardly changed its business attire rules over the past century or two, unlike women’s fashion. Here are the summarized rules for what you can and should not wear in the office.
- Do wear dress shoes.
- Do wear a 2-piece suit or a button-up shirt with a tie.
- Do wear colors that look good on you.
- If you forgot a suit jacket, always tuck in your shirt.
- Do wear calf-length socks.
- Do wear a belt.
- Do not wear tennis shoes.
- Do not wear jeans.
- Do not wear any clothes that are ripped up.
- Do not wear your shirt, untucked.
- Do not wear tight clothing.
What is business professional attire?
Business professional attire and professional attire are the same with one exception. Business professional attire allows for the color of your suit jacket and your pants to be different colors. Business professional attire still requires men to wear dark dress shoes and women to wear close-toed high heels or flats. The rules of how to style your hair and wear jewelry are the same as the cocktail attire – elegant and straightforward.
Professional dress code
The professional dress code for men would require a tailored 3-piece suit. The suit itself can be black, charcoal, gray, tan, or navy—a button-up shirt of any color and a tie of solid or somber print. The smartest way to match your shirt to your suit is to have a light pattern (gray with fine blue lines, for example)—dark dress shoes and solid color socks that match your shirt.
A professional dress code requires a 2-piece suit for women: either a pantsuit or a suit jacket and a knee-length skirt. You can wear a blouse or a button-up shirt that is white or a color that is not too bright, complementing your skin tone. Jewelry is to a minimum, and your hair is out of your face and meticulously kept. Your shoes will need to be dark, close-toed, flats, or a kitten heel, or any heel under 6-inches.
Business casual attire
Business casual attire has become adopted and accepted in the workplace as time has passed. This attire is for multiple reasons. Some businesses do this because it creates a more relaxed atmosphere, while others have done it because people wearing business suits has fallen out of fashion with the public. It also has to do with the business being conducted and the company’s location itself. Someone wearing a business suit working in a retail store in the mall seems a little out of place nowadays.
What is business casual?
Business casual is a dress code defined more by what you can not do than what you can do. Not every job location allows for business casual. If the company does, remember that they all disagree on what business casual is. For this reason, you should look up their rules for the dress code or ask them.
Business casual is a dress code that allows for a comfortable or relaxed look. It enables you to wear nice looking, none ripped jeans, a polo or open collar shirt, a skirt or dress knee-length or longer. Men can skip the ties, and footwear is a little more relaxed as you can wear tennis shoes if your job allows it. As for you ladies, you can also wear dress boots. Open-toed sandals are also acceptable. Ladies, you can even do a full face of make-up if you choose to or not.
What business casual is not is flip flops, shorts, T-shirts, shirts with logos (excluding the polo logo), shirts with sayings on them, and ripped up clothing. If you look like you are going to the beach, a night club, or just running errands, you need to start over with your outfit. Business casual has a greater possibility of looking underdressed and not work appropriately. So, make sure to always double-check your outfit before you leave the house.
Interview dress code
When going for an interview, it is always best to go slightly overdressed than to look like you do not care. The correct interview dress code falls into the “business professional” category. Business casual is not appropriate attire for an interview, no matter what you are interviewing for.
What to wear to an interview?
Both men and women need to wear an outfit that is wrinkle and lint-free. Wrinkles in your clothes take away from the polished look you want to have when going into an interview and may give the wrong impression of being lazy, which we know you are not. A 2-or 3-piece suit is a safe go-to attire if both men and women are not sure of what else to wear.
Simultaneously, there are clear cut rules for both men and women regarding what you can wear and some limitations of what not to wear, which includes specific colors. For example, absolutely no red and no jeans!
Now we will be going into greater detail about what you should wear for an interview.
Interview attire for women
Ladies need to think about if they are more comfortable in skirts and dresses or pants/slacks. Many professionals go back and forth on if a female should wear pants or skirts/dresses to an interview or not. The reason being is because of this idea of “does she look comfortable?” If you know that you are comfortable in a skirt or a dress, do not be afraid to wear one. Of course, your outfit should never be skintight nor have a loud print. A white top and a solid pant or skirt is a safe interview outfit, but it is a little overdone. Try wearing a colored blouse from your color palette with a dark-colored or light-colored suit pant. A color combination like this allows you to show a little bit of your personality while standing out from the crowd.
When it comes to make-up, less is more. If you are used to wearing a full face of make-up, your best bet is wearing your full foundation with a neutral or lightly colored eye and a soft lip. Have your hair done up if you have long hair. If you love accessories, avoid wearing too many at one time. A necklace and a pair of earrings will take you farther than you think. Never wear open-toed shoes to an interview.
Interview attire for men
Men should wear black, navy, grey, or tan pants with a tucked-in, button-up shirt of dark or muted colors. When you tuck your shirt, gentlemen, you must always wear a black or brown belt—dark dress shoes and socks. If you decide to wear a tie, it must be either a solid color or an appropriate workprint. Now you do not have to wear a suit coat for an interview. Although, if you do, it does not have to be the same color as your pants. It has to complement your overall look, though.
Dos and Don’ts of interview attire
Time to summarize the dos and don’ts of what men and women should do for an interview.
- Do wear colors that look good on you.
- Do wear your hair out of your face.
- Do wear a minimum amount of make-up.
- Do wear dress shoes.
- Do iron or press your clothes.
- Men do wear a belt.
- Men do wear socks.
- Ladies, cover your shoulders.
- Do not wear the color red.
- Do not wear open-toed shoes.
- Do not wear loud colors.
- Do not have any holes or rips in your clothing.
- Do not wear heavy make-up.
- Do not wear tight clothing.
- Do not over accessorize your outfit.
- Do not wear jeans.
- Do not wear oversized clothes.
- Do not wear tennis shoes.
- Do not wear T-shirts.
Now that we have covered business attire and what is appropriate interview attire, it is time we move onto Formal Attire.
What is formal attire?
Formal attire would be defined as the standard of the black or white tie attire. Back in the day (think before the 1960s for the U.S.), people used to dress up for dinner and wear their best pearls and cufflinks to events. Formal attire was part of everyone’s daily lives. It was expected of everyone, no matter your social class!
Now that we are in 2020, formal attire is more of a rare treat that you would wear for a special occasion—social media post-worthy of you in your sharp looking tux or gorgeous evening gown type of circumstances. Now, nothing is stopping you from dressing in formal attire every day if you wanted to. Of course, you might get weird looks wearing an evening gown at the SuperMarket when it is not a prom or homing coming season. Remember, cocktail attire was made as the graduating step from the casual or “business” attire of the day to evening wear. Formal attire is where you indeed “dress to impress,” be it to your colleagues, employers, future clients, or state officials.
Depending on your social standing, social event calendar, or employment type, you will determine many formal attire events you will attend per year. The employment areas that are more likely to have multiple formal events per year would be the government sector, museum curators, art galleries, and fundraiser companies, to name a few. If you have an active social calendar, you have a high chance of meeting someone who works in one of those fields.
For Americans, the State Dinner at the White House is the biggest and most visualized formal attire event that we see. While many of us will not attend that event in person, you do have a better chance of attending the following events because they’re open to anyone of any social standing. These formal attire events would include “weddings, christenings, confirmations, funerals, Easter and Christmas Masses, plays, holiday balls, and horse racing events.”
Formal dress code
The formal dress code for both men and women is strict and well defined. For men, the dress code is a tux with either a black or white tie. For women, the dress code is a floor-length dress or ball gown.
The dress code requires both men and women to be well-groomed, bathed, and wear either perfume or cologne but not too much of it. Both men and women must wear dress shoes.
The dress shoes for men must be dark in color, and for women, they must be high heels and can be either open or close-toed. Depending on the color of the dress you are wearing, you may wear a bold color high heel. However, a classic black or nude shoe is always the safest option.
What is semi-formal attire?
Semi-formal attire is what the name suggests. It is usual for events that are scheduled before 6 pm to have the semi-formal dress code. If the event is scheduled after 6 pm but still says “semi-formal” as its dress code, you can always dress according to the invitation. However, the attire does lean more to formal attire after dark.
There are some slight differences between the semi-formal and formal attire for men and women, but they are so small that it is effortless to blur the lines.
The dress codes are for semi-formal attire events for men and women, and the differences between semi-formal and formal attires will be discussed in greater detail below.
Semi-formal dress code
The semi-formal dress code is a slight touch above cocktail attire but below formal wear on the attire scale. Here are three commonly asked questions about semi-formal attire.
What is the difference between cocktail attire and semi-formal when they seem so close together?
Is semi-formal attire the same as cocktail attire?
What is the difference between semi-formal and formal attire if semi-formal is not cocktail attire?
The answer to number one is that there is no 3-piece suit in semi-formal attire for men, but you can wear one for cocktail attire. For women, it is the length of the dress that separates cocktail attire and semi-formal attire. The correct answer to the second question is an emphatic no. The final question’s answer is the fabric choices and the garment colors for both men’s and women’s wear.
Semi-formal attire for women
Unlike cocktail attire, women can wear a sleek pantsuit or a skirt instead of a dress. The skirt must be a pencil and a mid-length or ankle-length skirt. The best go-to color for the pant or skirt is black or a dark color.
The top can be of any color that looks good on you and pairs well with the bottom part of your outfit. The fabric of the top is essential for a semi-formal dress code. Avoid cotton and other materials deemed “casual” and stick to fabrics believed to be of a higher class like satin or silk.
Semi-formal attire for men
The most significant difference between cocktail attire and semi-formal attire for men is that the cocktail dress code allows for a 3-piece suit while semi-formal does not. This is because a 3-piece suit is more business-like attire. The fabric choices for your suit will need to be “a dark wool, gabardine, or cashmere.”
The suit can be a lighter color if you wish. However, it should not be white. The button-up shirt can be any color you want if it complements your suit. For semi-formal, you do not need to wear a tie but if you do, make sure that the tie is not too loud or obnoxious.
Black tie attire
When the dress code of any event calls for black tie attire, it means that you are to come dressed in your absolute best. Black tie attire is the same as white tie attire splendor wise. From your shoes to your hair, nothing should be out of place nor clashing with each other. Black tie attire only falls in the formal dress code category.
Men come in those classic black tuxes with black bow ties, and women arrive in a wide range of elegant ball gowns in different colors. We will discuss the rules for black tie attires and what must not be deviated from for both men and women below.
Black tie dress code
Men’s dress code requires you to wear a black tux or black pants with a matching dinner jacket. You will need to ask the host if you can skip the tie/bowtie or not. Often you will need to wear a black bowtie. The tie’s color and dress shoes are the same as the rules for semi-formal is- black.
For women, the top of the dress is not regulated, unlike the dresses’ length. While it may seem strange, it is the floor-length dress that traditionally made black tie a formal event. While you still need to go with a floor-length gown, it can have a small side slit in it or be slightly shorter in the front now to show a little bit of leg. However, make sure not to show too much leg.
Black tie attire for women
The top of your dress needs to be a neckline that flatters you. Whatever neckline cut you wear will dictate what kind of jewelry you can wear. Black tie attire is the time to show off your jewelry without over-accessorizing.
There is no limit on the colors you can wear for black tie events. You should not wear any color or bold print that is too bright, however. When you decide what color you will want to wear, remember if you do not want to do black, draw on colors from your color pallet or season so that the color complements you and does not make you look washed out. Your shoes will need to be high heels and classic in style.
Black tie attire for men
Men have strict rules to follow when it comes to this dress code. Black tie attire requires a black tux or a dark blue “dinner jacket with matching trousers.” The button-up shirt must be white and will need to be pleated. You can not wear any colored shirt to a black-tie event! Be sure to ask your host if a long black tie will be allowed or if you will need to stick to the traditional black bow tie.
Formal black shoes are required and wear solid, dark-colored socks with them. You do have the option of wearing a cummerbund or a vest if you want. These extra accessories are not required anymore but are still possible.
What to wear to a wedding?
When planning on attending a wedding, you want to dress nicely, but you do not want to compete with the bride. That is a big no-no. Ask if the dress code is formal, semi-formal or if there is one at all. If there is no dress code, ask what the wedding colors are to incorporate them into your outfit. The safest bet is to go with formal or semi-formal attire and wearing one of the wedding colors if you can.
You will want to avoid wearing jeans, ripped clothes, casual shoes like flip flops, and T-shirts for a typical wedding. You do not want to be undressed for the event. It can be misconstrued that you do not care. On the other hand, you will not want to be overdressed in a ball gown or a white-tie attire when the dress code calls for casual attire as that will make you look like you are attention seekers and other not so nice things to say.
While this should be common knowledge, I still feel like I need to go over it because a few women seem to forget this important rule. Never compete with the bride in clothing on her big day. This competition means not wearing the color white, ball gowns, or anything too loud that would make you the center of attention.
Below are the details for each dress code that are often required at weddings. What to wear at a beach wedding will be at the end of the article.
What to wear to a winter wedding?
If a wedding is held during the winter season, you will, of course, want to dress warmly. Gentlemen, you will want to wear double-breasted suit pants with dark dress shoes. You can wear a tie, bowtie, or skip it altogether. Your shirt’s color can be any color that looks good on you or stain from the wedding color scheme.
Ladies, you will want to wear either a pantsuit, a long dress, or a long skirt with a cap sleep to ¾ sleeve or longer. If you wear a dress, it can have beading or other elegant, detailed work on it. However, you need to avoid going sleeveless. Choose colors that are from your color palette and wear jewelry that compliments you. Wear close-toed dress shoes that can be either dark or bold in color. Whether they are high heels or flats will depend on your comfortability and if it will be snowing or not. You will want to look good in your outfit and that you belong to the event without standing out too much.
You will need to know your wedding couple to understand how “dressed to the 9’s” you will need to be or not since winter weddings have more of a tendency of being extravagant.
What to wear to a spring wedding
Springtime brings in brighter colors and slightly warmer weather. Here is where you can move to wear open-toed shoes and cocktail dresses with Easter (pastel) colors or colors from your season. Springtime is where you can wear tops or dresses that reveal your shoulders as well. You can still wear a pantsuit if you like.
You can move away from the 2-piece suit for you men if you choose and wear suit pants, a button-up shirt, and a tie. Another option you have is the same color vest and pant combination. Your tie can be any color or pattern that you like, so feel free to express yourself. You will need to wear dress shoes, but they can be dark brown, not just black. Your shirt can be a springtime color, a color from your season, or one of the wedding colors.
What to wear to a summer wedding?
Summertime is the time of that classic “June Bride” goal that many women go for. This theme also means high heat and sometimes high humidity. Here is where the shoe wear for ladies can become a little tricky, depending on the wedding location. Like in Florida, wearing flip flops to a wedding is more acceptable in some areas due to the humidity.
When going to a summer wedding, ladies should wear a cocktail dress or a summer dress and nice flats or sandals. Men should wear the same outfit as stated in the Spring wedding section, but you can wear tans or lighter browns.
If the wedding has a more relaxed atmosphere, and this does happen once in a blue moon, then you ladies may be able to get away with a nice blouse, a jean skirt, and sandals. Men can wear tan slacks, a solid-colored polo shirt, and a pair of tennis shoes. Again, always ask if a casual dress code is allowed.
What to wear to a fall wedding?
Going to a Fall wedding is where you get to have fun with layering due to weather cooling. Ladies, going to a fall wedding can wear boots with their outfit. You can wear a pantsuit and accessorize it with a colorful scarf. Another option is a mid-calf dress or skirt with a scarf that is wrapped around your shoulders. Your shoes will need to be pumps, flats, or boots of darker colors.
Men can wear a 2-piece suit or a pair of pants with a matching or different colored dinner jacket. You will want to stay with charcoals or navy blues for your suits or wear black pants with a dark-colored button-up shirt for fall weddings. Dark dress shoes are required.
Wedding dress code
As stated above, the wedding dress code is more often not set by the bride and groom. Usually, the dress code for a wedding is formal or semi-formal. However, it can also be semi-casual, casual, or beach attire. It is always better to dress conservatively than to dress too revealing.
There are times when men should wear suit jackets or not, and when women can reveal their shoulders or not. Going to a wedding should be fun. You should be and look comfortable in your clothing for both the wedding and the reception, which can last over three hours on average if not longer.
Women’s wedding attire
When planning your outfit, you will want to think about your overall look. This “look” includes how you will do your hair and make-up. Your make-up should be tasteful but not caked on. You can wear your hair either in an up-do or down. That is up to you entirely. If you want to wear any hair accessories, they can have bling on it, that is allowed. Plan your wedding outfit according to the season and the location you are going to. The following should give you a better insight as to what to wear for each season as to shoes, colors, and clothes that should encompass all possible dress codes that weddings can have.
- Spring: flats, high heels, pumps, open-toed heels, and sandals.
- Summer: open-toed heels, flats, sandals, high heels, and open or closed-toed pumps.
- Fall: boots, high heel dress boots, close-toed pumps, and high heels.
- Winter: closed-toed high heels, boots, and flats.
Revealing your shoulder
- Springtime: yes.
- Summertime: yes.
- Fall: no.
- Winter: no.
Colors to wear
- Springtime: light colors, pastel colors, and neutral colors.
- Summertime: light colors and brighter colors.
- Fall: rich colors, jewel colors, a mixture of bright and dark colors.
- Winter: jewel-toned and dark colors.
- Spring: Pantsuit, skirt suit, and cocktail dresses.
- Summer: cocktail dress, mid-calf skirts with a blouse, and summer dress.
- Fall: pantsuit, skirt suit, and cocktail dress.
- Winter: pantsuit, skirt suit, and evening dress.
Men’s wedding attire
You may feel your attire is too simple and not showy like women’s fashion is, but that does not mean you should not take pride in how you look. Still, take the time to iron your clothes. Know your color platelet, so you are not stuck with the overdone button-up white shirt. You will be wearing a suit more times than you can count to weddings. However, you are not just limited to black. Look below to find how you can pair the perfect outfit together.
Color of your suit/ vest and pant
- Spring: navy, gray, tan, charcoal, green, and brown.
- Summer: green, gray, tan, and charcoal.
- Fall: black, gray, charcoal, brown, and navy.
- Winter: black, gray, brown, and navy.
Shoes and their colors
- Spring: black and dark brown dress shoes.
- Summer: brown and dark-colored dress shoes (tennis shoes or flip flops for casual and beach attire).
- Fall: black and dark brown dress shoes.
- Winter: black dress shoes.
Shirt and tie colors to wear with your pantsuit
- Springtime: light colors, pastel colors, and neutral colors.
- Summertime: light colors and bright colors.
- Fall: rich colors, jewel colors, and a mixture of bright and dark colors.
- Winter: jewel-toned and dark colors.
Suit variations with accessories
- Spring: 2-piece suit, vest, and pant combo.
- Summer: button-up shirt, pant combo, and tie.
- Fall: 2-piece suit, vest, pant combo, and tie.
- Winter: 3-piece suit, 2-piece suit, and cummerbund.
Formal wedding attire
Formal attire for weddings requires both men and women to be dressed to their finest—men dressed in black-tie attire, 3-piece suits, and dress shoes. Women dressed in evening gowns or suit pants with close-toed high heels. Ladies of a wiser age can skip the high heels and wear nice flats. Both genders will need to wear dark dress shoes and neatly groomed. Formal attire often requires darker colors and high-quality fabrics. Think satins, silks, cashmere, and wool, for example. For weddings, ladies do not have to wear opera gloves like they may be required to do at other formal event gatherings.
Semi-Formal wedding attire
Semi-formal wedding attire is a little more relaxed. Both men and women still must wear dark dress shoes and be well-groomed. However, men do not need to wear a 3-piece suit but can wear a 2-piece suit or just a vest and matching colored pants with your dark-colored or brown dress shoes. Women can venture out to mid-calf length skirts or dresses, colored blouses that complement your skin tone, and wear open or closed-toed heels. Remember, there is a fine line of what the difference is between semi-formal and formal dress.
Beach wedding attire
Beach wedding attire is the most relaxed dress code a wedding can ever have. Both men and women can be in their bathing suits. Suits of any color or print and be wearing shoes or not at all if directly on the beach. If not held now on the beach, then the dress code can be blue jeans, shorts, a tank top or a T-shirt, tennis shoes, or flip flops. No make-up, no jewelry, and no fuss. Beach wedding attire is a dress code that follows more of the motto of “come as you are” than any other dress code on the planet.
Going to a wedding does not have to be a chore. After reading this article, you should attend any wedding with any dress code with ease. It would be best if you were comfortable enough to pick out an outfit for any season from your closet and know that you are following the dress code.
Besides weddings, the other “serious” event that all people attend is funerals. While marriages are defined as happy occasions, funerals are defined as the opposite.
What to wear to a funeral?
You need to wear black. Unless asked by the deceased’s family members, you must wear all black or black with a white button-up shirt or blouse. If you are asked to wear another color along with black, then only your shirt should be the other color. No different colors should be worn unless told to! The best example of funeral attire would be a business or semi-formal dress code for both men and women.
Both men and women will need to wear shirts or jackets covering their arms’ full length. Ideally, both men and women will still need to be well-groomed, have their hair done, and wear little perfume or cologne. Ladies, you should wear extraordinarily small amounts of make-up. Men will need to wear black or dark brown dress shoes, and women will need to wear black or dark close-toed shoes. Low heels or flats are preferable for women. If all you have is high heels, that will do but make sure that they have no gems or little shine.
Remember, you are there to pay respect to the person who died. Even if the family is holding “a celebration of life,” you are there to say goodbye, not to have a party.
Women’s funeral attire
When you go to a funeral, you will need to think of toned-down business attire. Wearing a black pantsuit or a black suit jacket with a black pencil skirt that stops at the knee or an ankle-length black skirt is ideal. Wear a white or black blouse or button-up shirt unless told otherwise by the host. Avoid wearing a cocktail dress as that can be a little too dressy for the occasion. You will need to limit your jewelry to simple stud or dangle earrings, a dainty necklace, and maybe a watch. Wear none flashy black shoes that are flats or low heels and wear little make-up.
Men’s funeral attire
Funeral attire only requires men to wear a 2-piece suit and black dress shoes. You do not have to wear a 3-piece suit unless you feel like you should. The suit can be double-breasted if you want, but it is not required. Wear a white button-up shirt. Unless told otherwise, you can only wear a white or black button-up. Your socks should be reliable and dark in color. You do not have to wear a pocket protector, nor do you have to wear cufflinks. If you are into accessories, then wear only a watch. Anything else would make you look too flashy.
What not to wear to a funeral?
Now that we have gone over what you should wear to a funeral, we will need to go over what not to wear to a funeral. Let us start with the ladies first.
Women should avoid wearing blue jeans, shorts, miniskirts, tennis shoes, ripped clothes, flashy jewelry, khakis, bright colored clothes, polo shirts, sandals, flip flops, and open-toed shoes. Men should avoid wearing blue jeans, tennis shoes, ripped up clothes, flashy jewelry, khakis, polo shirts, flip flops, bright-colored clothes, and oversized clothes.
Ladies, do not over accessorize your hairstyle nor carry overly large handbags. Gentlemen do not wear too much cologne, and ladies wear not too much perfume.
Funeral dress code
As stated above, the funeral dress code calls for a business or semi-formal dress code attire. Never in existence has there been such a thing as a casual attire funeral. Besides wearing all black or a black suit with a white button-up, wearing dark shoes with no holes or openings is required. Ladies can wear a black pencil or long skirt with a suit jacket. If you decide to skip the suit jacket, you will need to wear a long-sleeved white button-up shirt with your skirt. Funeral attire also calls for minimalistic jewelry for both men and women.
Military funeral etiquette
The etiquette required to attend a military funeral is a little restrictor to attending a regular funeral. Men who have never been part of the military, who are retired, or those who have been discharged, are only allowed to wear a black suit with a black or white button-up shirt, and black dress shoes. The tie is optional. If a man or woman is in the military, he or she will wear his or her uniform according to the standards set forth by the United States military. Women will need to wear all black pantsuits or an all-black cocktail dress with a suit jacket (the only time women are allowed to wear a cocktail dress to a funeral), black close-toed heels, and an optional black hat.
Attending a funeral is never easy for anyone. Knowing what to wear will take one worry and stress away from you during your time of difficulty. Do not forget to iron your clothes as it will help you look good and help distract you for a tiny bit.
Now that you have read about dress codes related to formal wear, business wear, and cocktail attire, you should feel more comfortable with the wardrobe you have in your closet. If you are not, then you now know what items you need to buy to make your wardrobe complete for any occasion you will be attending in the coming years.
Now that you are to this point of the blog, you should understand that you can have dark or neutral items in color and mix and match them. Having the capability to mix and match your wardrobe makes it easier on your wallet. It also has a secret gift of balancing out your stress levels if a surprise wedding, job change, or an unfortunate funeral pops up. You will be ready!
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