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Dress Codes, Decoded
Attending a party, wedding, or other event with a dress code? It can be hard to know what to wear for different dress codes. Take a look at our guide for recommendations on what to wear for every dress code!
 
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Dress Codes
Black Tie
The most formal of dress codes, black tie means you’re pulling out the nicest thing in the closet—or buying or renting an outfit if you don’t have anything appropriate. Men are expected to wear full tuxedos. Not sure everything that entails? Check out our tuxedo guide. For women, floor-length gowns are most appropriate, but a shorter length may be acceptable if the dress’s design and fabric are clearly formal. When in doubt, go with a long gown—it’s hard to be over-dressed at a black tie event.
 
Formal
For a formal dress code, tuxedos are still expected for men. Women should stick to formal gowns, but shorter lengths are more acceptable here. Not sure what counts as formal? Steer clear of casual fabrics like knit, cotton, or jersey, and don’t go too short—dresses shouldn’t hit much higher than the knee. Consider dressing up a simpler gown with statement jewelry or shoes.
 
Black Tie Optional
This dress code is slightly more relaxed, so a tuxedo is appropriate for men but not required—a dark suit and tie are also acceptable. Women have a little more leeway as well, so feel free to swap out the gown for formal separates or a polished jumpsuit if desired.
 
Creative Black Tie
Creative black tie means you can have a little fun with you outfit. For men, this means the suit can be in a less traditional fabric, color, or print—a velvet suit jacket, for example. For women, feel free to push fashion boundaries with your outfit. Avant garde designs are welcome, but should still be in the formal realm.
 
Cocktail
A popular dress code for parties and events, cocktail wear should be nice but not formal. This means a dark suit and tie for men, and short or knee-length dresses for women. The little black dress is a staple for this dress code, but you don’t have to be afraid of bold colors either!
 
Business Formal
Business formal is usually reserved for business and professional events. Dress should be nicer than typical everyday workwear, with a suit and tie for men and a tailored dress or suit for women. Make an effort to look professional without being overdressed for a work event. 
 
Business Casual
This is the dress code for many offices, so imagine what you might wear to work. Men should wear a collared shirt and slacks or chinos, but a tie and suit jacket aren’t necessary. Women can wear separates like slacks or a skirt and blouse. Jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers are off limits, but most other pants, tops, and shoes are fair game.
 
Dressy Casual
Dressy casual means you’re free to wear jeans, but stay away from overly worn or distressed styles, and consider dressing them up a little with a nice top, sweater, or blazer. A casual dress, skirt, or romper is also fine for women. Sneakers still aren’t your best bet, so stick with something a bit nicer like flats or booties for women and chukkas for men.
 
Casual
Casual means don’t worry about being underdressed! Jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers are completely acceptable, and as long as you aren’t wearing sweats or pajamas, you won’t feel out of place. Leave the suits and dresses at home and wear something you can move freely in.