How to interpret dress codes on invitations

Published: 23rd August 2009
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Deciding on what clothes to wear to a party or other type of formal, social gathering can be quite difficult at times. On some less formal occasions dress codes are not all that important. It all really depends on the invitation. If you were invited verbally by someone you know quite well, picking out what clothes to wear is not all that difficult. If you received some sort of formal invitation clearly stating a formal dress code, however, things can get confusing. The term "Black tie" is easy enough to understand but what about the rest of the body? How do I know what clothes to wear when the invitation says "smart-casual"?

White tie
When the invitation says white tie you know you are going to a quite formal event. This is the most formal evening dress code. White tie if often worn to very up-scale weddings, the opera and other types of formal dinners such as the Nobel dinner held after the price ceremony. The main parts of the male clothes are the dress coat, white bow tie and waistcoat, and starched shirt. Women are expected to arrive in a suitable dress for the occasion, such as a ball gown.

Black tie
Black tie is considered semi-formal when compared to its white tie counterpart, but most of us consider black tie very formal as well. Invitations to weddings often carry this dress code. For men the major component of a black tie dress code consists of a dinner jacket or tuxedo as it is more commonly called in North America. Most often the dinner jacket is black, but one may also decide to go with a dark blue color. Depending on the current fashion, custom and so on, a woman is expected to wear a conservative cocktail dress or a long evening gown.

Lounge suit
When the invitation calls for a lounge suit, this basically means you should wear a classic suit. Purely dress code wise, a lounge suit is considered informal attire, however, some of us feel pretty formal and dressed up anyway. There are some general guidelines to consider though. You should preferably wear a dark suit and not go crazy with the colors either on the jacket, shirt or tie. A white shirt is often the safest bet and a tie of few colors is preferred. If your suit comes with a vest this is a plus also, it adds to the (in)formality.

Smart casual
Smart casual is a rather loosely defined dress code. It is supposed to look and feel casual but still be smart enough to meet the standards of the particular social group. Here you will have somewhat different choices depending on what type of social event you are going to attend. Most often, however, smart casual consist of dress trousers - sometimes jeans or chinos - a long-sleeve shirt with an optional tie and if it is appropriate you can wear a jacket or sport coat. Women may choose to wear slacks, a long or short skirt or even jeans together with a pretty blouse or turtleneck. Keep in mind that formality is highly subjective and in some places the above description of smart casual will be considered purely casual, with smart casual requiring a jacket and tie at all times.

Robb Stark likes writing and dressing up to attend fancy dinners and parties. For more information please visit kläder and barnkläder.

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