We’ve all recieved an invitation either in paper or online to some sort of event with a mandated dress code. We look down at the last line where it says “smart casual” and think to ourselves, “WTF?!”. Seriously, what happened to the dress codes that were strictly formal and informal. Doesn’t smart mean to look sharp? But wait, casual too, how can I look sharp and casual at the same time? Yes, even the most fashionable of fashionistas get stumped every once in awhile. So here’s a cheat sheet to work off of so the next time you receive an invitation with a dress code, you won’t go running to the nearest mall and spending 10 hours perusing every rack.
A white tie dress code is the most formal any dress code can get. It denotes full out evening wear, basically what you would see on a red carpet. Men are expected to be in a full suit with tails and women are expected to arrive in ball gowns. Most of the time this type of formal wear is reserved for state dinners, balls and even sometimes weddings. Typically fashion ettiquette denotes that an event with a white tie dress code is to occur after 6PM at night. Although if it is already dark enough outside then white tie can occur earlier. The daytime equivalent of a white tie event would be for women to wear a morning dress.
Dresses with hemlines above the ankle are generally not acceptable as they denote a more casual appeal. Depending on the occasion and event, baring shoulders may even be frowned upon and women are encouraged to cover themselves with shawls or scarves. Obviously this sounds a little bit medieval but if you are seriously unsure as to how the host is expecting their guests to dress, always ask. In this day an age and the accessibility of cell phones, sending the host a picture of your outfit can easily answer any questions that you may have regarding the dress code.
Black tie is the slightly less formal version of white tie. Usually reserved for evening events as well, women are still expected to show up in dresses with longer hemlines. Cocktail dresses (knee-length) are now accepted as an appropriate form of wear as well. Although we don’t recommend go any higher than the knee or else the dress will be more day-time appropriate than evening wear. Generally most weddings are black tie since they allow for more creativity and aren’t as strict as white tie.
Ah, and the confusion that is smart casual is upon us. Perhaps the most ill-defined dress code of all dress codes, smart casual denotes a neat and well put together outfit that looks clean and proper. Think J. Crew, Madewell and perhaps the higher end of Zara. Here we’re talking prim and proper without looking like you’re ready to walk into your office any second. Jeans are an often disputed item of clothing in this category of dress codes. Darker washed denim can be dressed to look more formal than say a light acid stained pair. However, if you can see wear and tear on the jeans, then it’s an obvious no-go. Also make sure to avoid anything that you would deem club-worthy. This includes your thigh high boots, hemlines that barely cover your behind and anything overly sparkly. Keep it office appropriate but with a hint of style. Think of an outfit that may be office friendly but would make you stick out like a sore thumb (ie. neon colors, lower cut tops, backless dresses, etc.)
Try pulling out a cute summer dress to an event that calls for smart casual. Or that long flowy maxi-dress that you’re dying to wear. As long as the material is a little bit heavier, you’ll be able to get away with something light and summery.
Think of business casual as a lunch meeting. You don’t want to wear something that is too tight or else there won’t be any room for that after meal stomach-pooch. You also want to avoid too many layers as well or you’ll wind up looking like you just walked out of the gym drenched in sweat. Generally anything with a collar and has a relatively starched look will be appropriate. Think afternoon polo match on the lawn under a warm sun. The idea is to go for something relaxed but still elegant enough that it doesn’t look like you’ve been cleaning your house all day or that you’re ready to go for a grocery run. If you need a little bit of inspiration, try channeling your inner Victoria Beckham, Miranda Kerr or Kate Bosworth. Those three have got the business casual down under lock and key.
[quote_center]Which dress code do you get the most excited to wear?[/quote_center]
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