Decoding party dress codes
Party season is here which means a merry month of cocktails, canapés and dancefloor capers. The only issue is, when it comes to black tie and white tie events these days, things aren’t always so… black and white. If your excitement at receiving an invitation to a do has quickly turned to bafflement at the cryptic dress code description, fear not. We turned to fashion expert, Danit A. Levi of DressYourWay Style Consultancy to help us put together a jargon-busting spectrum of style.
If the invitation says ‘white tie’ there’s no doubt we’re talking an ultra-formal affair here. Men are expected to wear a black single breasted tail coat (not to be confused with the longer morning coat), black tapered trousers with double braid on outside seams, white shirt with detachable wing collar, white bowtie, white low cut waistcoat and patent ribbon laces shoes. Women get it a lot easier with a long gown the only essential requirement, although tiaras are encouraged - but only for married women.
Still at the formal end of the style spectrum, black tie events have traditionally seen men wearing dinner jackets and matching trousers, cumberbund or waistcoat (never both) with a black bow tie and women donning long dresses. However, the times, they are a’changing and it’s becoming more acceptable to play around with these rules – ladies in evening separates and guys ditching the tie.
Black tie invited / optional
This ambiguous invitation gives men the option of wearing a dinner suit if they’re so inclined, but also suggests a dark suit and tie would also be acceptable. Women can take their pick from long dresses, cocktail dresses or dressy evening separates. Keep it classy though folks.
Creative black tie
Possibly one of the most tricky of all the dress codes, ‘creative’ black tie is open to interpretation. The key to getting it just right is to keep in mind the setting for the event and the kind of people that will be attending. A dinner suit is a good foundation for guys, but arty gents can team it with a pair of jazzy shoes or a contrast tie for example. Ladies can experiment with a brighter colour or a quirky clutch bag.
This one’s notorious for stumping party-goers. If it’s a daytime event, it means a suit for him and an appropriate short dress or dressy suit for her. An evening event would dictate a dark suit for him and a cocktail dress for her. Either way, tux’s and long dresses are not required.
It’s fairly simple to nail this look – guys should opt for a dark suit and gals should rock a short, elegant dress.
The number one rule of ‘business casual’ is no jeans or trainers for the men and no short skirts for the ladies. Instead, guys should stick to a lounge suit or smart trousers and dressy shirts, and ladies should opt for pencil skirts or trouser suits.
Casual / informal
Generally, this one gives you the green light to wear whatever you like, however it’s not an invitation for ‘anything goes’. Remember, decorum and good taste must prevail.