Decoding Dress Code
The good news is that I’ve been invited to several events recently. The bad news is that each time the RSVP included the comment “Please dress appropriately.” What the heck does that even mean?
— Clueless but Not Threadless in San Jose, CA
Personal presentation is one of the best ways to show respect for an event, and the best rule is, when in doubt, lean on dressing more formally.
Now, for those of you searching for a more descriptive answer, read on.
Being informal is all about the comfort of your clothing – of course, a little coordination never hurts. Business casual Just because it says ”casual” doesn’t mean professional appearance isn’t required. No muscle t-shirts. No flip-flops. Men should normally wear collared shirts. Women should avoid strapless or spaghetti string tops and opt for a top with sleeves. A band t-shirt with a blazer can be a fun choice, but use judgment depending on the occasion. Going super-casual should only be considered if you’re going to a Backyard BBQ, or “disheveled’ is your company dress code.
Cocktail party / Semi-formal
Everyone knows about the little black dress. Guess why? It always works. So go with cocktail dresses of all kinds, or try a silk kaftan or jumpsuit. For guys, a jacket or a jacket and tie are good choices. If you’re not sure how formal, take a tie with you.
Your dress should match the venue along with the formality of the event: That means a knee-length dress, a tea-length dress, or a floor-length dress depending on the occasion. If you’re going to a formal event in the park or at the club, a knee-length dress is a fine choice. If you’re going to a wedding at The Greenbrier, go long. It’s easier for gentlemen: A dark suit and tie, or a navy or tastefully patterned blazer and pants. Try adding a pocket square.
Black Tie After 6 PM
When an invite says “Black Tie” that’s what it means. A traditional tuxedo with a black bow tie for men. Floor or tea-length gowns for ladies.