While we all know that generally different occasions require different clothing, sometimes it can be hard to judge what would be the most appropriate style to wear for every occasion. If the dress code is black tie, does that mean you can wear a normal suit with a black tie, for example?
The answer is no, but hopefully with our guide to help you, you can avoid any blunders on what to wear for formal occasions and will always show up in the most appropriate outfit, looking sharp and fitting in with the event perfectly.
It can be quite confusing out there so we asked the team behind Dobell.co.uk for their guide to what all the dress codes mean so you can be sure you are wearing the most appropriate attire no matter what the occasion and no matter how formal the dress code might be.
Formal dress code – white tie
Formal doesn’t mean just a suit and tie – this is one of the common misunderstandings when it comes to appropriate clothing. Formal means a full morning suit with a jacket with tails and a waistcoat so would normally involve renting yourself a full morning suit, with a white tie for evening wear. Turning up to an event with a formal dress code, in a suit and tie would not be acceptable.
Semi-formal dress – black tie
This is most likely the more well-known version of formal dress which most of us are familiar with but it is still a very strict dress code. An event which is black tie requires a relaxed version of morning dress during the day and a tuxedo suit for an evening event. It is generally not acceptable to wear a tuxedo during the day.
Business dress means a business suit so err on the formal side. A black, navy or pinstripe suit with a smart white shirt and conservative coloured tie is the best choice. Team it with black lace up shoes and silver cufflinks to complete the look.
Business casual or formal casual generally means men should wear jackets but not necessarily a suit, so it could be a blazer teamed with smart trousers, for example. It does not mean jeans at this level so opt for smart trousers and a jacket with tie to be on the safe side, as you can always remove the jacket and tie later if appropriate.
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This is the loosest dress code you can have and means there is no formal expectation, however, if it is a social event then you should still dress to impress so go for very dark, smart jeans and you can wear a casual jacket. There is no need for a shirt and tie at this level.
Optional dress codes
If you are invited to an occasion where it has the word optional at the end of the dress code then it means the hosts will be in the full dress code while the guests can meet that standard if they want to. You should still aim to meet the code as far as possible, so if it’s black tie optional you wouldn’t turn up in jeans with a pink t-shirt, for example.
No dress code
If you are invited to an occasion but not told of the dress code then ask the hosts what their expectations are for the event just to make sure you are in the perfect attire on the day and don’t end up feeling embarrassing over or under-dressed when you arrive.
This is quite an unusual one and is clearly reserved for nudist events and occasions such as weddings so in this case, it is up to you to decide whether you want to cover up or whether you will join in the nature of the wedding with everyone else.
If you are not sure what to wear then it’s always better to go over-dressed rather than be too casual, after all, it’s easy to remove a jacket and tie to make a dress suit look more casual, whereas it’s very hard to dress up ripped jeans to fit in with a crowd wearing tuxedos.
If in doubt always contact the hosts who sent you the invitation to ask them and they will soon enlighten you and if you think a dress code might not be quite right then trust your instincts. A groom who is planning to wear a business suit for his wedding but then asks the guests to come in full morning suits might have misunderstood what the dress codes mean himself.
Hopefully with this guide, you will always know exactly what to expect the next time you receive an invitation to any kind of formal event with a dress code.