In our age, we are experiencing a renaissance of traditionalism and conservatism when it comes to etiquette, events like weddings, and – of course – dressing.
While, ironically, we dress much more casual in our day-to-day lives these days (oh hi there, platform sneakers!), there are more and more occasions (okay, mostly weddings and maybe races) where the dress code requires very classic pieces such as cutaways or large hats – something that was reserved for royal weddings until 10 to 20 years ago.
Personally, I am a big fan of these traditions and I love getting the chance to dress the part on those few weekends. Some of you might not be as accustomed to navigating the different dress codes that you might read on various invitations, though. Maybe it’s also something that just isn’t customary in your country like it is in Western Europe. In any case, here are some tipps on always dressing perfectly for all kinds of dress codes in the future.
the joy of dressing is an art – John Galliano
When the dress code says casual, it sure means you should be comfy. Sometimes, the activity accompanying the dress code suggests more, such as a certain sport involved? In that case, adapt to that.
If not, I would recommend sticking to some safe options like chinos/jeans and a button-down for the boys, and either jeans and a shirt or a casual dress, both with flats, for the ladies.
Dress codes are usually given in any form of invite or event, so I would assume you’re not going to slouch on the couch somewhere – best to leave your worn-out sweatpants at home. The same goes for any form of active wear or running shoes, if you ask me – there are simply so many comfortable yet beautiful shoes (and stylish sneakers!) out there for both men and women out there, I just don’t see any excuse to be wearing those dreadful smelly runners!
Ahhh, business casual. The typical dress code for any form of work-related but off-duty function like a training event or get-together. My go-to staple for this one would be jeans with a chiffon blouse, a blazer and either ballet flats or simple heels. You can accessorize with a statement necklace or a fun little bag if you like, but don’t go overboard.
Usually, this is not the time nor place to show off your extremely fashion-forward side. In my view, whenever you meet up with work colleagues or potential clients or anything similar outside of work, yes you can show more of your personal style and be more casual, but your safest bet is to stay close to what you would wear to work. It shouldn’t be too sexy or casual, and it would be wise not to flash too many labels. Rule of thumb: wear what you would wear to work on a casual friday. If you’re meeting new people, polish it up a bit.
For all of us working in conservative offices, the business dress code is simply our daily look. I like to draw inspiration from two of my favorite TV series – Scandal and Suits. Oh how I’d love to steal from Jessica Pearson’s closet!
While I like to bend the rules a little with my work wear, I do recommend to stay on the conservative side when the dress code says business. A chic suit, a knee-length shift dress or a classic pencil-skirt-chiffon-blouse combo will do. The most important factor is the material, which will make your whole look appear so much more sophisticated. If you’re brunette like me, try off-white or nudes for a more feminine but professional style.
ELEGANT / COCKTAIL ATTIRE
Now this is where the fun starts! For all private events requiring a cocktail attire, you can start getting a bit more creative. Embrace fun heels, a statement clutch, colorful materials or even embellishments.
For the guys, I love seeing colored or white chinos with a blazer, shirt and a great silk pocket square (no tie required).
Ladies, try elegant dresses, either mini length with sleeves or midi with slinkier upper part. If you’re not into dresses, tailored wide-leg pants and a silk cami can make for a great alternative.
My favorite brands for cocktail dresses? Self portrait, Milly, or Topshop. I also love to score some more extravagant pieces on The Outnet. Right now, I’m loving the velvet trend for fall – like with these heels or this dress!
The cutaway or morning suit is basically the formal day-time equivalent of the black tie. Both the black tuxedo and tail coat are meant for after 6pm, so for all events during daytime, the cutaway is the most popular option for church weddings, for instance.
Gentlemen wear a suit with a jacket that – similar to the tail coat – has a longer back. The most traditional version comes with a black or gray jacket and gray, pinstriped pants, but more modern versions incorporate different styles and especially colorful vests for underneath.
Ladies wear knee-length shift dresses with a matching frock-coat or a pashmina to cover their shoulders (mostly required for church weddings). The main accessory is the hat, which can come in a variety of classic to fancy forms and colors. Traditionally, single ladies wear fascinators, while the size of the hat increases with age. Oh and remember, ladies’ hats are meant to stay on, while men are supposed to take off their hats indoors.
The most commonly used wedding and evening event dress code is the always classic “black tie”. The gentlemen usually wear a black tuxedo with patent leather shoes and a black bow tie – although in recent years, it has become quite popular to individualize with colorful bow ties or even a jewel-toned, velvet tuxedo jacket.
The ladies are more flexible when it comes to their dress style, the only rules are that it needs to be 1.) long and 2.) elegant. The latter excludes jersey or any similar materials, so absolutely no beach maxi dresses please. And, I’ll say it again and again – no white or light beige tones at a wedding, please, unless the bride asked for it! The same goes for all-black, which is reserved for funerals (yes, I know, Americans are very flexible on that).
In some countries, other colors are also prohibited when it comes to weddings – in Spain, apparently, wearing blue means you have previously dated the groom. In other places, bright red would suggest that you’re in love with the groom. Personally, I think the latter two can be ignored, but ask around to be sure if you’re invited to a wedding in a foreign culture just to be safe.
The most formal dress code of all.
It is very very rarely used (outside of state affairs and Austrian opera festivities) and requires the men to wear a tail coat accompanied by a white bow tie.
The ladies are supposed to wear a ballgown with long gloves and their hair pulled up. Like the black tie dress code, it is meant for after 6pm.
Gentlemen, don’t despair – these tail coats are for rent.
Tell me, what’s YOUR go-to outfit for weddings and other events?