Going to a party and wondering what to wear? We’ve all been there, and the last thing you want is to feel out of place. In this blog post, we’ve got you covered with a simple yet comprehensive guide on deciphering the party attire dress code.
No more confusion or embarrassment. Whether it’s a casual gathering, a black-tie event, or anything in between, we’ll help you navigate the unspoken rules of party fashion. With our tips and outfit ideas, you’ll be confidently dressed to impress at any party, ensuring that you never feel underdressed or overdressed again. So, let’s dive in and make sure you’re always the best-dressed guest at the party.
What Are Different Party Dress Codes?
Understanding different party dress codes is essential because it helps you adapt your attire to the specific occasion, ensuring that you both look and feel comfortable. These dress codes are essentially a set of unwritten rules that dictate what’s considered appropriate or expected in terms of clothing for a particular event. They provide guidance on how formal or casual an event is, which can be crucial in making a lasting impression, feeling confident, and, in some cases, showing respect to the host and fellow guests.
Being aware of these dress codes allows you to navigate the social landscape effectively, enabling you to seamlessly blend into the ambiance of the event and focus on enjoying the occasion rather than worrying about your outfit.
Here are top party dress code categories for which you need to own different styles of clothing.
Black Tie Party / Formal Party
This is the top level of party where you are served 4 or more course meals. These parties are usually hosted for royalties or expensive events where you are required to first mingle with the crowd and then sit down in your designated locations to have dinner.
These are considered classy parties. Where you need to look polished and elegant in your outfits to match the surroundings.
Formal parties have trickled down from royalty where you need to be your best self to present yourself to the king or queen. Now, the kind and queen’s are the host.
This can also be a theme for wedding, 16th birthday, or engagement parties. So, understanding the color theme or figuring out the location of the party is key.
For someone who is 30 or older, you are expected to understand that formal parties are a sophisticated affair. So, dressing up like a teenager in an embellished princess gown is simply not acceptable.
But, here is what to wear to nail a black tie look:
- A Long Dress: While gowns are perfect for black tie parties, they do not need to be embellished or flashy.
- Heels: Yes, you need to wear heels because they look elegant. If you don’t want to wear stilettos, go for block heels but in neutral or black depending on the shade of your outfit.
- Jewelry: You need to wear proper jewelry here. And this is where you can add some bling to your outfit with a rhinestone dangly earrings. And a beautiful pendant necklace. Again, the focus needs to be classy.
- Handbag: Your evening bag should also be party appropriate and you can also pick something clingy, but not over the top. But make sure the bag has enough room to keep makeup for touchup and your phone, because you will be sitting down for dinner. A clutch or bag with chain will be really appropriate.
- Makeup also should be a bit more done. If you hate makeup, pick a bold red or plum lipstick and wear some mascara. But don’t go overboard.
- Outerwear: Pick a black cardigan or coat that has ample space and won’t crush the sleeves of your dress.
If you don’t want to wear dress you can also wear jumpsuits or two piece sets. But the key is to make sure you are not looking casual.
Cocktail Party / Fancy Party
I call cocktail parties as fancy party, because that’s the dress code pretty much. And it’s one of the easiest themes to get dressed for. Because even though the there is a dress code, its not very specific.
The only catch here is that the outfit needs to be special occasion and you need to look the party.
Most weddings already have a cocktail party but other parties with similar dress codes could be new years eve, going to a club. These are not your kids bday party. Let me be very clear.
This is where you can wear different styles of outfits and it does not have to be a dress every time. Cocktail attire is one of the most popular attires, but often taken too far.
You really need to pay attention to what kind of a cocktail party it is. Say for example, if it’s an office cocktail party, don’t wear the skimpiest dress.
The same way if it’s a wedding cocktail party, dress appropriately. We will be diving into the details of these styles of parties as well in this blog post.
Here is what to wear to a cocktail party:
- Not a Long Dress: yes, other than a maxi dress you can wear everything else like jumpsuits, midi dress, midi skirt, short dress, short skirt and trousers. Your tops should also feel appropriate for the occasion. It shouldn’t be a graphic Tee.
- Heels: You still should wear heels, but it can totally be block heels or kitten heels.
- Jewelry: You don’t need loads of jewelry here, but wear a nice earring and bracelet. But no giant hoops which look tacky. Its all about looking presentable.
- Handbag: Evening bags are key here as well. But they don’t have to be tiny. But that does not mean you will bring your tote bag along as well.
- Makeup: Again appropriate makeup, but this is where you can wear a bold eyeshadow and look chic.
- Outerwear: You can wear blazers or coats. Cocktail attire is more of a smart looking attire which is modern. So, your outerwear should reflect that.
Semi Formal Party
Semi formal is exactly what it says it’s not fully formal but it’s not casual dress code either. These styles of parties are usually day time parties where a ball gown is not really appropriate, but you cannot wear shorts and t-shirts.
So, if you are invited to a really nice sit down lunch party, then that party has a semi formal dress code. Usually again these would wedding or 16th birthday or any other fancy engagement where the hosts want to do a sit down lunch and invite folks to celebrate with them.
Here is what you can wear to a semi formal party:
- Day Outfits: A light daytime dress, skirt or even trousers would be appropriate for these styles of party. Floral prints or lace details in your outfits will make it even more appropriate.
- Shoes: You can potentially get away with wearing flats here. But they should be nice ones, no Birkenstocks please, or beach slides.
- Jewelry: Daytime looks don’t require heavy jewelries, but since it will be a fancy party, picking one statement piece and keeping the rest of the jewelries minimal is the way to go.
- Handbag: You don’t need to carry a blingy evening bag, but party appropriate bags would be good because you will be sitting down to eat.
- Makeup: Daytime makeup is appropriate for this style of party. So, no dark eyeshadow or dark lipsticks. Though you can pick a bright pink or coral one depending on the theme.
- Outerwear: Depending on the weather, you can pick a cardigan or a light cropped jacket.
As the name suggests, these are work events where you are entertaining clients or business partners. And you need to dress appropriately.
By far this one is the easiest to dress for. With more and more businesses emerging every month in America, work events like conferences, seminars and events have become popular. And these parties have become integral parts of our work lives.
Here is what you should wear to these business parties:
- Nice Business Casual outfit: It could be a black suit, skirt and blazer or structured work dress. You can play with the color tone here. But no neon colors.
- Shoes: You can wear work shoes, no problem at all. But sneakers are not really screaming party are they.
- Jewelry: Basic simple jewelry that are not too flashy. A good diamond stud earrings, pendant necklace or simple bracelet will work.
- Handbag: While you don’t need to carry your laptop for a work related party, you shouldn’t carry a flashy bling bag either. Pick a black evening bag and you would be good.
- Makeup: Again, work appropriate makeup would be great for these parties.
- Outerwear: Pick a business casual work wear like black, coat.
This is the most popular party attire of all because most of our parties fall in these categories. At least the ones we all love to go anyway.
These parties could be one of these:
- Day Time Garden Party
- Pool Party
- Kids Birthday Party
- House Warming Party
- Home Parties
- Restaurant Parties
- Festive Parties
All the parties where you don’t have a particular dress code, but the key is to not go in athleisure or pajamas either only if that’s the theme of the party.
This is where our festive parties like easter, Christmas and all other occasion can also fall into.
All you need to focus is that you are not wearing something uber fancy that is not appropriate for these occasions either. So, making sure you ask the host what they think would be appropriate is the best way to go about it.