Dress Codes Decoded

The question of ‘what to wear’ is a big enough decision every day of the week, never mind when a swanky envelope arrives in the mail dictating a dress code. Black Tie, White Tie, Cocktail-Casual (or wait, is that Lounge-Casual??) - it’s enough to get your knickers in a twist, let alone all the frocks in your wardrobe!
Luckily, dress-code-etiquette has relaxed a little in recent times and you won’t be exiled from society for wearing an above-the-knee frock to a Black Tie ‘do. But still, it’s nice to know what each code calls for, so equip yourself with our guide to avoid unwelcome fashion faux-pas:

White Tie

This is ultra, ultra formal. Ball gowns, floor-length evening dresses, long gloves and plenty of jewels are required of the ladies, and a hat, tail coat and, of course, a white bow tie of the men. Unless your sister is marrying Prince William, (or you’re Julia Roberts at the opera in Pretty Woman) don’t expect to be invited to many of these, but it’s always good to be prepared!

Black Tie

Think weddings, awards ceremonies, and red-carpet events – ladies, this is your time to up the glam factor. A longer dress is best - preferably in a luxurious fabric such as silk, satin or chiffon – with delicate beading, sequins or embroidery for extra allure. Men should wear a tuxedo and bow tie, but if your man considers himself a bit of a fashion-mister, a long, skinny black tie is also acceptable.

Formal or Black Tie Optional

A dark suit is expected and more commonly worn at these events, however, should your man choose to don a tux he won’t be out of place. Ladies, outfits as above.

Lounge Suit or Cocktail
This ‘do is definitely less formal, but while a shorter style of dress is acceptable for the ladies, a certain level of elegance is still expected. Your inspiration here is more Blake Lively, Anne Hathaway, or Emma Watson, rather than Paris Hilton, Britney or Li Lo. As the name suggests, men should wear a suit - something they would wear to work, along with a nice tie will go down well. Dark hues are always dressier however, as the dress code is more relaxed, your man can play around with colour and introduce more of his individual style.


This code is often used for informal events - such as beach weddings or engagement parties - but doesn’t mean you can rock up in your jeans (even if they are your skinniest, most uber-glam Sass & Bides!) Ladies, opt for a fashionable frock and cute heels; men go for tailored trousers with a shirt and blazer or jacket for a more relaxed look.

Whatever the dress code and whatever your budget, good grooming is key to looking great. Ladies, make sure you have a mani (even if it’s D.I.Y) and if your feet are on show, a pedi is essential. Men, clean nails and neat hair are non negotiable. Even if you’re channeling Wolverine or participating in Mo-vember a quick trim is a must.

And lastly, ladies, the cardinal rule - save the white for the bride!

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