Dress Code Guide

It’s arrived! You’ve been officially invited to an event (a wedding, a ball, or a gala, perhaps) with a DRESS CODE! What does that even mean? Do you have the clothing needed? Can you FIT into what is needed? More importantly, do you look GOOD in it? We’ll help you with all of that so you’ll look more James Bond than Justin Bieber (or the help). Let’s start with what it all means.

When a host or hostess mentions a dress code on an invitation, it is to ensure the event is as casual or as formal as they want and are trying to guide the guests as to their expectations. The dress code is often stipulated on the invitation itself (in the lower portion), on a separate enclosed details/information card, or on the event website.

Guests are always invited to embrace the dress code with their own individual style and thus contribute to the atmosphere and success of the event so, it's always best to "dress to impress."

The dress code options are:

White Tie or Full Evening Dress

White Tie or Full Evening Dress is the most formal of all dress codes. Gentlemen dress in long-tail coats with white bow tie and the women don full-length ball gowns.

Black Tie or Red Carpet

Black Tie usually indicates an evening event where men wear tuxedos with black bow tie and women wear formal floor-length gowns. Despite the name, Black Tie does not mean you must wear black, although traditionally men would wear a black tuxedo and a bow tie. Recent trends have seen the introduction of color to tuxedos.

Morning Dress

This is like Black Tie but for the daytime. It is the standard dress code for the Royal Enclosure at the Royal Ascot. It is a requirement to wear black, gray, or navy morning dress which must include a double-breasted light color waistcoat (often buff (tan) or light blue), striped pants, and tie (no cravats or bow ties) with a black or gray top hat.

Formal or Black Tie Optional

These phrases mean guests are encouraged to wear attire that suits a Black Tie dress code, but this is optional. Men should wear a dark suit with a shirt and tie if they don’t wish to wear a tuxedo. Women may wear a floor-length gown, or a knee-length cocktail dress, a pantsuit, or dressy separates.

Business, Sunday Best, or Semi-Formal

A step down in formality from Black Tie and suitable for a semi-formal daytime event, Christmas or Easter Mass, and funerals. This indicates the wedding party will be in formal wedding attire, and it’s optional for all guests. We recommend a classic suit or tux including a tie, and formal evening wear (floor-length dresses or evening pantsuits) for women.

Jacket & Tie

Similar to Business or Semi-Formal, however Jacket & Tie indicates it is acceptable for men to wear a sports jacket, suit jacket, or even a smart blazer and slacks with a tie. Women may wear a cocktail dress that is shorter than floor-length, a pantsuit, or dressy separates to a Jacket & Tie event.

Cocktail Attire

Cocktail Attire isn’t overly formal and is asking guests to be dressed a step above Smart Casual. An above-the-knee hem (or any length above floor length) is appropriate for women. Men can wear a suit (tie optional) or sport coat and dress shirt.

Smart Casual or Business Casual

Smart Casual means guests are being asked to dress neatly, without being overly dressy – or overly casual. We recommend suit pants, slacks, khakis, or dark denim with a neat shirt for men, either a button-down or perhaps a polo for a more casual look.

Golf Course/Country Club

While each golf course and country club has its own dress code, typically they have a "no denim" policy - slacks and Bermuda shorts for both men and women are appropriate. For men, shirts should have a defined collar. 

No Dress Code

You have the option to wear clothes that make you feel confident while allowing you to express your personal style. You want to look nice but still feel comfortable. Above all, your individualized look should be neat, polished, and put together - not stained or wrinkled.