Thursday, October 28, 2010

Decoding the Dress Code

You probably will attend a myriad of holiday events in the next few months. It's that time of year when every weekend seems to have some kind of social event planned. Knowing how to decode the dress code for each event allows you to plan your ensemble and feel comfortable at the event. Wearing nice clothes makes any occasion special, even if it is dinner for two at home. My own two children seem to stand taller and behave better in dressy dresses.

Considerate hostesses make the dress code clear to guests and considerate guests show the hostess respect by dressing appropriately for the event.

Poor Elle Woods was not dressed like everyone else at the Halloween Party in Legally Blond, but she made the best of it in a lighthearted way. But ideally, your outfit will match the level of formality of the party.

Here are some guidelines to consider and some of my favorite options.

Black tie and white tie  For ladies, there is not much variation between Black tie and white tie.
Of course, white tie mandates a floor length formal gown.   Lately, I've seen many women attending Black tie events in cocktail dresses,  but I'm old school on this one.  To me, this means a floor length gown. Feel free to wear color in the sea of black dresses, too!  I love this dress from Badgley Mischka and the blue color is stunning.

After the two most formal types of dress, the lines slightly blur, but don't worry.
I have some advice and options for you!

Black tie optional
Seriously, this should not be an option, but you'll probably receive an invitation to an event like this. There will be women in floor length gowns, cocktail dresses, evening separates, and anything else you can imagine.  You'll be perfectly dressed in this Galleria Bette dress with bow from Kate Spade. The color is gorgeous!

Semi formal
Of course, a long formal gown is not appropriate at this event, but how do you give a degree of formality to the event without looking overdressed. My mother, who is of course, very, very wise, always says that it is better to be slightly underdressed than to be overdressed. Cocktail dresses, black dresses, and dressy separates are fine, but I'd stay away from overly sparkly, more formal fabrics. My recommendation is to play it safe with a Little Black Dress. This ruffle collared dress from Milly is ladylike and elegant, without being over the top.

Dressy casual  Yes. I have seen this on an invitation. What does it mean? Is it an oxymoron? Interpretation of this dress code could vary tremendously, but you're always safe with a cute little dress or skirt with nice shoes. I'd avoid jeans, even if they are your nice jeans worn with a dressy top. Wear the Connie sweater dress from the newest Lilly Pulitzer resort and you'll be comfortable playing cards with friends or mingling with the crowd at a party. For this type of occasion, shoes, jewelry, and accessories can make the outfit more or less formal, depending on the situation.

Festive I can't believe I'm saying this, but this is one time I'd love to be a guy. How much fun would it be to wear some crazy uber preppy GTH pants to a holiday party? Big plaids and embroideries are perfect festive attire. These pants from Orvis are fabulous!

Next weekend, I'm going to a black tie wedding and am going to wear a one shouldered full length gown. The color is somewhere between a deep burnt orange and red and the fabric is cut on the bias and is multilayered. It's difficult to describe the dress, so I'll be sure to take lots of pictures to share with you. Now, I'm just hoping the Kenneth Jay Lane jewelry I ordered from Rue La La last night arrives on time!

Have a beautiful day!



  1. Great tips! It's always difficult picking out the perfect party attire, but this post sure does help :)

  2. I think girls can wear GTH pants! I have a closet full of them!

  3. I love this! I don't like jeans for dressy casual events. I don't care how expensive or nice they are, they're still jeans. Love the descriptions!

  4. Love this post, hope you don't mind if I tweet!



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