5-Minute Crafts
5-Minute Crafts

What to Wear for Different Dress Codes (For Men and Women)

Sometimes you may have to follow specific dress codes, meaning certain rules, in choosing the proper attire. It may seem a bit complex initially, but you don’t need to worry. We at 5-Minute Crafts have prepared a comprehensive but practical guide for picking the right outfit for certain dress codes.

1. Casual

If it’s “Come as you are,’’ or “casual,” your outfit should be comfortable and functional. Don’t confuse this attire with everyday streetwear. Avoid informal clothes like sportswear, yoga leggings, sweatshirts, and worn-out clothes.

👗Casual attire for women: Choose clean, unwrinkled clothes. If the weather is warm, consider a light summer dress, or pair a skirt or shorts with a lightweight shirt. Otherwise, long pants, cardigans, button-down sweaters, or blazers are suitable too. Flat shoes or sneakers are an excellent choice to finish up the look. Don’t forget to wear a light touch of makeup and some modest accessories to make your whole look appear very neat.

🤵 Casual attire for men: Go for clean, not ragged clothes. You can wear T-shirts, jeans, chinos, and casual sneakers. Pair them with some colorful or patterned socks to express your personality. Remember to avoid flip-flops, shorts, or baggy clothing, like sweatpants or hoodies.

2. Smart casual

This attire is also known as dressy casual or casual chic. It’s an upgraded casual style, suitable for job interviews, client meetings, and everyday nighttime events.

👗Smart casual attire for women: Don’t be scared to add something glamourous to your look — add a bow blouse and heels to your jeans. Patterned or floral shirts, bright cardigans, tailored pants, and jumpsuits will also look good. Also, remember to experiment with color, sophisticated patterns, and saturated shades, like cobalt, oxblood, or emerald. Accessories that stand out will finish up the look perfectly.

🤵 Smart casual attire for men: Tailored oxford shirts, chinos, or wool pants are a good choice. Dark denim is also suitable if the event is more lounge.

3. Business casual

This attire doesn’t necessarily mean that you must dress casually but it also doesn’t imply wearing a suit and tie. It’s suitable as an everyday choice for working in an office.

👗Business casual attire for women: Dress pants, khakis, pencil skirts, fun blouses, blazers, and collared shirts, are considered appropriate. Finish up your look with closed-toe and professional shoes — high heels, boots, flats, loafers, mules, or oxfords. Remember to add some jewelry too. Also, avoid wearing jeans, except on some occasions, dark blue jeans might work. Keep in mind that sneakers aren’t suitable for business casual.

🤵 Business casual attire for men: Cotton button-down shirts, oxford shirts, tailored blazers, tight-fitting sweaters or cardigans, khakis, and cotton chinos in neutral, monochromatic colors are optimal choices. Pair them with loafers, oxfords, monk straps, or derbies. Avoid wearing overly fancy jackets, polo shirts, t-shirts, shorts, casual or street-style jeans, athletic pants, sneakers, sandals, and other casual footwear.

4. Business formal

Business formal is suitable for daytime semi-formal events like business lunches and conferences. The main idea here is to wear something business-appropriate that feels neat and dressy.

👗Business formal attire for women: Opt for a suit, a business-style dress, or a dress with a jacket. Finish your look with stockings and nice heels (low or high).

🤵 Business formal attire for men: Choose a dark business suit. You can layer your outfit with a matching vest and pair it up with a dress shirt, leather shoes, and dark dress socks.

5. Semi-formal

Semi-formal attire is a bit fancier than business attire, but still not formal enough to wear tuxedos and fancy gowns. Typically, it’s suitable for weddings, holiday parties, and fine restaurants.

👗Semi-formal attire for women: Opt for dresses, separates, or a pantsuit in a dressy fabric like silk, cashmere, or satin. Add fancy shoes like heels, strappy sandals, or flats, and sparkly jewelry.

🤵 Semi-formal attire for men: Go for a conservative dark suit and a dress shirt. You can add a vest that will match your suit and you can also wear a tie. Choose a suit that goes with your shoes and wear dark socks.

6. Black tie

Black tie is a formal dress code, usually worn to formal evening events like weddings, proms, formal dinners, and the theater. It is more formal than business attire.

👗 Black tie attire for women: Opt for a formal floor-length evening gown, a dressy cocktail dress, or get the dressiest classic black dress.

🤵 Black tie attire for men: Choose a black tuxedo. Also, pick a formal white shirt paired with cuff links. Finish your look with a black bow tie, patent leather shoes, and black dress socks.

7. Creative black tie

This dress code allows you to incorporate some fun into your look. You can use different textures, prints, patterns, colors, or accessories to create an unusual yet elegant look.

👗Creative black tie for women: Opt for an evening dress with patterns and sparkly sequins. You can also wear shorter cocktail dresses paired with a blazer and some stand-out accessories. Even if you choose a basic black dress, you can add a stand-out piece like an eye-catching clutch.

🤵 Creative black tie for men: Opt for formal wear with some pops of texture and color. For example, opt for a velvet suit or a paisley cummerbund. Colorful vests under a suit or a tuxedo are also a good choice. Finish up your look with silk or satin lapels, bright-colored socks, and vibrant cufflinks or shirt buttons.

8. Festive attire

You can consider a festive dress code when you attend a holiday party, like for example, on New Year’s Eve. Essentially, it is the cocktail party attire modified according to the season.

👗 Festive attire for women: You can opt for a cocktail dress or a long dressy skirt paired with a matching top. A “little black dress” is a good choice too.

🤵 Festive attire for men: You can go with pieces that feature holiday colors. Choose seasonal sports coats, blazers, slacks, and open-collar or dress shirts. You can also finish your look with a festive tie.

9. White tie

A white tie dress code means formal attire suitable for galas and state dinners. It is also known as a “full evening dress.” Therefore, it’s considered the most formal of all the dress codes and indicates that the guests attending the event are high-caliber, royal, or have a high social standing.

👗White tie attire for women: Grand ballgowns with opulent jewels are the most suitable for these situations. You can also consider formal floor-length evening dresses and, optionally, long gloves.

🤵 White tie attire for men: Consider wearing a white shirt, waistcoat, and bowtie paired with black patent leather shoes with black laces. You are allowed to add a slight touch of personality to your look by wearing a colorful or patterned bowtie or, optionally, white gloves. Remember that a white tie is the most traditional attire, and wearing a pre-tied bowtie or a shirt without fancy buttons or cufflinks is considered inappropriate.

Bonus: How to pick the right bow-tie size

A bow tie that fits well with your face is essential regardless of style. It must be almost the same width as your face when knotted. Remember that if it’s too large, your head will look smaller. If it’s too small, your head will look enlarged. So, it’s best to always opt for a bow tie whose ends align with your eye corners when knotted.

Please note: This article was updated in July 2022 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.
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