What Does This Dress Code Mean?!

A Casual Guide on how to dress at every event.

As if dressing every day wasn’t hard enough, we now have events Friday, Saturday, and Monday all with different dress codes. With more and more clothing options every day, it has begun to feel impossible to pinpoint exactly what we should wear.

At CMG, we’re event creators. We’ve devised a quick go reference for whenever we’re in a fashion rut.

So, take a breath and put down your grandmother’s Emily Post. We put together a quick guide for the four main dress codes you’ll encounter.

Formal/Black Tie

This is THE chance to go all out.  Jazz it up with jewelry and hair accessories. Color-wise stick to jewel tones or black to instantly pump up your look.

Be mindful of your hosts’ desires and the goal of the event whether it’s a dinner, wedding, or a fundraiser. Makeup is the bow on top of a great outfit. Use it to tie your entire look together.

Failsafe: A long, fitted black gown with a sweetheart neckline will flatter most shapes. Pair your dress with a statement heel and simple eye drop earrings for a simple, yet elegant look.

Something for the Fellas:

First off, wear a real tie, not a clip-on. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, guys. Wear a dinner jacket with matching pants. Traditionally, men wear a matching waistcoat or cummerbund as well, but these days that is not a requirement.

Black tie optional: formal dress not required, but a more fashionable cocktail dress or long gown will work. Men should wear darker colored suits. Chinos are not an option.

Black Tie Dress
Black Tie Attire for Women
black tie male
Black Tie Attire for Men

Cocktail

Pay close attention to your invitation. The location and purpose of the party will sway your outfit choices. A cocktail hour before a wedding reception is a different experience than a company reception.

If you want something different, a shorter or knee-length dress in rich color is foolproof. If you want a maxi look, go for flowy material like cotton or chiffon. Hand-held bags like clutches or tiny purses will keep your outfit on the formal side.

Failsafe: Your LBD, little black dress, investment pays off here. Pair with your favorite heels, but the ones that are fashionable and somewhat comfortable. Cocktail parties usually mean two-plus hours of standing.

For the Fellas:

Wear dark suits with a tie. Think navy or charcoal gray. Black will be too formal, but if that’s all you have, try losing the tie and loosening a button.

TIP: Don’t even take your new pants home before dropping them off at the tailor. $20 at the tailor will change your life.

Cocktail Party Dress
Cocktail Attire for Women
Cocktail Attire for Men

Polished Casual

You may have recently been invited to a party with a polished casual dress code. I’ll answer your first question: No jeans. No denim skirts, shirts, vests, or denim of any kind. Think cocktail with flats–a step up in comfort but not in style.

This is a great opportunity to bust out your party pants, party blazer, or party tank top. And by party, we mean sparkle. This take on smart-casual is more about the ability to mix pieces in a polished way than about the actual pieces themselves. Let the function, location, and other guests guide you.

Failsafe:  Jump into a jumpsuit for an instantly smart look. Statement earrings, shoes, or a bag will turn your look up a notch.

For the Fellas:

Fitted. Tucked in. The no denim rule applies to you as well. But, your chinos with leather loafers or lace-up oxfords are welcomed. No boat shoes.

Polished Casual Attire for Women
Polished Casual Attire for Men

Business Casual

The less formal cousin of polished casual, business casual

While most often connected to office wear, business casual can escape the cubicle during weeknight event, especially if that event is a happy hour.

Transition this look from the office to happy hour by freshening up your makeup, adding accessories, and shedding a layer.

Failsafe:

Blouse and a fitted pair of trousers or slacks. Add earrings or a colored lipstick for some personality.

For the Fellas:

Both a well fitting button up and slacks, but don’t worry about a jacket or tie.  See our polished casual example.

Business Casual Woman
Business Casual Attire for Women
business casual male
Business Casual Attire for Men

Casual

Finally, your bell-bottoms and high waisted jeans can see the light of day!

The elevation of your look will come from the cut and textures of your garments. Try a fitted skirt with a billowy satin blouse and flats or wedges. Remember, there will always be cameras around. Casual does not mean yoga pants.

Failsafe: Think summer dress for the warmer months and dark denim with a ‘going out’ blouse for the cooler months. 

For the Fellas:

If you’re wearing sneakers, try to elevate the look with fitted chinos or a dark wash, high-quality denim. T-shirts are ok if complemented with a stylish jacket or accessory.

Casual Woman
Casual Attire for Women
Casual Male
Casual Attire for Men

The end-all rule: If you don’t feel comfortable don’t wear it! Confidence will win out the best dress every night! Shine bright as yourself. The best part about fashion is that it’s an expression of who you are.