Dress Codes Defined


You’ve just been invited to a wedding, party, or business event. Here’s a handy guide to help you decide what to wear when the dress code is…

WHITE TIE – The most formal dress code, typically reserved for events such as state dinners or a debutante ball

• Women: Wear a formal, floor-length evening gown. Go all out with your most dramatic shoes and jewelry.

• Men: Wear a tuxedo, a long black jacket with tails, a white wing-collared shirt, a white vest, a white bow tie, and black patent-leather shoes. White or gray gloves are appropriate.

BLACK TIE – Less dressy than white tie, but still pretty formal, and usually reserved for evening affairs

• Women: Wear a floor-length evening gown, a knee-length dress with heels, or your dressiest black dress. Dressy separates, like a knee-length skirt and shell set, also work.

• Men: Wear a tuxedo, a black bow tie, a black cummerbund or vest, and black patent-leather shoes. In the summer or on a cruise, a white dinner jacket with black tuxedo pants would be appropriate, along with the rest of the black-tie wardrobe.

CREATIVE BLACK TIE – Formal, but with a trendy twist

• Women: Skip the modest gown in favor of a more fun, but still formal dress. You can also wear a formal knee-length dress, a satin ball-gown skirt with a cashmere sweater or blouse, or tuxedo pants with a silk top. Accessories should be fun and unique.

• Men: Wear a tuxedo combined with trendy or whimsical items, such as a black shirt or a colored or patterned bow tie with a matching cummerbund.

FORMAL – Slightly less formal than black tie

• Women: Wear a floor-length gown, a knee-length cocktail dress or little black dress with heels, or a dressy suit.

• Men: Wear a dark suit and tie with dressy leather shoes, or a tuxedo.

SEMI-FORMAL – Somewhere between formal and casual, depending on the time of the event

• Women: Wear a knee-length cocktail dress, a little black dress, a dressy skirt and top, or even slacks with a dressy blouse.

• Men: Wear a suit and tie in a dark or light color, depending on the season and the time of day, or dress pants with a collared shirt and jacket. Add dressy leather shoes.

COCKTAIL ATTIRE – Festive and fun, but not formal

• Women: Wear a knee-length dress, or even dress pants or a skirt with a nice blouse.

• Men: Wear a jacket and slacks, with or without a tie. Colors or patterns can be a bit bolder than with semi-formal attire.

BUSINESS CASUAL – Casual, but work-appropriate

• Women: Wear dress pants, a casual dress, or a skirt with a nice blouse. Stay away from spaghetti straps or plunging necklines.

• Men: Wear khakis or dress pants with a collared shirt and loafers (or loafer-style shoes). You can also add a sport coat or blazer.

CASUAL – Anything goes, but stay away from jeans, shorts, and tank tops for bigger events (casual weddings included).

• Women: Wear a sundress, a skirt or pants with a pretty top.

• Men: Wear khakis with a button-down, a sweater, or a polo shirt.


As always, if you have questions or need help with what might be the most appropriate option for your next event, please let us know!

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  1. […] April 2, 2016 at the Strathallan Hotel and the Memorial Art Gallery in Downtown Rochester. This black-tie event is sure to be well-attended so be sure to make your arrangements […]

  2. […] April 9, 2016 from 6:00 – 9:00pm at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown Rochester. This black-tie event is traditionally well-attended so be sure to make your arrangements […]

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