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Deciphering Invitation Dress Codes

Posted on 23 March 2017

They arrive in the mail. In your email inbox. Some are delivered by hand. The invitations.  It seems that there’s an abundance of them, and one look at your event calendar can prove that. With family functions, parties for friends, school celebrations and milestone events, there are all sort of reasons to dress up the family. But each one of those invitations has their own fine print that can cause confusion, frustration, and leave you wishing you could just wear your sweatpants: the dress code. Every event has one, they all vary, and sometimes it feels like you have to crack a code before you can get dressed.

The event should be fun, not stress inducing, which is why we’ve broken down some of the most commonly used dress code jargon… We’re just going to leave this here for you. You’re welcome.

White tie – Also called full evening dress- is the most formal evening dress code, consisting of a black tailcoat and pants over an all white vest, shirt and bow tie.

White Party – A white dress shirt, light beige chinos or white jeans/pants/chinos and a white shoe if possible. Get as close to wearing all white or off-white as you can.

Black Tie – A black suit, white/black shirt, black bowtie or tie, black or white pocket square and black dress shoes are required for this type of formal event.

Black tie optional – A dark charcoal or black suit paired with a conservative tie (save the flashy and bright ties for another event), worn with black dress shoes.

Semi-formal – A suit and tie or dress pants, collared shirt and sport jacket will work for a semi-formal event. Wear your dress shoes, but you aren’t restricted to just black.

Dressy Casual/Casual chic – Pair a sports jacket, sport shirt and dark jeans or chinos for the perfect combination of comfort and style. Dress shoes in grey, navy, brown and black are appropriate, as are loafers.

Creative black tie – Here’s where you can have fun with a suit. Try a black or dark charcoal suit with a colorful tie, pocket square, and fun socks. This is the perfect time to break out the unique dress shoes!

Casual – Still not your sweats (sorry!). Think nice pants -either chinos or dark jeans- worn with a sport shirt and loafers, boat shoes, or casual shoes such as Converse or Vans.

Garden Party – Usually reserved for warmer weather, feel free to break out the linen suit. Alternatively, a nice blazer paired with dress pants or chinos with a shirt and tie will work perfectly. Pair both with loafers or grey, navy, or brown dress shoes.

Cocktail – Dark dress pants, a dress shirt, tie, and jacket are usually required. Pair them with dark loafers, or dress shoes.

Hockey Chic – Do you break out the jerseys? Not quite. A pair of dress pants in navy, grey, or black paired with a dress shirt and tie will suffice. Black, brown, grey or navy dress shoes are appropriate for this event.

Party attire/dress to impress – Color and fun is the key component of this dress code. Wear a bold colored suit, that funky tie, or a fun sport shirt with dress pants. The more fun you have with it the better! Now is the time to wear your bright, interesting shoes, whether it’s a pair of high tops, or unique dress shoes.

Denim and Diamonds – One of the more confusing dress codes, it simply means wear nice jeans, but with a sport shirt in a fun print or bright color. Sport jackets are optional, and ties aren’t usually required. You can wear dress shoes of any color, or dressy sneakers.

Dressy Casual, Snappy Casual, Smart Casual - All of these creative titles mean that the party is one step above jeans. Guys should wear dress pants or chinos with an open collar button down, with an optional sport jacket. Loafers, boat shoes, or dress shoes work well for this event.

Informal or not, it’s important to remember that when in doubt, ask! And don’t be afraid to add personal touches to any look with cufflinks, pocket squares, tie bars, fun socks, or interesting color and pattern combinations. Style is individual taste, and clothes, no matter the occasion, are meant to be fun!

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