The invitation arrives in the mail. It states that the dress code is formal, or cocktail, or smart casual. Not to mention those that request lounge suit or morning suit. What do they mean? What do you wear? Never fear, Style Unearthed is here! Read on, and learn how to decipher dress codes.
A formal or black tie dress code means a long dress, or maxi dress (as long as it looks formal). I would err on the side of conservative, especially if it’s a very sophisticated event. It is best to wear heels if you are comfortable in them. If not, choose a dress that is long enough to hide a pair of ballet flats, but not too long to be stepped on. Sourcing a dress that doesn’t look too ‘bridesmaidy’ can be tricky at times, but choosing something in a neutral or dark colour will suit most occasions. Choosing something with a different neckline (such as a halter neck) to set it apart from others at the event. Your outfit can be accessorised with a wrap, pashmina or bolero if the weather is cool. Attending a formal event is the perfect time to have your hair and makeup done. A sleek up-do, beautiful blow dry or some GHD curls will complete the outfit. Keep accessories to a minimum, with one statement piece if you wish. Most makeup counters will give you a makeover for a reasonable fee, which can then be claimed back in product. A perfect win-win situation!
A cocktail party calls for a shorter dress – around knee length. You can afford to wear something a little more fun and flirty. The outfit I chose was a little more on the lady like side, and would suit a wedding or work function. You could also swap the black heels for a pair of patterned, colourful pumps, or add a bright bag. Consider your shoe choice if you know you’re going to be standing for the majority of the event – you don’t want sore feet! Some statement jewellery would also add some extra colour to the outfit and allow you to have some fun accessorising. Stores like Lovisa and Magnolia sell gorgeous costume jewellery at an affordable price. Their pieces are often colour coded, making it super easy to find something to match your outfit.
Dress: Diana Ferrari Zelma Dress – $139.95 (on sale) | Bag: Colette by Colette Hayman Plain Diagonal Envelope Clutch – $34.95 | Wedges: Dallas wedges by Betts – $99.99
Smart casual is the dress code you’re having, when you’re not having a dress code. It can suit so many occasions, and is perfect to pull out of your wardrobe at a moment’s notice. A smart casual outfit is ideal for this time of year as the ‘silly season’ approaches and parties and functions are in abundance. The outfit above would work for the races, a smart dinner, or an award ceremony (especially for end of year school events!). The floral print of the dress adds to it’s casual feel, and it can be accessorised with a variety of colours. Choosing a wedge shoe is a smart idea, as they are easier on your feet and knees. A neutral shoe can be a very useful addition to your wardrobe, being able to be worn with lots of different outfits. This dress would also work with coloured or neutral ballet flats or sandals, if you prefer a flatter shoe. The envelope clutch adds an extra pop of colour, but you could also choose something playing up to the blue accents in the dress.
Having a few dresses in your wardrobe that you can mix and match with will help you not get bored with your outfits, especially if they’re on high rotation during busy party seasons. You can change up accessories, hair and make up styles and jewellery to make them look different, but not blowing your budget.
What do you wear to formal, cocktail and smart casual events? Do you have a stock pile of outfits, or do you purchase a new one for each occasion?