2 Replies to “How Do I Dress for an Invitation Dress Code?”

  1. Terminology may vary slightly in different parts of the country, and more significantly between European and U. S. standards, but these are the basic levels of formality:

    Formal: Anyone who sends an invitation with a printed dress code will hopefully be using this term properly. In the daytime it would mean morning dress; at night it would be white tie.

    Semi-formal: In the daytime it means formal (striped or checked) trousers and a dark, tail-less coat. At night it means black tie. These days it’s more common to see an invitation that simply says “black tie.” Awkwardly, people may invite you to a “black tie” event during the daytime; this shouldn’t be done but if it is the only polite thing to do is to wear your dinner clothes during the day and say nothing.

    Black-tie Optional: A relatively recent invention, implying that the hosts and some guests will be wearing tuxedos but that guests are not required to. If you do not own a tuxedo a plain, dark-colored suit (either black, charcoal gray, or deep navy blue) with a white shirt and a dark, conservative tie is appropriate.

    Business Dress: A dark, solid-colored or lightly-pinstriped suit with a white shirt and a conservative tie. Plain, black shoes.

    Business Casual: A lighter suit or trousers and an odd jacket. Neckties are optional, but it’s usually a good idea to wear one and then discreetly slip it off if it turns out everyone else decided to go without.

    Casual: Not an excuse to wear jeans and a T-shirt! It’s still an invited event, so this means decent-looking slacks and a collared shirt. You don’t need a tie, but a casual jacket would be a nice touch, and good leather shoes are still appropriate. No sneakers or sandals unless it’s an outdoor/athletic sort of event.

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