Dress Code Guide

We often ask people to dress in a particular style for events. The reason we do this is to maintain a theme or a mood for an event, so as to enhance everyone’s experience. Below is a guide to what many of the terms we use mean, so that you can be prepared to attend these events in the dress code we require.

To keep things simple, the dress codes we’ll cover are:

  • Black Tie or Formal Wear
  • Cocktail Attire or Evening Wear

Black Tie or Formal Wear

Gentlemen

Black tie is sometimes referred to as ‘dinner jackets’, ‘dress for dinner’ and ‘cravate noir’ or, in America, as ‘tuxedos.’

Traditional black tie for men consists of:

  • Black dinner jacket. Typically single-breasted with no vents, silk peaked lapels (or a shawl collar) and covered buttons.
  • Black trousers – slightly tapered – with a single row of braid down each outside leg.
  • White evening shirt with a with a marcella collar, bib and double cuffs, with a turn-down collar, worn with cufflinks and studs. A plain silk shirt with buttons may be worn. A fly-fronted shirt, where the buttons are concealed, is acceptable.
  • Black bow tie.
  • Cummerbunds are not considered essential but may be worn.
  • Highly polished or patent black lace-up shoes.
  • Black socks, long enough to ensure that no leg will show between the trouser leg and sock when seated.
  • Waistcoats may be worn and may be considered a smart option; a waistcoat and cummerbund are never worn together

Ladies

For ladies, a smart dress (such as a cocktail dress) or long gown is appropriate. It can be long or short, as long as it’s not too short. It need not be black.

  • Evening trousers are an option, but it is better to go for a palazzo cut, rather than tight-fitting.
  • Tights should be worn, black or sheer.
  • Fine or costume jewellery is appropriate, but not tiaras.
  • An elegant evening bag can be used.
  • An evening coat can also be worn.

Cocktail Attire or Evening Wear

Gentlemen

For men, the definition of cocktail attire is relatively simple, although there is room for variation. A dark suit or trousers, sport coat, and a crisp dress shirt with or without a tie is sufficient for most occasions.

For less formal events, a man might not wear a jacket or, alternately, wear a suit without a tie.

Cocktail attire is usually requested for events like weddings or celebrations, so there is some room for personality. A sweater or sweater vest might be worn over the dress shirt, with or without the jacket.

Little details can greatly affect the perception of how well a man is dressed. Shoes should be leather lace-ups or professional looking loafers, and they should be polished.

No jeans.

Ladies

There is more range in cocktail attire for women, although there are a few standard guidelines.

Hemlines for dresses and skirts are usually relatively short, at or slightly above the knee. Long, dressy pants with a silk blouse or cashmere sweater could also be appropriate.

No jeans.

The traditional choice is a cocktail dress. These dresses can range from strapless and flashy to a more conservative little black dress, so a woman should be able to find a look she’s comfortable with.

It’s usually best to choose an outfit that is more elegant than showy, and isn’t too short or too revealing. Again, the context of the event is important, and it’s usually better to be a little conservative than to be too flashy.

Typically, cocktail-wear is knee length, though if a woman is wearing a simple straight skirt, longer is acceptable. A skirt and jacket or evening suit could be worn to a cocktail event, especially if paired with dressy top. Cocktail attire usually suggests fun, so a woman shouldn’t look like she is going to a business meeting.