Dress Codes Explained

Categories Fashion

dress codes

Breaking the Dress Code

Invited to an ‘occasion’ and completely confused by the dress code? Here are the answers to some of the pressing questions about dress code…

Is there confusion among men when it comes to the dress code on an invitation?
The casualisation of men’s formalwear has encouraged men to deconstruct their attire and try various new combinations, therefore blurring definitions of certain dress codes. What’s acceptable to some may not be acceptable to others-like canvas shoes with lounge suits or mismatched pants to jacket, rolled up jacket sleeves, etc…

Which ones cause the greatest confusion?
Definitely Black Tie – the most classic, sexy, and manly suit you will ever wear. Tuxedo is Black Tie yet some men still think it acceptable to wear a standard black lounge suit. It’s not and people do notice!

Is the problem often caused by how the dress code is expressed?

Some parties are so concerned with standardising a dress code that they opt for a mixed bag when it comes to wording. The problem is that you’re effectively blessing any form of interpretation. And with some men, that may be dangerous! Something like ‘Black Tie Cocktail’ is actually a plausible dress code, where men are asked to follow Black Tie etiquette and ladies to follow Cocktail etiquette… rather than Big Ball Gown dress code.

What does something like semi- formal mean?
And here’s another one of those ‘mix’ dress codes. Experts would usually suggest that ‘semi’ involves a lounge suit, crisp shirt, maybe a matching vest but you may lose the tie… again, it’s an interpretation. What it certainly doesn’t mean is that it’s a shirt and trouser-only gig; you must wear a suit and when in doubt, jazz it up with a statement colour/pattern fie.

Are today’s dress codes as strict as they once were?
The backlash to the deconstructed look is that many events are now bringing back the strict policies of old… Black Tie is definitely the most ‘in’ dress code at the moment. So much so that you are seeing the tuxedo jacket and tuxedo shirt creep into mainstream streetwear. Try it yourself; think classic shawl collar, black or grey jacket with t-shirt and jeans, nice boots or shoes to accent the look (canvas or leather).

What is the most popular dress code (or codes) for an occasion such as a wedding these days?
Weddings are the most interesting because dress codes traditionally vary as do the tastes in type of ceremony, from tails and morning suits (grey tails) to casual beige and chocolate colour tones in lounge suits. With the popularity of Beach and Garden weddings, many weddings will be ‘Cocktail’ dress codes involving suit, open neck shirt, dress shoes. Despite the changes in seasons and fashions, the classic Black Tie evening/afternoon wedding ceremony is still very popular.

Is there still a strong demand for ‘formal’ and what exactly does formal mean now?
The definition is as broad as the word. Traditionally speaking it means suit, matching vest (optional but preferred), shirt, tie, hankie, and dress shoes. Keep it classic; no novelty ties, no big belt buckles, no sneakers.

Formal Suit

Are them many ‘new’ dress codes – things like Business Casual?
If you have a dictionary or a thesaurus you can invent your own dress code. Rules are only as good as you make them. If you’re not sure, talk to the event organisers. The one thing you don’t want to do is be the odd man out with no tie at a formal event, or sneakers at a black lie-dress to impress with quality attire that fits your body shape and type.

As a steadfast rule, there are five basic dress codes people base all others on:

black tie suit

Classic Black Tie
A tuxedo suit (or dinner suit) traditionally has a satin trim lapel, white or ivory shin with a formal collar or pleats, and a black bow tie.

Creative Black Tie

Creative Black Tie
This brings together the traditional aspects of a black fie suit combined with a modern and more vibrant look. For example, mix the classic black tie suit with a coloured shirt or vest.

three piece suit

Style and sophistication are brought together in the classic three-piece suit. Whether its a black tie suit or a lounge suit formal means VEST.

Lounge Suit

Lounge Suit
This more casual code means you don’t need a tie, the colour is up to you and light coloured shoes are fine. Lounge suits can also be colours other than black.

smart casual

Smart Casual
Although not advisable for weddings, smart casual basically means anything goes. Jackets are not essential. BUT: no denim, no t-shirts and no tennis shoes!