If you’ve received an invitation to an event that includes one of the standard dress codes you know what to do. “Black tie” or “white tie” still means: wear your finest duds. “Business Casual” means you can take it down a notch from your weekday professional attire. These days “Cocktail” can mean your flirtiest LBD, a slinky jumpsuit or even women’s “tux.” If you get one that says “Country Club Casual” just think “preppy” with nice jewelry, like a simple gold bangle or gold choker necklace.

In general, fabric is always the key. The more elegant the event, the richer should be the textile (satin, velvet, silk, suede.) The more casual the event, the more basic the textile should be (cotton, linen, corduroy, denim, leather.)

But as our social and professional worlds have expanded there have emerged some new categories that might leave you scratching your head about what to wear. So we’re going to try to unravel them here for you.

“Creative” Black Tie: This is still formal attire but the host wants you to have a little fun or go a bit wild: think colorful, sexier, or costume-y. You can be more experimental with pattern or material. Sometimes there will be a theme to this kind of event, (e.g. “Flapper,” “Royal Wedding,” or “Pirate”) that can give you a clue about what kind of dress to wear. But you’re not feeling that creative, just add a mask!

Scallop Gown

REVOLVE aijek Star-Crossed Scallop Gown $549

A-Line Gown

La Femme Two-Tone Satin A-Line Gown, $478

Floral Dress

JS Collections Floral Lace Cocktail Dress, $329

Hi-Lo Dress

Adrianna Papell Hi-Lo Sleeveless Dress, $199

Beaded Dress

Pisarro Nights Beaded Mesh Dress, $189

Masquerade Mask

Gold Masquerade Mask, $15

Festive: You’ll mostly see this type of invitation around the holidays. So that means brighten up the darkest time of the year by wearing something with more sparkle, glitter or shine in tops, pants, and dresses. But at other times of year it can just mean, “Please dress up a bit – this isn’t a barbecue.”

Sequin Jacket

Galvan Salar Sequin Jacket, $1,195

Draped Top

Helmut Lang Draped Top, $360

Lucy Peplum Camisole

J Brand Lucy Peplum Camisole, $198

Ruffle Sleeve Top

Bishop + Young Metallic Tiered Ruffle Sleeve Top, $135

Bell-Sleeve Blouse

Alex Evenings Embroidered Bell-Sleeve Blouse, $129

Organza Jacket

Adrianna Papell Organza Wrap Jacket, $65

What to Wear to a Destination Formal Wedding…at the beach!

Well, obviously, avoid heels. It’s hard enough wearing heels on grass, let alone sand! Dressy attire here still means longer dresses but in less formal materials or style as befits wearing flats or sandals.

Halter Dress

Apiece Apart Wassily Halter Dress, $410

Maxi Dress

Tommy Bahama Tulum Trance Twist Maxi Dress, $175

Palm-Print Dress

H Halston Palm-Print Maxi Dress, $133

Summer Maxi Dress

City Chic ‘Hot Summer Days’ Print High/Low Maxi Dress, $119

Floral Dress

Leith Floral High/Low Dress, $45

And if no dress code is stated, ask! If you get “wear whatever you want,” then do, but make sure it’s something you will be comfortable being seen in – or appearing on Instagram wearing – regardless of what others are wearing!


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