Attire Guide: Dress Codes from Casual to White Tie Hero Label

Attire Guide: Dress Codes from Casual to White Tie

types of attire

Black tie, white tie; formal, semi-formal. Festive! Casual! Hitting the right note with attire can be confusing. Here are the details of how to dress appropriately for any occasion:

Casual

Casual dress code refers to clothing that is informal and comfortable, yet clean and professional. It’s best to go with nicer casual wear and avoid the baggier items you wear around the house.

Women

  • Sundress
  • Long or short skirt
  • Khakis or nice jeans
  • Shorts (depending on occasion and climate)
  • Plain T-shirt (no slogans), polo shirt, turtleneck
  • Casual button-down blouse

Men

  • Khakis or good jeans (clean, no holes)
  • Cargo or Bermuda shorts—depending on occasion and climate
  • Plain T-shirt (no slogans), polo shirt, turtleneck
  • Casual button-down shirt and/or sweater
  • Loafers, sneakers (with or without socks), sandals

Dressy Casual

A dressy casual dress code is a versatile balance between formal and casual. This is the ideal choice for networking (or socializing) after work, fundraisers, or dinner at a nice restaurant.

Women

  • Dress
  • Skirt and dressy top
  • Dressy pants outfit
  • Nice jeans and dressy top

Men

  • Seasonal sport coat or blazer, and slacks
  • Dress shirt, casual button-down shirt, open-collar or polo shirt
  • Optional tie

Semi-formal

Semi formal attire- cocktail dress and button down shirt

A semi-formal dress code is best described as being more formal than what you would wear to an office, but slightly less formal than what you would wear to a formal event. Do keep in mind that if the event is later than 6 in the evening, you’ll want to err on the side of formality.

Women

  • Short afternoon or cocktail dress
  • A “little black dress”
  • Long dressy skirt and top
  • Dressy separates

Men

  • Dark, business suit
  • Matching vest (optional)
  • Dress shirt
  • Tie
  • Leather dress shoes and dark dress socks

Business Formal*

Business Formal: Dark suit and tie

A business formal dress code is characterized by a suit jacket with matching pants or a skirt. The darker the suit, the more formal. There are seasonal variations as well as matching accessories to personalize your look, but they should not be a distraction in any way.

Women

  • Suit
  • Business-style dress
  • Dress with a jacket
  • Stockings (optional in summer)
  • Heels, low or high

Men

  • Dark business suit
  • Matching vest (optional)
  • Dress shirt
  • Conservative tie
  • Leather dress shoes and dark dress socks

Business Casual*

Casual business attire is pretty ambiguous, but generally means slacks, khakis, or a skirt with a dress shirt, blouse or polo. Dresses and seasonal sport coats fall into this dress code as well.

Women

  • Skirt, khakis, or pants
  • Open-collar shirt, knit shirt or sweater (no spaghetti straps or décolleté)
  • Dress

Men

  • Seasonal sport coat or blazer with slacks or khakis
  • Dress shirt, casual button-down shirt, open-collar or polo shirt
  • Optional tie
  • Loafers or loafer-style shoes, and socks

*Always check and abide by your company’s dress code. Read more about business casual dress codes.

Black Tie

Black tie attire is slightly less formal than white tie, but it is more formal than business attire. It is the most common formal dress code for events such as weddings, proms, formal dinners, and theatre.

Women

  • Formal (floor length) evening gown
  • Dressy cocktail dress
  • Your dressiest “little black dress”

Men

  • Black tuxedo jacket and matching trousers
  • Formal (piqué or pleated front) white shirt
  • Shirt studs and cuff links
  • Black bow tie (silk, satin, or twill)
  • Black cummerbund to match tie, or a vest
  • Dressy braces to ensure a good fit (optional)
  • No gloves
  • Black patent shoes and black dress socks
  • In summer, in the tropics, or on a cruise: White dinner jacket, black tuxedo trousers plus other black tie wardrobe

Learn more about Black Tie Attire.

Creative Black Tie

A creative black tie is best described as attire with a black-tie foundation with room for some creativity and flair. It maintains black tie formality but allows for the use of textures, colors, and accessories to personalize your look.

Women

  • Formal (floor length) evening gown
  • Dressy cocktail dress
  • Your dressiest “little black dress”
  • Fun or unique accessories

Men

  • Tuxedo combined with trendy or whimsical items, such as a black shirt or a matching colored or patterned bow tie and cummerbund

Black Tie Optional

A black-tie optional dress code gives guests a couple of formal options to choose from. Men are requested to wear a tuxedo, but can opt for a dark suit. Women can choose either a formal evening gown, a shorter cocktail dress, or dressy separates.

Women

  • Formal (floor length) evening gown
  • Dressy cocktail dress
  • A “little black dress”
  • Dressy separates

Men

  • Tuxedo (see “Black Tie” above)
  • Dark suit, white dress shirt, and conservative tie
  • Leather dress shoes and dark dress socks

Festive Attire (usually for the holidays)

A festive dress code is often the choice for holiday or New Year’s parties. It’s essentially cocktail party attire with a seasonal and festive holiday touch.

Women

  • Cocktail dress
  • Long dressy skirt and top
  • Dressy pants outfit or separates
  • A “little black dress”
  • Feature holiday colors

Men

  • Seasonal sport coat or blazer in color of choice, and slacks
  • Open-collar shirt, or dress shirt
  • Tie—festive or with a holiday theme

White Tie

Also known as “full evening dress”, white tie attire is considered the most formal of all dress codes. The white tie dress code indicates that guests are high-caliber, royal, or have high social standing.

Women

  • Formal (floor length) evening gown
  • Long gloves (optional)

Men

  • Black dress coat (tailcoat), matching trousers with a single stripe of satin or braid in the US; two stripes in Europe or the UK
  • White piqué wing-collared shirt with stiff front
  • Braces, to ensure a good fit
  • Shirt studs and cuff links
  • White vest
  • White bow tie
  • White or gray gloves
  • Black patent shoes and black dress socks

Learn more about white tie attire.

Be sure to also check out our articles on wedding attire and golf attire.