What is this wedding invitation? ‘Black tie casual’? What does that mean? Is that a thing? Does that mean I’m supposed to… I don’t know, wear tennis shoes with tails? Forget it, I’m asking Suitored.
We at Suitored have had our share of curious wedding invitation, blown job interviews, and awkward galas, so we’re here to impart onto you a basic working guide to dress codes. While you won’t stand out from the crowd, sometimes standing out because of what you wore is the wrong way to be remembered. With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of some of the most likely codes you’ll ever see.
A casual dress code is a no brain situation. Effectively anything you feel comfortable in, for many people this means jeans and t-shirt with sneakers. Despite the lax rules, you should still try to put some effort in, for your host’s sake.
Smart casual is a bit of a step up, and increasingly common for office workers these days. Practical considerations mean that business casual demands something presentable, but comfortable. A collared shirt and smarter pants are required. The sneakers have got to go. A button-down shirt, chinos, and a pair of loafers are acceptable. Jacket and necktie optional.
Now, there’s some confusion as to what the difference between what business casual and smart casual are. They share a lot of similarities, but the difference is in the pants. Business casual demands chinos or dress pants, while smart casual can get away with a clean pair of jeans.
Businesswear is old standard for office wear, and still is in some quarters. It’s a two button charcoal gray suit, dark colored tie, and white dress shirt with black lace-up dress shoes. It’s suits, and mandatory neckties. It’s not about quashing individualism, it’s about performing a job that has a certain level of importance, and giving the job and your peers, the respect they deserve.
Black tie has a very interesting history that you never need to learn about. What’s important here are the rules associated with black tie. Black tie means you need a tuxedo. A tuxedo consists of a dinner jacket, matching trousers, bow tie, and cummerbund (or waistcoat), with patent leather shoes.
The dinner jacket should be made of black wool, with a peaked or shawl collar, faced in silk, satin, or grosgrain. Notched lapel dinner jackets exist but are considered unusual. The breast pocket must be filled with a white pocket square. Trousers should feature piping along the leg in silk, satin, or grosgrain, matching the jacket lapels. A kilt is an acceptable alternative to a tuxedo, but be prepared to talk at length about your heritage.
The bow tie should ideally be one that requires you to tie it. The knot is no more complicated than fisherman’s knot, and do you really want to admit you can’t figure out a basic knot? The bow tie should be black silk or grosgrain, matched to the lapels.
A low cut waistcoat matching the tuxedo was most common in the past, but cummerbunds are also acceptable. Again, the material should match the lapels. Cummerbunds are always tied so the folds face upwards. Shoes should be black patent leather. Court pumps were expected in the past, but lace ups are perfectly acceptable. Keep them clean and shiny.
The most formal of all codes, white tie is rarely seen today. White tie means a full tailed-tuxedo, and top hat for men, and ball gowns for women. In the event you need to go to white tie event, you probably need more comprehensive advice than the Internet can provide.
These are the most common dress codes you’ll encounter, and any thing else will usually be a derivative of these basic codes. Just remember, stay classy, and never be afraid to ask the host what they’re wearing – it can be a valuable source of information.
Still confused? Got a perplexing dress code that needs deciphering? Want to share about the most bizarre dress request you’ve seen? Use the comments box below to get in on the discussion.