The 10 Rules of Social Dress Code

Dress codes can cause a lot of confusion. You should be looking forward to that upcoming wedding or big bash, but instead you’re fretting about what to wear. Everyone worries about getting it wrong and looking out of place, but with a little bit of preparation there’s no need to worry.

Here’s our guide to the 10 rules of social dress codes (of course, in some exceptional circumstances – rules were made to be broken)…

Dress codes don’t need to cause pre-party stress 

1. Let your host guide you

On many occasions, the dress code can be interpreted in different ways.If you’re uncertain how to interpret the dress code on a party invitation, why not seek guidance from your host. Don’t be afraid to drop them a message to find out what level of formality they’re expecting.

2. Inspect the invitation

If you’ve received an invitation to an upcoming event, inspect it closely. It will yield vital clues as to how smart the event will be. Look out for fancy calligraphy, the thickness of the card stock or the medium of the invitation itself – if the invite is sent on WhatsApp, the event probably isn’t that formal. You’ll also get clues from email invitations, so pay close attention to those too.

3. Understand the difference between black tie and white tie

White tie is the most formal dress code

White tie is the most formal dress code, but it is usually only used for royal or high society events (URL: https://www.maxpixel.net/Suit-Husband-Wedding-Tie-Orb-Elegant-Dress-Vest-1072747)

A key part of hitting the dress code on the nail is to gauge how formal it will be, which means knowing the difference between black and white tie.

As formal events go, white tie is the most dressed-up a dress code gets. It usually means that men will need to hire at least part of an outfit, consisting of an evening tailcoat, trousers, waistcoat, shirt, bow tie, patent leather shoes and perhaps even a top hat too. For women, white tie usually indicates a full-length gown, gloves and hair typically worn up.

Black tie is slightly more relaxed, where men can wear a tuxedo, or suit and tie they already own. Women should wear a formal gown, but not necessarily floor length and gloves are very much up to the wearer’s preference.

4. Find out what everyone else is wearing

If you can get a hold of the guest list, it could be worth quizzing some of the other attendees to see what they’re wearing. This helps you to figure out how smart the event will be, and also to avoid wearing the same outfit as someone else.

5. Creative black tie is your chance to express yourself

Men sometimes find black tie a little boring, although it can be much easier to find something suitable to wear than for women. This is perhaps why a new trend for ‘creative black tie’ has been emerging on party invitations recently.

This is an opportunity to add some personality and flair to your look. For men, this means subtle colourful flashes in cummerbunds, socks, vests and bow ties, while women can really have fun with quirky accessories and bright colours.

Have a little fun with creative black tie dress codesHave a little fun with creative black tie dress codes – bow ties are a great way to express your style (URL: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-white-dress-shirt-blue-suspenders-and-gray-polka-dotted-bowtie-161030/)

6. If the dress code is ‘optional’, it’s probably best to stick to it

Some considerate hosts include ‘black tie optional’ on their invitations, concerned that some guests may feel pressured into meeting a particular standard. In these circumstances, the hosts will definitely be in black tie and it’s likely the majority of their guests will be too. There’s the risk that you’ll feel out of place, or like you’ve let the hosts down, if you take them up on the ‘optional’ bit.

7. If there’s no dress code, ask

If the invitation doesn’t make any mention of the dress code, it’s a good idea to informally ask the hosts what they expect guests to wear. If you’re embarrassed, ask other guests instead. You can also take some clues from the nature and venue of the event.

8. Slightly overdressed is best

A general rule of thumb, if you aren’t sure about the dress code, is to always be ever so slightly overdressed. It’s easy to remove a jacket or tie, or simply to own your fabulous look, but there’s not much you can do if you’re underdressed. You can’t magically become more formal (unless there’s a handy row of suitable retailers nearby), so a tiny bit overdressed is a safer bet.

a tiny bit overdressed

If unsure, aim for just a tiny bit overdressed and really own your look (URL: https://www.comptonhouseoffashion.co.uk/mother-of-the-bride-and-groom-dresses-outfits/condici/mbcoss1318/)

9. Understand the subtleties of ‘smart casual’

This is the social dress code that causes the biggest headache for people dressing for weddings and parties. What on earth does this mean? It lies somewhere in between formal and relaxed, meaning that it’s up to the judgement of the attendee – which can sometimes go wrong.

It’s a good idea to do some research on smart casual, dressy casual and all those other ‘in between’ dress codes beforehand. Get some inspiration for your look and find out the rules, from whether or not jeans are ok to the best way to style up a work outfit. Remember that other people will be in the same boat, so don’t stress yourself out about it too much.

10. Throwing a party? Choose an appropriate dress code

If you’ve got an event on the horizon, you’ll also need to know how to choose the right dress code. It needs to be appropriate for the occasion and easy for your guests to adhere to. For example, white tie is usually only seen at royal or celebrity events, so it would be a little presumptuous to pick this for your wedding – not to mention impolite, as your male guests would all have to hire dress suits.

You should also aim to communicate the dress code clearly on your invitations, giving your guests a hint or two to make it easier.

Compton House of Fashion is the perfect place to find a range of gorgeous looks for all kinds of social occasions, from smart casual to full-on formal. Take a look at the collection here.