Decoding the Dress Code

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Earlier this year, I mentioned that I attended my cousin’s wedding in which people from the groom’s side wore jeans to the reception. I was in awe. During my rant about dress codes to my mom, she made a good point…”If you don’t dress up for a wedding, what you dress up for?”

I was discussing the whole “jeans at a wedding” thing with some co-workers. A bride-to-be mentioned that she listed the dress code on all of her invitations – to the rehearsal and wedding reception. The attire for the rehearsal dinner was “creative casual.” Typically I hate when I receive an invite with this type of nonsense request, but co-worker brought up a good point…”If they don’t know what it means, they will ask me and I will tell them what I want them to wear.”

Decoding the dress code sometimes takes some research. Here are some tips.

Casual Friday: Many companies who require employees to where Business attire during the week, have “Casual Friday.” Most employers allow jeans and sneakers. According to Wikipedia, Casual Friday began in the late 1950’s in attempt to raise worker morale.

Business Casual: defines business casual as “In general, business casual means dressing professionally, looking relaxed, yet neat and pulled together.” I used to simply tell interns “no jeans.”

Informal: For guys, this means a suit. For women, this also means a suit – with a skirt or pants.

Black Tie: Typically the dress code for evening events, this attire is semi-formal. For a dude, it should be a tuxedo. Chicks can wear a conservative cocktail dress or a long evening gown. This is also known as White Tie in the UK.

Now for the tricky dress codes…

Festive Attire: This showed up on two of my holiday party invites last year and let me just say I was extremely puzzled. When you search for this via google, you get a number of suggestions. Basically you wear looks with a bit of sparkle or holiday flair (reds and greens).

Creative Black Tie: A twist on regular black tie, this leaves some freedom to go a little more modern with your tux. A woman is able to wear a long or short dress with some bold colors.

Dressy Casual: This is just dumb. I mean can’t you just pick one. If you see this on an invite, it means dressed up casual. For guys, wear pants and a sports coat – no jeans.

In the end, if you are having a party and list a strange dress code, it might be helpful to list some examples for your guests.

If you are unsure what to wear to a party, just ask the person hosting the event or someone else attending.
My rule of thumb is, if you are looking at yourself in the mirror and are questioning your outfit, don't wear it.

And please, no jeans at a wedding reception, funeral or for dinner with the president or queen. Thanks.

(sources: Wikipedia,,,