There might be some modern trends that folks of yore could never have envisioned—people really wear sneakers with dresses to dinner?!—but there are a few holdovers from the Golden Age that are still kicking. First and foremost: the classical system of labeling invites to events with certain dress codes. For us, this ancient system of dress codes can be quite confusing—after all, we’re used to wearing our sneakers to dinner.
To help you navigate the landmine that is black tie, creative black tie, business formal, and beyond, we’ve deconstructed the 10 most often-used dress codes for you. You’ll never wonder what to wear to any event ever again.
Scroll down for a detailed list of decoded dress codes, as well as pieces to shop for each one.
A black-tie event is the epitome of formal. Cocktail-length dresses are only allowed if they are extremely dressy and sleek.
What to Wear: A formal floor-length gown is preferred. Also allowed: a dressy cocktail dress or your best LBD paired with fancier jewelry, which will elevate the overall look.
This is a professional look that isn’t overly dressy. Think something you could definitely wear to the office (i.e., something on the conservative side) but would feel comfortable wearing to grab a work drink.
What to Wear: An open-collar shirt or sweater with a pencil skirt or trousers. You can also wear a dress, as long as it’s not provocative.