Fashion Dress Codes, Decoded

fashion dress codes


Collage Vintage

If you’ve ever opened an invitation and spotted a confusing dress code at the bottom, you’re not alone. Fashion dress codes can be intricate and complicated and downright confusing. Which one is the dressiest? What are the best shoes to wear for business casual? And what’s the difference between black tie, black tie optional, and creative black tie?

We know it’s a lot to keep straight, so to take the guess work out of it, we’ve broken down the most important dress codes to keep straight. From dressed up and over the top to super casual, we’re covering them all. So now when you see “festive dress code” on an invite, you’ll know what to wear. Want to see what each of them entail?

Keep reading to see what fashion dress codes entail, and then shop our outfit recommendations.


The most formal of all dress codes, white tie involves dressing to the nines. Think royal affairs, glamorous balls, and presidential dinners. Guests must adhere to strict guidelines in order to fit in and to make an impression. If you are lucky enough to score an invitation to one of these white tie events, keep your eyes out for full-length evening gowns with little to no exposed skin to keep the look classy and sophisticated. This is not the time to test out new funky fashion trends, so try to avoid loud patterns or textures. As for jewelry, keep it simple with a necklace or earrings. Long gloves are an option, but they’re not required. Tiaras are accepted, as long as you have the title to match.

Style this gown with a simple necklace for a classic and elegant look.

These shoes will be your wardrobe staple.

This clutch is timeless and will go with any outfit.


Black tie is not as formal as white tie, but floor-length ball gowns are still the standard. Dresses should also be sophisticated and simple, and they don’t need to be as conservative as white tie gowns. Black is a popular color choice, along with dark blues, reds, and greens. Cocktail dresses are accepted at black tie events, as long as they are fancy enough (these can be accessorized with jewelry to achieve the look). To complete your look, add a luxe evening purse in silk, satin, or velvet. Sparkly earrings and bracelets are popular, along with fur wraps.

Wear simple black heels with this so the dress gets all the attention.

The bow detail on these shoes make them fun yet sophisticated.

This crossbody bag will be your go-to bag. 


This is the dress code where you can have some fun while still being formal. Most often paired with themed parties, this version of black tie attire is trendier. Guests are encouraged to wear items that go with the theme and are also dressy. Floor-length gowns are not required; however, if there is no theme to dress for, this is a safe bet.

Wear these with your hair pulled back so everyone can admire these gorgeous earrings. 


This attire is most popular for business dinners and formal gatherings. You can wear anything from long dresses to short cocktail dresses. The dress code is still formal and fancy, but floor-length gowns are not required. Darker colors are popular, and they are often paired with both heels and flats. The jewelry should be simple, so avoid anything too flashy.

The bow detail on these heels makes them stand out.


Cocktail attire is popular for fun celebrations and holiday parties. There is a lot you can do to achieve the “party-goer” cocktail look. Avoid floor-length gowns for these events, and opt for mini and midi dresses. Colorful dresses, skirts and blouses, and of course, little black dresses, are encouraged. As for shoes, heels are a must. Classic pumps are perfect for cocktail parties, just make sure they are comfortable as you dance and mingle. Have fun with your accessories, especially if you keep the dress simple.

Accessorize a red dress with gold or silver jewelry. 


A festive dress code usually falls around the holidays. Similar to cocktail attire, look out for sparkly sequin dresses or tops paired with satin skirts. Guests tend to get more creative and fun with this theme.

Opt for these for any special occasion. 


Business casual attire is common among corporate offices, and it varies depending on where you work and how often you communicate with clients. This is by far the most confusing of the dress codes, as “business” and “casual” tend to be identified as oxymorons. But have no fear, we have the perfect tips to create a look that will impress your colleagues. It is important to look polished and put together, but not too formal. A simple pair of trousers paired with a classic white button-down shirt and a tweed blazer make for the perfect weekday outfit. Pencil skirts with stylish blouses and a pair of mules allow you to have fun with your business outfits, but the look still makes you look professional. Although jeans and sneakers are advised against, you can play around with various patterns and textures of dresses, blouses, and pants.

Pair this blouse with your favorite pair of trousers for a polished look.

These trousers are perfect for the office paired with simple black shoes.

Wear these mules with any pair of pants for a fashion-forward look.


This is the dress code where almost anything goes. Depending on your plans for the day, you can pretty much be as comfortable as you like, as long it doesn’t include sweatpants. Simple printed wrap dresses with sandals or flats make you appear sophisticated and casual. Jeans and sneakers are allowed, along with loose-fitting shirts and dresses. As for jewelry, stick to your daily staples instead of statement pieces. Heels are not necessary, but block heels are an option for a casual look.

Wear this wrap dress with sandals for a casual look.

This bag is great for a day out with friends.

Next, read about the seven-piece Italian fall wardrobe.

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