What to wear anywhere – dress codes decoded

dress codes

Dress codes can be tricky. They weren’t always.  Once upon a time black tie meant tuxedos for men and full length ball gowns for women. Cocktail meant a dress cut just above the knee for ladies and suits for the gents. Nowadays, these two codes can mean anything from “please don’t wear thongs” to “dress like you would for the Oscars“. And that’s if you are lucky enough to get a conventional guideline. I’ve had invitations with no dress code and coded dress codes. You know the type. Dress like an English garden. Dress to impress. Causal lounge circa 1976. Patio chic. It’s very hip. It’s not very helpful.

How do you choose what to wear when the options are so open? There are three go-to outfits that I can rely on for pretty much any occasion.

The party / night out with the girls outfit

The kaftan and tights look is something that my sister-in-law completely rocks. And she always looks perfect. It’s trendy without being too trendy and is completely comfortable. Switch up the shoes depending on the season.


What to wear everywhere - Kaftan and Leggings



The ladies who lunch / garden party / wedding outfit

A full skirt with a lace top is always a lady like option for a fancy day time event. You can tone the skirt down with a t-shirt and sneakers for a more casual affair.

What to wear anywhere - Lunch, Wedding, Casual


The date night / theatre / not quite sure outfit

A blank canvas is a great place to start when you have no idea what to wear. A plain long black dress in a style that flatters your body shape can easily be dressed up or down. Let your heels and accessories do the talking.

What to wear anywhere - the long black dress


If you’re still completely stumped as to what to wear to a particular event, here are some sneaky ways to suss it out:

  • Check out the Facebook or Instagram pages of the venue / host / event. Hopefully there will be some photos that will give you a guide as to what’s expected. This is particularly helpful if it’s a recurring event and you can check out last year’s gallery.
  • Some events, like race days, have very specific dress themes for different days. Do a little research.
  • I think always dress up rather than down. Even if you feel over-dressed, it’s so much easier to hold your head high than if you’re feeling a bit shabby.
  • Ask. If it’s practical ring the host and ask what they expect.
  • Wear something quite plain and amp it up with accessories and shoes. If you are really unsure, pack a few accessory options, watch a couple of people go in before you and then make a quick decision. Don’t be too late though!
  • Some rules don’t date and kindness is one of them. I think it’s important to show respect to the person who is organising the event by making an effort.

style saturday

How do you navigate tricky dress codes?

17 thoughts on “What to wear anywhere – dress codes decoded

    • Robyna says:

      You should see it when we all walk into the local RSL together – it’s quite a sight 🙂 Over-dressing is always more fun.

    • Robyna says:

      Ugggh. The long white dress at a wedding thing. Why do people do that? That’s the ultimate in disrespectful dressing.

  1. Vanessa says:

    Lol I am the worst for all of these because I hate dressing up, shopping for new things and will just wear what I have. Basically you can’t take me anywhere.

    Someone was once very disgusted with me in a forum for asking about a dress code for a vaguely in laws family beach wedding (which it turns out I couldn’t go to in the end anyway because of work) when I said I don’t wear makeup or dresses or high heels. Apparently I had no excuse not to wear those things and how dare I disrespect the wedding by not having makeup on.
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    • Robyna says:

      I guess it all depends on how lovely you feel without makeup 🙂 I think you always look very fresh faced and beautiful. I wear make-up to hide bad skin. But I don’t see how it’s a “respect” issue. I think you should definitely get dressed up for a wedding. But flat shoes and a bare face don’t mean that you haven’t made an effort.

  2. Becky says:

    When I have to buy a new dress I am unable to make my mind on one dress. It takes a lot of time for me to be ready and say yeah this is what I am looking for lol, I am terrible shopper. Thanks for your blog this is really helpful !!

  3. pedisbox says:

    wow what an amazing post.Actually me too get confused when i have to go for any special event or function.A lot of confusion arises what to wear & how to wear accessories according to my outfit.But reading your post it seems now onwards i will not have to face such problems.Thank you for the great information.

  4. Pingback: How to love every single thing in your wardrobe - THE MUMMY AND THE MINX

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