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.
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.
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.
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.