Dress codes, while it may feel like the opposite, are not there to restrict your style or reel in your personality! Instead, dress codes are all about making sure that everyone around an area or involved in an event or initiative is as safe and comfortable as possible, and feels like they belong there!
With that in mind, trying to assemble an appropriate outfit for a fancy affair or when you’re unfamiliar with dress codes can leave you feeling far from belonging. Luckily, we can help! So whether you’ve been invited to a fancy wedding and don’t have the slightest idea of what you’re supposed to wear or you’ve just had an awesome interview and need a nice new pair of comfortable work shoes for women before your first day of work — we can give you an idea of what to look for!
Formal (Full Dress)
Formal or “full dress” occasions and events should be respected for what they are and embraced fully. Think full formal, full manners, and fully glamorous. Floor-length gowns and full-length tailcoats will keep the amount of skin you have exposed appropriate for this sort of event, dramatic jewelry and gentlemen’s cummerbunds will accent the ensembles around you and no matter how fancy your shoes are, they will only add to the aesthetic!
- White tie events include things like opera outings, certain weddings, and certain galas. When you’re dressing for white tie events, you’ll want to consider every delicate detail carefully from your dress to your hairdo. Because white tie events tend to call for floor-length gowns and gloves from women and grand tailcoats and bow ties from gentlemen, it’s safe to say that your shoes should be formidable and fashionable and that they should be worn in their fanciest form — polished and paid attention when securing, whether that be the way that they are tied or buckled. If you have stone-encrusted heels or shiny patent leather dress shoes, now would be the time to show them off!
- Evening attire can indicate formal, semi-formal, or even cocktail wear — so it’s important to clarify when possible. When it’s not, look to the venue for more direction. If the nature of the event and venue fall toward the more formal side of the spectrum — for instance, a large and formal charity event or grand function in a ballroom venue — aim for something in between white tie (mentioned above) and black tie (mentioned below). Otherwise, start with something similar to semi-formal cocktail attire and step it up slowly as needed. When it comes to evening wear, sparkles are an accent (especially on shoes) that are always adored!
Semi-Formal (Half Dress)
Semi-formal occasions and events should be graced with timeless, sophisticated, and, depending on how you identify, charming or dashing pieces. Beautiful accessories (but not too bold) are always welcome here!
- Black tie can be incorporated into almost any event, whether that be a divine wedding or dinner, but you’ll likely be expected to be in a floor-length or extra-fancy dress as a woman, and tuxedo or full suit (dark for the colder months, white for the warmer) as a man. So consider your sparkly heels or shiny patent leather dress shoes from above, or maybe even your leather flats or loafers with special features from below if you can confirm that a slightly more informal approach is appropriate.
- Cocktail attire is flexible — fashionable and functional for most adult and evening events. On the more formal side of cocktail outfits, you’ll find items like fitted dresses (picture the perfect little black dress), luxury-like pants in all sorts of styles and skirts paired with silky camisoles and blouses, and beautiful sweaters, and off-shoulder shirts for women. For men, more formal cocktail attire may include a dark suit with or without a tie. On the informal side of things, luxury-like shorts and dark (normally skinny) denim can often be accepted by both men and women. For men, dark denim may best be paired with a collared or v-neck shirt and blazer or sports coat. When it comes to cocktail attire, you should consider shoes that are as sleek and fashionable as your outfit. Shoes like fancy flats, laid-back loafers, sneakers with superior aesthetic appeal, and even comfortable and stable strappy heels will be perfect if you have them!
Informal (Undress/Dress Clothes)
Informal events and occasions indicate a higher dress expectation than none at all but can vary pretty dramatically depending on the actual demand. Generally, informal ensembles will be ones that you could wear anywhere that you went in a day without feeling under or overdressed, and don’t ask for much more than an appropriate amount of skin to be covered. With this in mind, you’ll want to avoid overly short shorts, skirts or dresses, overly plunge or unbuttoned tops, strapless tops, and open-toe shoes and sandals.
- Workwear will depend a lot on your employer’s or work environment’s specific dress code rules and regulations, but no matter what they are, you can guarantee that you’ll probably need some quality closed-toe shoes for work every day.
- Smart and business casual dress codes are commonly for everyday office ensembles, certain business lunches, happy hours, and company parties. Smart, business, and dressy casual all call for a little more professional pizzazz, so when it comes to outfits, consider a simple dress (making sure that it falls no higher than just slightly above the knee), pencil skirts, khakis, or dress pants paired with silk camisoles, superior long sleeves, button-downs and blouses (and maybe a cardigan if it’s chilly) for women, and slacks, khakis or dress pants paired with a collared shirt, casual polo or nice sweater for men. As far as shoes go, aim for sophisticated styles like low heels, flats with fancier features like nice materials, buckles or prominent piping, loafers, and oxfords.
- Dressy casual dress codes are commonly for church, dinners, and certain work events or interviews. They call for ensembles for women that include items like dress pants, silk pants, and skirts paired with luxury camis, blouses, and wrap sweaters. For men, a dressy casual dress code calls for slacks or dress pants paired with a collared shirt, tie, and even possibly a sport coat or blazer. When it comes to shoes, selections like patent leather flats, subtle heels, leather oxfords, and loafers will always be easy to style and suit the occasion!
Casual wear includes almost any articles of clothing that weren’t mentioned above, with the exception of specific supplementary articles. When it comes to casual wear, we can normally break it down into a couple of common categories. While this is a dress code that doesn’t call for too much effort on your part, there are some nuances to note!
- Athletic/athleisure attire is as flexible as you’re bound to be after embracing the [life]style! It is also great for when you’re stressed and struggling to look put together. Outfits will generally consist of sweatpants, joggers, leggings, or shorts paired with tank tops, t-shirts, long sleeves, and sweatshirts (zip or pullover) and are mindfully designed with function and fashion being considered equally. As such, your shoes should also be at equal levels of fashionable and functional! Aim for sneakers with cushion and comfort, sole and ankle support, durability and strength, and, of course, style!
- Beachwear is often designated as a casual dress code on invitations, but if you see any water-related activities or venues in the plan, it’s a good idea to start gathering your best beachwear. And though this will vary for everyone and range from board shorts to boho wraps, there are a couple of staples to ensure you don’t miss. These staples include items like sunglasses, a breach-proof tote bag, a hat, and, most importantly, suitable shoes. So whether cute sandals for women with a good lug sole get you going or wedge sandals go wonderfully with your swimwear and ensemble, make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.
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For Every Day In Between
Everyday events and occasions are endless, and they normally don’t get a dress code assigned to them. Instead, it’s assumed that most events and occasions where no dress code is clarified or a casual dress code is confirmed are simply streetwear. If this is the case, you can consider this an awesome opportunity to rock any of your favorite shoes if they go with your outfit — from classic kicks, flats, and boots to unique wedges, heels, and sandals… And anything in between!