Explaining Some of the Most Common Dress Codes

There are 13 types of dress codes that different settings call for. While we don’t have the time to discuss all these dress codes today, certain ones are more confusing than others, and those are the ones we’re focusing on. Explaining some of the most common dress codes takes a keen eye, as you must be able to decipher the confusing differences. But keep reading, and you’ll quickly learn everything you need to know.

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Business Casual vs. Business Professional

Business casual is common for informal work settings and, depending on the manager, can include darker jeans with no holes or rips. Khakis, dress pants, corduroys, and skirts that end a few inches above the knee are all acceptable bottoms. Blouses, sweaters, dresses, and collared shirts are all acceptable tops depending on the neckline. Your clothes can have colors and patterns, but your shoes should be closed-toe.

Business professional elevates business casual. Stick with dress pants, skirts, and dresses for bottoms—no jeans. Typically, women should wear blouses with higher necklines paired with blazers, while men should wear suits with a tie. Keep the color palette neutral, avoid big accessories, and only wear closed-toe shoes for this dress code.

Cocktail vs. Semiformal

Cocktail is a common dress code at weddings and other events where guests are expected to be dressy but comfortable. The cocktail dress code embraces darker colors, textures such as sequins and metallics, and bold accessories. Women should wear skirts and blouses or dresses, and men should wear a suit (the tie is optional) or dark dress pants and dress shirts.

Just as business professional elevates business casual, semiformal wear elevates cocktail. This is a common dress code at formal events and upscale restaurants. Women should wear dresses mid-length or shorter or dress pants with a jacket. Men should always wear a suit and tie. Neutral colors and simple accessories are best. 

Formal vs. Black Tie

Typically reserved for nighttime, formal dress can be required at evening weddings and other night events. Women should wear a simple, elegant, floor-length dress in a neutral or pastel color. Dresses can have details such as sequins and tulle, and it’s a good idea to carry an evening bag in a color that coordinates with your dress color. Men should wear a tuxedo or dinner suit with dark, ideally black, shoes.

Black tie is a step up from formal, requiring a ball gown or floor-length gown for women. This dress can have elegant details such as sequins or jewels, but it should be a neutral, metallic, or jewel tone. You can pick between heels and flats, but we recommend a coordinating evening bag as one of your accessories. Men should wear a black tuxedo with a black bow tie and black dress shoes.

Explaining some of the most common dress codes can be complicated, but they’re important to understand so that you are prepared to dress in any setting. Business casual, business professional, cocktail, semiformal, formal, and black tie are some of the most confusing dress codes, and we’re glad we had the opportunity to explain them. Now, you can enter your next event dressed perfectly.

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