Updated on November 3, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
Most men who regularly attend formal events will have a black, navy, dark gray two-piece or three-piece suit in premium fabric, black leather shoes, and a sedate tie and consider it done. But that hardly covers all formal occasions.
It is not always necessary that the invitation you get for a special event will state the dress code. And it is also not always possible to ask the invitee about the dress code. So what to do when in doubt? Go formal. Let’s explore the formal dress code used for special events – and the different events that call for different formal dressing styles.
A formal dress or full dress is a terminology used to cover the western dress code category intended for formal occasions. The formal occasion covers anything from weddings to job interviews and if you are invited, you have to dress accordingly.
Formal dress codes
Morning or Day wear /White tie
This is the most formal dress code. Morning White tie or a black tie events include important functions during the day, like stately, diplomatic or official affairs – the kind you would attend if you are very wealthy or if you occupy a very important position in the diplomatic circles or politics; these very formal big occasions demand men to wear a black or grey tailcoat with matching trousers, waistcoat or cummerbund, white starched shirt, white bow tie or long grey tie.
You can opt for a boutonnière to finish the look. For shoes you have to wear black patent leather oxford shoes. You can read more about this dressing style here.
For women, this refers to a floor length ball gown. You can go for glamorous jewels, long gloves, court/pump shoes and up-do hairstyles. Pastel or jewel colors for day and black or dark colors for evening are preferred.
Evening wear/Black tie
Evening black tie dress code for men generally involves a basic tuxedo, a dark formal two-piece or three piece suit. It is worn with a white shirt, dark tie, dark socks and shoes. Sometimes, colorful ties are also worn, but the tie should be made of a premium fabric and always be tied with a classic knot.
A formal evening dress code for women definitely calls for a sophisticated full length gown in rich fabrics and rich colors paired with high heels. A simple feminine silhouette in elegant color will do the work. Pair this with jewellery like chandelier earrings, bangles, bracelet, statement rings. An embellished, purse or clutch will finish your ensemble.
Though a full length gown is a must for a white tie event, women do wear stylish cocktail dresses other than gowns for black tie events. So, if you choose to wear a cocktail dress, lengthier the better. Read more on cocktail dresses here.
Black tie optional / Formal wear
Black tie optional is usually synonymously with Formal dress code nowadays. The dress code is a little bit more casual than White tie or Black tie dress codes with a lot more flexibility (you can get a hint from the word ‘optional’ in the term). Black tie optional is an evening event, mostly an after-event party like a wedding reception, award ceremony, dinner parties etc. Men can wear a tuxedo jacket or dinner suit in dark color with a white dress shirt and a solid colored tie or bow tie.
For women, it’s time to look glamorous in knee length cocktail dresses or luxurious separates.
These are business related events/meetings. Men can wear dark colored suits with a buttoned up collared shirt and a tie. It is better to wear light colored dress shirts than dark tones. A pair of formal shoes and a black or brown colored belt that complements your shoes will complete your look.
Women can either wear dress pants or a skirt with a matching jacket. Skirts are preferred knee length or just above the knee. A collared blouse or top that is neatly tucked in is appropriate. If you are wearing jewelry, simple, tasteful jewelry like an ear stud and a simple thin chain on the neck are best. The key is to dress appropriately and look professional.