I get these types of questions quite a bit: “How should I specify the dress code for my party?” or “I want my guests to dress up but I don’t want them to feel obligated to wear a tuxedo.” These are such common requests that I figured I should put together a helpful guide for you to reference when planning your invitations. Read on for advice on how to properly spell out what your guests should wear, whether it’s for a black tie fete or a backyard barbecue.
Black Tie: This is the most formal and clearest dress code of them all. “Black Tie” simply means men must don tuxedos and women should wear long, fancy gowns. Even in tropical climates, if the invitation says black tie, ladies, it’s not appropriate to wear a short dress.
Black Tie Invited: Essentially when you write “Black Tie Invited,” you’re inviting your guests to dress in black tie, but it’s not required. You can expect most of your guests to show up in tuxes, though.
Elegant Attire: Similar to “Black Tie Invited,” this is the next step down in formality. “Elegant Attire” means gentlemen can wear a tux if they would like, but it’s not required; men will most likely opt to wear a nice suit and tie. Ties are definitely required. Ladies should wear long, formal dresses.
Note: “Formal Attire” is a suitable alternative.
Cocktail Attire: Gentlemen are to dress in nice slacks and dress shirts. Ties are optional. Ladies should wear shorter, less formal cocktail dresses.
Note: A more modern and fun way to say cocktail attire is “Cocktail Chic.” A lot of my clients go with that for their invitations.
Beach Chic: This is great for events in tropical climates. (Essentially, you can replace “Beach” with anything that suits your event’s theme. For example, I’ve had clients use “Vintage Chic” or “Winter Chic.”) This simply means that guests should dress according to the theme.
Festive Attire: This means that guests should have fun and dress according to the theme of the invite. They should wear bright colors and clothes that make a big statement because it’s going to be a playful event.
Business Attire: Typically used for corporate events that are scheduled right after work. Employees will come dressed from the office. Essentially, suits and dressy business attire are requested.
Casual: This is wide open. Be comfortable and casual. Really, there’s no enforced dress code.
Note: If you want people to dress in a slightly less informal style, you can always put “Casual Chic.” I believe that whenever you add the word “Chic” to your attire, you’re telling guests to please take it up a notch.
Come as you are: I love this for day-after brunches or backyard barbecues. This simply means: wear whatever you want. Even PJs are welcome if you feel so inclined!
All White Attire: In this case, everyone is invited to wear white. It’s a particularly beautiful dress code for beach weddings.