The complete guide to deciphering dress codes

Smart casual, cocktail, black tie: What do these dress codes mean? Deciding what to wear can be one of life's biggest dilemmas (first world problem we know). Here's how to interpret your next invitation's dress code so you can stop stressing and get shopping!


Smart casual

Blair Waldorf Outfits

An often ambiguous term, smart casual can be deceptively hard to dress for. Essentially, what it means is clothing that is both neat and appropriate, but not overly formal. You will most likely be going to a garden party, beach wedding, ladies lunch or business event. Still lost? Think sun dresses, culottes and midi skirts; something you'd be comfortable wearing both to the office and out for afternoon drinks. It is essentially professional, stylish day wear. Nothing too short or revealing, or too dressy and over the top. Channel your inner Blake Lively and you will be all set!

Cocktail

Miranda Kerr outfits

Cocktail attire is pretty self explanatory. Cocktail parties literally involve a bunch of people standing around enjoying cocktails (and a few sneaky canapes); sound's pretty great to us! But don't make the mistake of over dressing. Cocktail dresses are predominately short. Miranda Kerr is definitely our go to girl for cocktail style. Follow her lead and opt for a mini dress if possible, (midi if you must), but stay away from floor length gowns for these sorts of events. However, despite the fact that short dresses are preferable, don't fall into the trap of mistaking a cocktail dress for a party dress. You are not going clubbing, nor should you look like you are!

Evening/black tie

Karlie Kloss Kendall Jenner Gigi Hadid met gala outfits

This dress code is crystal clear for men; wear a tux! But for us girls it's a little more complicated. In our eyes, black tie is always long. A foolproof outfit would consist of a full length gown. However, in today's fashion-evolved society, there are quite a few more options at our disposal. Formal separates and statement skirts are on the rise. So, if you have a dressy new combo you'd like to trial, go for it (as long as it goes past the knee). For some added glam, channel Kendall and Gigi at last year's Met Gala – spice it up and try something bold. Who ever said formal had to mean boring?

So, next time you're stuck for a dress code, refer back to this guide and you will do no wrong. Follow our simple steps and enjoy your night in style.

Words: Sophie Catsoulis