There’s something as important as RSVP-ing for an event you plan to attend, and that is making sure your outfit is dress code-appropriate. Gasp! The invite says white tie, and you have no idea what that is or how it’s different from white tie! Well, we decode the different dress codes to make your attendance at social functions as worry-free as possible. Just keep reading!
White Tie Formal
This takes the cake as the most formal of all formal events. If you are going to Malacañang for a Presidential dinner or will be attending a business awards night, you will need ball gowns that are either floor length or ankle length. Finish that off with an updo and a stylish pair of heeled sandals.
Black Tie Formal
Evening affairs with this attire call for ball gowns for you not to be out of place as your date arrives in his tuxedo complete with a black tie. Don’t think that ball gowns are your style? You can opt for a dressy cocktail dress that falls to your knees or a sophisticated pairing for knee length skirts and shell—something that would be a mite too casual for a white tie event.
Creative Black Tie
This is black tie with a twist, or floor-length gowns paired with unique accessories or your dressiest black dress. Let out your man’s sartorial style with a black tuxedo with patterned bow or even a black shirt will complement your look. Not sure what clothes and accessories will work? Usually your hosts will identify a theme for you to follow. If the invite says “prom,” go with pastels and swishy fabrics. If it says vintage, use the Baroness from The Sound of Music as a style peg—or go nationalistic with something Maria Clara would wear. Steam punk (an increasingly popular theme) means pairing Victorian outfits—think high-necked dresses, corsets, etc.—with badass boots with impressive heels, and accessories like vintage timepieces and dueling pistols.
Formal or Black Tie Optional
This is a little less formal than the black tie dress code and wearing a long ball gown has not been insisted upon. Go for some glam cocktail dress while your arm candy can ditch the bowtie for a necktie.
Often the attire called for during a holiday party, plus the dress code is not all that formal. Pick out a cocktail dress or even some slacks from your wardrobe and match it with your guy’s button-down and pants ensemble.
Think everyday clothes that are still work appropriate. Go for some knee length skirts and a button down, but just say no to jeans and workout clothes, please. This is definitely more relaxed than the pantsuits and skirt suits you’d sport as a requirement for the Business Formal look.
A step down from business casual, this dress code allows you to wear jeans, loud prints, and chunky accessories. Before stepping out that door, make sure to balance these casual items with workwear pieces like a blazer.
Here’s a reason to treat yourself to a pedi! As there is sea and sand, give consideration to your footwear and opt for your favorite pair of sandals. A beach formal is another event to model that elegant floor-length gown as your man is clothed in his shirt and pants ensemble. You’ll probably want sandals with stacked heels or wedges instead of stilettos, though!
Since the event will be near the seashore, choose a frock with that tone, like an aquamarine maxi dress or a yellow shift dress. Shun garments that are ill-fitting as they might reveal something with a slight gust of wind.
You can wear almost anything you want just as long as it is appropriate for the time, event, and venue. For example, ditch the jeans and shorts if the event is wedding; instead, don your favorite sundress and pair it with flat sandals. If it’s a picnic, though? Feel free to wear those jeans or even a pair of shorts.
While there are a few other dress codes that are actually subcategories of these ones, you should now have a basic idea of what each type of attire calls for. Now it’s just a question of matching the style to your body type, the color to your skin tone, and so on, but won’t it be fun to play dress up?
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Ana Valenzuela graduated with a degree in AB Literature from UST. She has written for several media outlets. She is currently taking her Master's from UP.