An invitation to an event always brings about a more or less difficult question: what is the appropriate way to dress? Up to and until a few years ago, stricter rules regarding dress code for specific events were to be observed. However, nowadays, it is much more common to go along with new fashionable ways of elegance and freedom of expression. The invitation card to an event  often requests a certain dress code to observe, e.g. “Glamourous Glitter” or “A touch of Pink’. While on the one hand these suggestions can provide the guest with the possibility of being creative and having fun in doing so, on the other hand these suggestions may actually create more confusion as to which choice is the correct one.

Anyway, let’s start from the beginning: what is a dress code?

A dress code can be described as a set of rules and traditions belonging to a specific culture and indicating the appropriate way to dress for any occasion, be it an aperitif, a red carpet, a dinner with friends or colleagues. Thus far nothing strange, but occasionally one might receive an invitation requesting a less familiar dress code like for example: “After five”.

So how do you find your bearings? Basically, we can go by 5 fundamental dress codes within which a number of variations exist. Let’s go over the basics:


This is quite an easy and flexible dress code, not too formal, but with a touch elegance and chic. The male dress should be trousers (not denim) paired with a white or light blue shirt with an optional jacket and tie, not necessarily matching with the trousers.  Absolutely no tuxedo or smoking, which would be way over the top.  As far as to which colours to wear are concerned, one should preferably choose to stay within the classic tones: blue, grey or brown. The female dress choice offers a lot of freedom. Different sizes of dress, colours, fabrics, prints or lace are allowed. Of course, this freedom can become a double-edged sword if you make too many a risky choice. To play it safe and in order to avoid making mistakes, one can always opt for the timeless “little black dress” and interchanging accessories. A brightly coloured knee-high dress with feminine lines will do nicely. If wearing a dress is not your cup of tea, an elegant pair of trousers combined with a top will still be chic and appropriate. The only “no go” for this dress code is a long dress, this is way too much for the occasion.


This dress code is one of the most formal ones, it is used exclusively for events after 6.00 pm, and it is definitely much more restricted than the cocktail dress code. For men, the choice is extremely restricted: smoking or tuxedo, black bow tie, white shirt with cufflinks (the only concession this dress code offers is within the shirt details), black shoes and black socks.

For a woman, a long dress is the perfect choice,  complemented by a pair of sandals or shoes with a thin heel. Another choice could be silk or fabric elegant ballet flat shoes. A clutch bag is a must.

A simple and elegant cocktail dress is also acceptable, adorned with precious but not too excessive jewellery.

The Black Tie dress code offers two sub-types: the optional black tie or the creative black tie. The first imposes a certain formality but does not oblige the male guest to wear a smoking. One can opt for a formal dark suit, always combined with a white shirt. However, one cannot avoid wearing a tie and  shiny black shoes, as one will be attending an elegant event. Women are allowed to wear all types of cocktail dresses, always in combination with precious but not too excessive jewellery. Within the black tie dress code and both its sub types, women should never wear wedges, boots or thongs (not even jewelled thongs)!

To the contrary, The Black Tie Creative, very common within fashion circles, can be described as a stylish “trick” for those who wish to remain elegant, but simultaneously provides the opportunity to give space to creativity and personal style. Men are obliged to wear a black bow tie, but can still influence the coloured details or elaborate fabrics of a tuxedo like, for example, the waistband or the vest. Be very careful not to slip into fashionable but too daring details such as colourful sneakers that would no longer respect the black tie code. Women have a lot of freedom of expression, from the lively cocktail dress to the long evening gown and a free pass to wearing less formal fabrics like lace. However, one should always keep in the back of one’s mind that “less is more”; better to focus on just one detail only and stay more sober with the remaining parts of the dress in order not to bring the required elegance into jeopardy.


You may never be asked to attend an event where this dress code is required unless you have been invited to Buckingham Palace, as it is outdated. In any case, it is better to be prepared! It is definitely the most formal of all dress codes, therefore the male guest cannot avoid wearing a white bow tie and a white pocket handkerchief, combined with black patent leather shoes with long black silk socks.  Without exception, a woman should wear long dress made of precious fabrics, like silk or chiffon, high heels and valuable jewellery.


When one is invited to attend a business event, it is important to convey a professional image even if one is not in an office environment. A man can wear a pinstriped suit, blue or grey, combined with white or light blue shirt. A women should wear a simple and not too tight suit.

One should avoid excessive fashionable details such as fluorescent sneakers or gaudy ties. Focus on business!


This means no dress code, in other words: freedom! Jeans, sneakers, t-shirts and anything that makes you feel comfortable is allowed.

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