Decoding Dress Codes

22 Jan

This past Friday, my husband and I were given two tickets to one of Detroit’s biggest charity events – the North American International Auto Show’s Charity Night Preview. We had a great time touring cars (I’m such a sucker for the Fiat 500), drinking champagne and people watching. This event draws a pretty eclectic crowd – local dignitaries, auto execs, news personalities, Miss Michigan and the governor, to name a few.

But the very best part of this year’s event was the fact that I was on TV! Yes, you heard that right. One of the local news stations did a fashion segment highlighting red carpet trends found at the event. And according to the producer, my dress was right on trend. If you you’re interested in seeing my TV debut, watch the video here. Fast forward to 1:48 and you will see me in the short black dress to the left.

As much as I love to go to events, whether it’s a business conference, art opening or charity soiree, figuring out what to wear can cause me much anxiety! Here are two tips that will help you decode some of the more tricky dress codes like “festive casual” or “creative black tie.”

Call the host (or venue): You may feel silly calling up the organizer of a large charity event or the conference management company, but you will feel even sillier sticking out because you are not dressed appropriately. Also, some venues like a country club have strict policies, so even if the dress code is casual, attendees wouldn’t be able to wear jeans if the country club’s policy forbids it.

Search for pictures of past events: Nowadays, event pictures are posted to social media sites like Facebook, so it’s much easier to see what people wore previous year and tailor your outfit accordingly.

Most invitations are pretty straight forward when it comes to the required attire. Here are some recommendations for four of the most common dress codes:

BCBG Dresses Black Tie

all dresses via

Black tie – A black-tie dress code is often recommended for weddings, award galas, charity fundraisers and state dinners.

  • Women: A floor length gown is recommended, however in many cases, such as the charity event I mentioned above, dressy separates or a cocktail dress is appropriate too. Sparkly accessories are a must.
  • Men: A tuxedo is recommended, however a dark suit and dark tie can work also.

BCBG Cocktail

all dresses via

Cocktail – A cocktail dress code is often recommended for less formal weddings, holiday events and cocktail parties.

  • Women: A short, fancy dress with lace, beading or other embellishments is recommend. In some cases, a dressy maxi or a high-low dress is appropriate too.
  • Men: A suit and tie is recommended, however a sport coat and slacks or a suit with no tie could be appropriate.

BCBG Dresses

all outfits via

Business (and Business Casual) – Yes there is a difference. These two dress codes are recommended for business affairs, such as conferences, work dinners and meetings.

  • Women: A suit or business dress is recommended. If the event is business casual, separates, knits and khakis are appropriate too. In many cases, jewelry and accessories should be kept more conservative.
  • Men: A suit and tie is recommended. If the event is business casual, a sport coat, polo shirt or khakis are appropriate too.

BCBG Casualall outfits via

Casual: A casual dress code is often recommended for barbecues, casual/informal dinners, and company retreats/outings.

  • Women: For casual events, there are infinite options, however I tend to stick to dark jeans and a dressy top, with heels, sandals, or riding boots. I also rely a lot on simple knit dresses.
  • Men: Dark jeans and a button down or polo are typical.

In case you’re wondering who my dress is by, it’s BCBG. BCBG is one of my favorite brands for dresses and creative business attire. Their clothes can be quite expensive, however they tend to have phenomenal sales, so I usually wait until certain items are deeply discounted before I buy.

Do you have any go-to outfits for events?

xoxo, Andi

2 Responses to “Decoding Dress Codes”

  1. Liz January 22, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    That was awesome you got to be on tv for the charity preview and you looked so cute too!

    • allputtogether January 22, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

      Thanks Liz! 🙂 It was a fun few minutes in the spotlight.