Cracking the Code: What does a Dress Code Really Mean?

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Dress codes can be difficult to dissect, so here are some helpful tips for how to stay stylish at any occasion during the spring and summer. For fun, I decided to include some fashion advice for the guys as well!

White tie/ultra-formal

Men: a tailcoat and white vest, a shirt and bow tie.

Women: a long gown. Pale colours are really on trend this year, so choose a soft pastel shade or white.

Black tie/formal

Men: a  James Bond-style tuxedo will look amazing on the guys.

Women: knee-length and long dresses. Lace is one of the season’s biggest fabrics and will help to make a dress stand out from the crowd.


Men: think a dark suit and a tie. Blue is set to be one of the summer’s most popular colours, so a semi-formal event is a great time to get away from boring dark suits and into something a little bit different. A slim tie will also update a look.

Women: a knee-length dress is a perfect choice. A peter-pan collar is a cute way to add detail to a semi-formal look. The 1920s style is also right on trend, so think drop-waist and flapper-style dresses.


Men: a dark suit works best.

Women: Cocktail dresses in a knee-length are fun because they are just so versatile. Tribal print is one of the key looks for summer 2012, so leave the little black dress behind and opt instead for something more adventurous. Even if you’re not brave enough to go the whole hog, you can still transform a plain dress with some print stilettos or tribal jewellery.

Business casual

Men: a collared shirt, trousers or men’s jeans. It varies from place to place, so double-check whether your company allows jeans to be paired with a shirt (think Steve Jobs). If in doubt, swap the jeans for a pair of tailored chinos.

Women: smart trousers or skirt. Pencil skirts are a great option and look fabulous in bright colours, so don’t worry about dressing down during the summer months. A sheer pussy-bow blouse will help to maintain the balance between smart and playful.

Dressy casual

Men: jacket or collared shirt and a pair of trousers.

Women: a skirt or smart trousers. Here’s a chance to get away from dresses and try something more edgy. Floral design is a catwalk favourite this season and so is vintage Americana: go for it if you suit a fifties-style shape with a nipped in waist and bright red lips.

Casual — anything goes!

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