Fashion What To Wear To A Wedding

Decoding a Dress Code

How to stay in style at any event!

Decoding a Dress Code

By Heather Wiese Alexander, Creative Director, Bell’Invito Stationery & Home


From formal to casual, many hosts feel the need to direct their guests as to attire. To be clear, the mention of attire on a formal invitation still seems boorish to etiquette-purists. Consequently, not informing a diverse group of guests as to the expected attire for the evening can put guests in an awkward situation and be mistaken for elitism by today’s standards. We consider ourselves etiquette purists at Bell’INVITO, however, this topic of attire is one of very few in which there is an appropriate and accepted standard of modernization. A handful of attire terms has their place in today’s invitation suites, albeit often it is not where you might think it would be. A resource to determine which phrase to use for proper invitation dress code etiquette is here on another post.

Hosts and guests, her is the scoop—if you are lucky enough to find yourself with the social dilemma of dressing for a party, take the foolproof approach (look below!) When you need to know how to stay in style at any event or to understand what your hosts are trying to tell you, read up – or just ask!


Photo from: Culwell & Son


White Tie

HE WEARS a tuxedo with tails and a white vest. White shirts with eyelets for studs and cuffs ⋅ white bow tie, black socks, and black shoes.

SHE WEARS a floor length ball-gown, long gloves (optional) and a wristlet or clutch. No handbags allowed!



Black Tie

HE WEARS a tuxedo, vest or cummerbund, and a white shirt with eyelets for studs and cuffs. ⋅ bow tie (typically matches or coordinates with cummerbund), black socks and black shoes.  

SHE WEARS a long dress with wristlet or clutch. No handbag.



Cocktail, Business Formal & Semi-Formal

Sometimes hosts like to get creative wording invitations. (A note to you wordsmiths, if you aren’t clear in your direction, your creativity is all for naught.) Typically, when attire directive is “[fill-in-the-blank] chic” they are looking for something stylish and trendy. If the occasion is after 5 p.m., cocktail attire is your go-to.

When attending a professional function, dress conservatively, this is the time to show you are worth your paycheck, and not so much the time to express your amazingly creative personal style. When dressing for purely social functions, use your discretion as to the appropriate level of conservative or edgy attire.

HE WEARS a dark suit, vest or cummerbund is optional. White or hued shirt with a bow tie or necktie, black socks, and black shoes. Creative options can be considered if the occasion and hosts would deem it appropriate. This information is specific to each occasion and is correctly communicated by word of mouth.

SHE WEARS any length dress or dressy pant suit. If attending a wedding in a church, skirt length should be considered and shoulders should be covered, at least by a shawl, when inside the sanctuary. If wearing a long dress, avoid gloved and ostentatious jewelry so that you are not overdressed, and carry a clutch.


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