Whether you’ve been invited to a wedding, a party, or a night at the opera, it’s likely that you’ll be wondering what you should wear for the occasion. Dress codes have been woven into the fabric of our society for generations, but they’re still often impossible to interpret, especially for women.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right pieces in your wardrobe, you can be confident, happy, and perfectly dressed for every dress code. With that in mind, here’s our ultimate guide to choosing the right dress for each dress code, for any occasion:
There are so many different types of formal dress code that it can feel like a minefield to understand just how formal your outfit should be. Is it a white tie invitation or a black tie invitation? And what are the differences between the two?
A white tie dress code will call for a floor-length formal gown and gloves, whilst a black tie dress code will call for the same type of gown but without the gloves.
Black tie and white tie aren’t the only kinds of formal dress code though. For weddings, cocktail parties, bridal showers, baby showers, or garden parties, you may also be asked to dress formally, but these occasions certainly won’t call for a floor-length dress. Instead you can opt for a cocktail dress, an embellished kaftan dress, or even an elegant shift dress. Accessorize with glamour and style, and you’ll soon be ready for any formal occasion!
One formal occasion that’s always lots of fun is a day at the races, however, this is a formal occasion that also comes with its own unique dress code. In fact, each race meet will have its own dress code and its own level of formality. You may be required to wear a dress that falls below the knee, you may have to cover your shoulders (or the straps of your race day dress should be of a certain thickness) or you might be instructed to wear a hat or a headpiece.
Race day dresses are a great opportunity to be bright and bold, embracing your favourite colours and patterns. Because spring time race days are traditional events, it can be tempting to wear something that is equally formal and traditional. But actually, there is no reason why you shouldn’t inject your race day dress with colour and fun.
Just remember to think about comfort, leave the heels at home, and you’ll be having an unforgettable day out in no time!
The smart casual dress code is one of the most challenging and difficult to tackle. Smart casual dress codes are infuriating and confusing because they can mean different things to different people. Some people feel that it’s OK to wear jeans and sneakers when the dress code says smart casual, whilst others would prefer to wear a smart casual dress, or even a low-key suit paired with a crisp white tee.
It is likely that you will find the smart casual dress code for a wide range of different occasions including, but not limited to, dinner parties, work functions, drinks, dates, and even low-key weddings.
The business casual dress code is very similar to the smart casual dress code: it is an ambiguous dress code that straddles two distinctly different genres. Business wear tends to be formal and conservative in nature whilst casual wear is brighter and freer. Marrying the two can be tricky.
The business casual dress code involves wearing your favourite casual wear but pairing it with elements of formal business wear. For me, that generally means wearing your favourite jeans but pairing them with a suit jacket. Business casual in Australia can even see men wearing shorts to the office. For women, business casual can cover an incredibly broad fashion spectrum: you could wear your favourite kaftan dress with a fitted blazer or pair your most comfortable jeans with a button-down shirt. The choice is almost limitless!
The key is to dress for the environment you work in, take your cues from the management team (if you wear what they are wearing then you can’t have interpreted the dress code incorrectly), and invest in a great suit jacket. You can throw it on over almost anything and instantly add a smart business feel to any outfit.
One place you’ll almost certainly want to wear something a little more formal than a business casual dress code is at a wedding. The dress code for a wedding can vary so widely it’s easy to see why people, and particularly women, struggle to decide on an outfit. But don’t worry, we have the solutions to all your questions!
From black tie weddings, to semi-formal weddings, to beach and resort weddings, the key is to choose a dress that makes you feel both pretty and comfortable, and to accessorise with coordinating bags, shoes, and embellished accessories.
One top tip to bare in mind is that, in our increasingly environmentally friendly times, single use outfits just aren’t fashionable any more. The cost to the planet is simply too high. Instead look for a dress that serves multiple functions that you could wear again and again.
Semi-formal is a popular dress code, particularly for parties. In real terms, wearing semi-formal attire translates to wearing something polished and fashion forward, such as an A-line dress that falls just below the knee or an embellished kaftan. If you prefer not to wear skirts and dresses, you could even opt for a well-fitting two piece suit, paired with decadent evening accessories such as velvet heels, gem-embellished clutch bags, and dramatic jewellery.
The most popular piece to wear for a semi-formal event is a dress, but there are so many possibilities and styles of dresses, that finding the right one can still feel difficult. Don’t think that a semi-formal dress code means that you have to wear something fitted if that doesn’t suit your style: semi-formal wear can be loose and skim over your curves instead. Why not look for a kaftan dress in dark colours and with an embellished neckline or extra sparkle to increase the formality of the piece.
Packing for a cruise is exciting, but like so many other fun occasions, it also poses dress code challenges. Most cruise liners have their own formal dress codes for what you can and can’t wear on a cruise to dinner on any given night. But outside of the stricter evening parameters, the buzzwords for what to wear on a cruise are classy but casual.
Pieces that are perfect for daytime cruising include: sundresses, shorts, kaftan dresses, capris or white jeans and your favourite pretty summer tops. Evening, however, is a whole different ball game. There are two main dress codes that are most common on any given cruise: casual dining and formal night. For formal night expect to see men wearing tuxedos and women dressed in their best. Why not let go and enjoy the spectacle? Dress up in your finery and take advantage of the opportunity to wear a floor length gown.
Many women mistakenly believe that a black tie dress code means that they have to wear a black dress. But whilst black dresses are undoubtedly popular at black tie events, they certainly aren’t obligatory! You’re free to wear any colour you wish, and you don’t have to shy away from pattern either.
Wondering whether you need a floor length gown? Traditionally black tie dresses are floor length, but if you don’t have a floor length gown (and don’t want to buy one or don’t feel that they suit you) then it is possible to wear a cocktail dress or even a kaftan dress for the black tie dress code. If you do go down this route though, your dress should be dark: black, navy blue or metallic shades would all work.
An invitation to a garden party is a wonderful excuse to don a floaty dress and sip midday cocktails in the sunshine. Garden parties are generally outdoor affairs, which means that the dress code for a garden party should reflect the weather, the environment, and the formality of the occasion.
Choose lightweight and breathable fabrics for reasons of both comfort and style. Think cotton, linen or 100% silk dresses and kaftans, whilst leaving synthetic fabrics like polyester and rayon at home. Allow your outfit to reflect your environment in dresses that feature blousy blooms in pastel colours. If you’re concerned that you don’t suit florals, or you tend to shy away from colour, then look for a print set against a black backdrop: not only are these more discreet, they also tend to be slimming too.
A casual dress code poses its own unique set of challenges, although it might seem like one of the easier dress codes on our list. After all, there’s a fine line between being casual and being scruffy, and it’s important to be on the right side of that tightrope!
Whether you’re looking for a casual outfit for a family get together, a day in a low-key office or even a casual party, there are key pieces that will form the basis of your casual wardrobe. A well-fitting pair of jeans, flat leather sandals or ballet pumps, a loose-fitting kaftan and lightweight cotton dresses are all great casual wardrobe essentials. Finally, don’t underestimate the power of good jewellery: It’s amazing how quickly a well-placed piece of jewellery can elevate an outfit, making you look instantly more formal.
Have you got a big night out planned to the ballet, theatre or opera? There is nothing more special than a night out to enjoy a big performance with your friends, family or loved ones, but what should you wear?
Most theatres don’t have an official dress code, but you should still avoid wearing anything too casual: Shorts, flip flops, swimwear, and anything with big slogans that might prove distracting should all be avoided. However surprisingly, and unlike many of the other dress codes on this list, you can wear jeans to the theatre. But you don’t have to! Whilst there’s no rule that says you have to wear a dress or heels to the theatre, why not enjoy the rare opportunity to dress up a little? Open your jewellery box and wear your favourite pieces. Enjoy the chance to wear that dress that you love.
As the name implies, the cocktail dress code was made for the cocktail party. But if you don’t like wearing short dresses, or dresses at all, then don’t worry: you can wear trousers, a pant suit, a maxi dress or even a kaftan and still be appropriately dressed for a cocktail party. Just don’t wear jeans! With modern dress codes being so fluid and informal, you’d be forgiven for thinking you can now wear your favourite denim almost anywhere. But whilst chic pants are suitable for a cocktail dress code, if you don’t want to wear a dress, jeans will never be OK. Save them for the daytime, and make the most of the opportunity to dress up instead!
Ultimately, It's all about enjoying yourself and having fun. Unless your blessed with the diary of a minor royal or a socialite then it’s likely that getting dressed up for a cocktail party will be a highlight in your social calendar. Embrace it and enjoy the ritual of doing your hair and make-up, and putting your outfit together. If you feel good then you’ll look great!
There's a few tips and tricks to help choose your perfect outfit for each dress code. A kaftan can often be the perfect choice for many dress codes and is an ideal way to balance comfort and style. When you're comfortable and confident in your clothes, you can spend more time enjoying yourself and less time worrying about your clothes!
One Size: The one size kaftan has an inner side seam with a circumference of 140 cm and comfortably fits Australian sizes 8 through to 18.
|Plus Size: The plus size kaftan has a circumference of 210 cm and will comfortably fit up to an Australian size 24.|
Short Kaftans: Both the one size and the plus size short kaftans are 82 cm in length from the shoulder to the base of the hem.
|Mid Length Kaftans: Both the one size and the plus size mid length kaftans are 105 cm in length from the shoulder to the base of the hem.|
|Long Kaftans: Both the one size and the plus size long kaftans are 125 cm in length from the shoulder to the base of the hem.|