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How To Decode Party Dress Codes And Not Look Like Everyone Else

What the heck is smart casual, really? Dress codes are fun if you know what to wear, a complete disaster if you don't. If you're the latter, let us intervene.

We’re just a few days shy of Christmas and a little over a week from New Year’s Eve. Because you’re super cool, we’ll bet that you have a plethora of parties on your calendar over the next couple of days, a majority that probably come with dress codes. Dress codes can be fun, but they can also be terrifying when you have no clue what to wear or worse, have nothing to wear. If that’s you, or if you’re just looking for more options, we’ve decoded five of the most common dress codes at this time of the year, just for you. What’s the weirdest dress code on your party list this year?



If you’ve received this in your invitation, this would probably be the most formal event on your December – aside from white-tie. It’s customary to wear a floor-length gown, preferably in darker colours. In this day and age where everything seem seems to go as long as you – as the millennials say – own it, cocktail dresses are also acceptable as long as they come in dark and rich colours (think black or jewel tones) to avoid looking too casual. Simple dresses with a slight old-world flair always seem to work, as do tasteful embroidery and those that give good back. We like a tailored black suit with a flared leg, too. If you’re going for black, try those that reveal pockets of skin.




We’re not huge fans of the cocktail dress. You think cocktail dress and you think the sad end of the bridesmaid dress spectrum. When your invite reads “cocktail” – factoid: it’s the most common dress code for fashion parties and events – keeping a reasonable level of formal in your look is good enough. Keep it classy in a silk slip dress, or a tailored pantsuit (nothing underneath, if you dare) or jumpsuit, or consider coats as dresses even. Pick good tailoring and make sure all your lines are pressed out. If you’re going for black, think about playing around with texture.




If we had it all way, EVERY party dress code at this time of the year would read festive, because otherwise, WHAT WOULD BE THE POINT? Festive is similar to cocktail, but with a holiday touch. Think about colours like silver, red, green, frosty white and gold and never, EVER leave the shine at home. Don’t just think of shiny dresses – think about shiny separates, then pair them with clean cut pieces like a white shirt, black blazer or cigarette jeans. If you don’t like sequins, think about metallics, velvet and patent.



Attending your friend’s party at his or her house? Even though almost anything goes for a casual dress code, your friend probably wasn’t referring to sweatpants and a hoodie. Keep the jeans, but up the ante with a statement shirt or knit.




Probably the most common, but also the most confusing, smart casual can mean a myriad of things: it’s a step above casual, but less formal than black tie. Like cocktail, keep quality fabrics and tailoring in mind, and if you’re not sure, leave the mini hems as well. Ditch flats for a pair of heels, though we’d opt for thick heeled boot or kitten mules for comfort. If you feel your look needs to be glammed up, go for statement accessories – like earrings that are basically baubles for the face.



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