What a feeling of dismay that overwhelms you when you receive a professional or semi-professional invitation and try to decipher the required dress code.
The recent emergence of start-ups and the increasing digitalization of professional life doesn’t help one bit, the only difference being that the invite is an e-invite rather than a paper one.
Which outfit is appropriate for what dress code? And that’s if the invitation even mentions it…
… Casual Attire
In this case, the safest idea is to draw from the Kennedy’s in Cape Cod style as much as you can: go for chic and relaxed.
… Smart Casual or Informal Attire (because, in reality, there’s nothing informal about this dress code but it’s just fun to make it even more confusing than it already is)
Smart Casual means suit and tie for men. When it comes to women, one can choose a pants or skirt suit or a strict dress (strict meaning not fun or summery), the very essence of that dress being the little black dress with a few touches of embroidery, jewels or fur. If the dress is simple, the accessories you choose will consolidate your style.
… Tuxedo or Black Tie
For men, surprisingly enough, this dress code involves you conforming to the basic tuxedo components, a tuxedo, a bow tie and patent leather shoes.
Women are slightly freer, given that they just have to wear an evening dress, be it long or short. The point here is just to look elegant.
… White Tie
Men will be glad to hear that this dress code entails wearing the whole tuxedo panoply: jacket, waistcoat, bow tie… the whole package.
In women’s case, a long dress is required, as well as stilettos, a clutch and possibly long gloves.
(That being said, I’ve already worn a little black dress with long gloves. And a long dress with gladiator sandals. I might be losing some of you here so I’ll get back to business).
If the invitation doesn’t mention any dress code, go for casual.
(Consider yourself lucky: the last invitation I got said “bucolic chic”. In September, which is totally ok, except that it was 5 degrees out. Lucky me).
Because simplicity is always key, I have to mention that dress codes do vary depending on the industry you work in.
A lawyer’s casual outfit is quite different from that of a woman working in a start-up and the latter has nothing to do with that of a woman working in haute-couture. Given that I navigate all three worlds at once, I actively strive to bridge the style gap by choosing outfits that make me feel chic and feminine, that allow me to feel serene and in harmony with my environment, be it a meeting or a cocktail, with a CEO or DJ.
(In a nutshell, I wear whatever I want, and I give no shoots if I’m overdressed or overly feminine or overly chic. The key to not giving two shoots is to be perfectly at ease in what you’re wearing: embrace it and forget yourself).