Dressed to Dine – The Corporate Event Dress Code

Sending out invitations to your event? Don’t forget to state the dress code for your event. Never take this small detail lightly as it’s a courtesy to allow your guests to dress accordingly while setting the expectation for your event.

As a host and organiser, check first with the venue or restaurant if they have any dress code policy before imposing one of your own. You want your guests to feel at ease  at your event and never awkward or uncomfortable at the thought that they have under or overdressed.  

With a slew of dress codes and variations, it can be confusing what to wear for which occasion. Here is our guide to keeping it simple with the 6 most common dress codes to consider when planning a corporate event:

WHITE TIE

When to wear: While not commonly used in today’s context, “White Tie” is the most formal of all (even more than black tie) and also known as “full evening dress”. An invitation with such a dress code signifies the height of formality and an event of the highest importance. Events might include the presence of dignitaries, royals or nobles of  high society- very posh indeed. Don’t take this dress code lightly and follow the rules.

Women: A floor-length gown is a must. The ladies at fashion bible Vogue suggest a dress with plenty of body and shape that flatters you, looks good and makes you feel good. 

Men: The style gurus at GQ insists on a white bowtie, starched white shirt and an evening tailcoat worn unbuttoned with peak lapels. You will also need a short white waistcoat and a pleated or flat front black pant with two lines of braid down the sides. For shoes, finish off with a black patent leather shoe with black laces. The cummerbund is optional. 

BLACK TIE

When to wear:Used at formal banquets and galas, this is the dress code for important events like milestone birthday parties, formal diplomatic events, grand weddings or glitzy awards ceremonies.  The mood of the event is elegant, formal and exclusive. The “Black Tie Optional” attire is slightly less formal, and the main variation is that tuxedos are optional.

Women: Long floor-length dress or gown in an evening-appropriate fabric like velvet, chiffon, silk or lace.  A formal  cocktail dress may be acceptable depending on the venue of the event. 

Men: Opt for a dark suit or a tuxedo without tails. Pair it with a white shirt and a tie, or a black bow tie (never white, that’s reserved exclusively for white tie) with or without a vest and cummerbund. 

SEMI-FORMAL

When to wear it:  Sitting just under Black Tie, semi-formal events call for a mixture of sophisticated dressing in a more relaxed style. Usually events can be applied for business dinners, banquets or evening events. 

Women: A smart evening dress (long or short) or dressy pantsuit works on this occasion. Alternatively look at dressy separates and pair them with a nice set of heels.   

Men:Men should wear darker coloured suits and a tie. Lighter suits paired with a more conservative shirt and tie combo are acceptable for daytime semi-formal occasions. 

COCKTAIL

When to wear: As the name suggests, this dress code came into popularity when the fashionable and wealthier set began enjoying pre-dinner drinks and canapes in the hours between day and night. A semi-formal look that bridges the gap between casual day wear and formal evening attire. Now, it’s applied to cocktail parties, weddings, birthdays and celebrations- any event that calls for a bit of fun and dressing up.

Men:Don a suit or a blazer/trousers combo.  Blazers can be light coloured,  patterned or print  (you are at liberty to have a bit of fun). A tie is an optional accessory. Consider adding personal touches like a pocket square and cufflinks.  

Women:Wear knee-length skirts or dress pants with a nice sweater or blouse, or go for the classic “little black cocktail dress.”

BUSINESS CASUAL

When to wear it: Probably one of the most confusing and varied dress codes, it mixes “business” (professional) with “casual” (which is usually the exact opposite). A popular dress code for modern businesses at a time when we are all trying to be less stiff and more relaxed at the workplace. Depending on the culture, geography and even industry of the work, the dress code has many variations as the people at The New York Times reports.  

Men: Usually, dress pants or khakis are accepted paired with a plain or checkered collared shirt and belt. Jackets and ties are usually never part of the uniform but remember, no jeans or sneakers are allowed. 

Women: Choose a skirt or dress with a hem past the knee or  tailored dress pants with a button-down or blouse. Closed-toed shoes are a must, though both heels and flats are acceptable. 

“Showing an appreciation for time and place are reflected first in your appearance; it’s often what leaves a lasting impression, as well. Personal grooming and style are your calling card wherever you go”.

Kate Spade

As a guest at any event, always dress in a manner that reflects well on you.  Choose clothes that make you feel good about yourself.

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