Fashion, Life

Common Dress Codes and What They Actually Mean

Whether it’s a function, a casual coffee date or a job interview you’re off to, we have all questioned our dress attire. People fall in to one of two categories either the prepare days in advance type or  the frantically dump every single item of clothing you own on the floor half an hour before the event type. Deciphering dress codes can amplify this process ten fold, making living the house alone a challenge in itself. If only activewear was a dress code, now that I could abide by.

In a war against our wardrobes lets try and outline what is exactly meant by a few of the most popular forms of dress code.


A photo posted by Petra (@pepamack) on

Whoever invented this nightmare conundrum obviously didn’t understand that there is no perfect balance between casually dressed and dressed-up. Smart/casual is the most popular dress code that is often thrown around on Facebook event invites as well as for casual/part-time job interviews. You’ll find yourself confused and wishing there was no explicit dress code at all. The best advice for smart/casual is to think basic. Look at your wardrobe and pick out one item of clothing you feel most comfortable in. Is it a pair of jeans or a soft-washed buttoned shirt? Start with this item and work your outfit around that. For women, depending on what item of clothing you have picked, you can dress up a basic T-shirt with dainty drop earrings or a long chained pendant. Heeled boots go with everything so pair these with everything from cropped shorts to a silk midi dress. For the gentleman a leather jacket is a great staple that transcends casual street style to night-time sophistication all year round. If you’re more a suit attire kind of guy soften the look by wearing Converse or Nike High Tops with your suit pants.

Formal to Semi-Formal

A photo posted by @gqaustralia on

From graduations to work events the formal card is another dress code that often leaves us in a bit of a pickle. A good go-to for both women and men is the blazer. Whether it’s summer or in the cooler months the blazer should reflect the colours of the season.

For women, in summer for example, wear an elegant to-the-knee or midi dress with a white-cropped blazer and stilettos.    For men light tailored pants work really well with a camel blazer and bow-tie. Extra points for pocket squares and mastering colour combos. In the accessories department, girls a classic red lip never goes astray and boys, a watch should always accompany that wrist. No a G Shock just won’t cut it.


A photo posted by Eleanor Pendleton (@eleanorpendleton) on

There is a difference between corporate attire and a business dress code. The most vital advice for both males and females is the classic white-buttoned shirt. The white shirt screams sophistication plus it is easy to match with seasonal colours all year round. Make sure your appearance is neat and clean, no need for a structured suit or tight pencil skirts, think layers a denim jacket, bomber or preppy sweater should do the trick over your white shirt. Males and females should not bypass the winter coat in the cooler months as this is a statement piece very well fitting for the business dress code. The key for dressing for business is to keep the colour palette to tonal- neutrals and greys plus black and white. Beige if you’re feeling adventurous.

A photo posted by @gqaustralia on


A photo posted by TULIN COBAN (@tulincoban) on

This dress code is another murky one however you can never go wrong with the classic black and white colour scheme. Slightly less structured than formal, cocktail requires you to make an effort but not too much that you look like you’re ready to walk the red carpet. Think effortlessly on point.

For women a classic pantsuit is a standout option and goes well with high impact make-up; think bold smokey eye and dewy complexion. Always aim for I woke up like this, not hours of labour when it comes to makeup.

Men pull out the suede shoes and the dark suit and for a little extra head-turning material braces always go well over a white shirt peaking from under a dark blazer. The main note here is a full suit is not essential it’s all about the balance, suit pants then no jacket or vice versa, however collared shirt is a non-negotiable.


You either love them or hate them but the best way to dress for a theme is to think about the expectations of the host. What will the host be wearing and is the outfit you have in mind on par with that?

If the theme is centred around dress up like Disney for example a lot can be done with make-up.

Any woman can rock a short summery yellow dress with a soft up-do and a gold-inspired complexion and you have a gorgeous Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

For the men Jack Skellington from The Nightmare before Christmas is all based on the make-up. Think monochrome Halloween ghoul face with a comical twist and simple black/white attire and you’re all ready to go.

For the low maintenance or time poor amongst us op-shops hold a wonder of props that can accompany regular party attire with ease and their dirt cheap.

Dress codes make or break the first impression at a party or event and often decoding them becomes harder than actually putting the outfit together. Whatever you decide confidence is key, be proud in what you wear and remember dress codes are only a suggestion, if you can rock a three piece suit each and every day then you are slicker than I my friend but you do you.

Previous ArticleNext Article
When you look through my bag you’re guaranteed to find blank lined paper and an assortment of black pens. Because let’s be honest, not everything can be captured on your mobile. In love with food, fashion and the exhilaration of trying new things. Always be a unique soul willing to share your world with the rest of the universe.

Send this to a friend