One thing I notice when I sit down with my customers for their first consultation is that there seems to be a massive confusion over what certain dress codes mean. On invitations it will often say White Tie, Black Tie, Formal, Semi-formal, Lounge, Casual etc etc etc.

Now, if you are a man it generally means a tuxedo with white tie, tux with black tie, suit and tie, tie optional or sports jacket and good trousers. But… if you are a woman this code can be a mine field of decisions and questions when deciding on a the right outfit.

Jacqueline de Ribes in a headpiece that had belonged to Sarah Bernhardt. rarevintage.blogspot.com

Jacqueline de Ribes in a headpiece that had belonged to Sarah Bernhardt.

So I thought I would write a summery of what I believe the protocol is for what some might call the “DANGEROUS GAME OF WEDDING ATTIRE”!


Now just because the invite says “casual” it does not mean you have to go basic or omit glamour. A casual wedding is a fabulous excuse to break out an easy glam look, whether it be a fabulous Maxi or Caftan and sandals for a warm climate or beautiful tweeds, tartan and tailoring teamed with boots for a cooler climate ceremony. Smart neat, dark denim can also be stylish and sophisticated addition to these looks.


I get asked about this one quite a lot, as the popularity of this code seems to be on the rise. The easiest way to define “lounge” dressing is similar to smart race wear. So think smart dresses in plains and prints, snappy tailored suits and separates.


This is a category with which people are generally more familiar. It’s fun and fizz and lets you breakout the beading and crystals and have a little after five fun! This is where sexy spangles and fringe (which some girls love) come out to play. Or, if you are more reserved, a place to show off a stunning tuxedo or elegant lace dress and beautiful frock coat in stunning wool crepe, silk or sumptuous brocade.


Believe it or not this is the one category that causes the most stress. It’s hard to define exactly what is “formal”. Is cocktail attire still appropriate? Is a long gown “too much”? Now, I personally believe shorter dresser are perfectly acceptable for these types of events and looks amazing.
If you choose a long gown, a slinky close to the body or straight gown with slight sweep on the floor is lovely. 1950’s style full tea length dresses are fabulous for formal events as well!

Black Tie

This is where the fun really starts for me as a designer, as it allows a certain freedom of creativity and gives a great amount of options only limited by my client’s taste.
If you are a man this means TUXEDO!!! And for the girls, you get to get your glam on! Think long and think glamour, but don’t fret if you are not one for gowns. A stunning, elegant evening tuxedo in silk and wool crepe is a fabulous alternative to the traditional gown but is in no way less elegant.

White Tie

We come to the final and grandest of all them all, WHITE TIE. It’s not common to come across this code these days, but it is still relevant and heaps of fun if you ever get to attend a white tie event!
White tie is the grandest of the grand. It’s the event of the season. It’s an all out, full blown, EXTRAVANGAZA!!! That means ball gowns, fishtail hems in sweeping silks, and lave and beads galore. It’s what you see walking the stairs at MET Ball in New York in may each year.

In Closing, do not be afraid to let your more glamourous side shine through in any of these settings. Theses days we have so few excuses to get frocked up and and have a party, so why not use every occasion to your advantage? This is merely a guide to hopefully clear some of the fog that surrounds these titles. The most important thing is that you dress to suit your body, and above all, wear what makes you feel fabulous, no matter what anyone else thinks!

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