By Misty Kaiser

On the whole, society has taken dress code down a notch. Or a few notches, upon second thought. Events are just more relaxed than they used to be. While that seems like a good thing on the surface, it can lead to some deep seated confusion and pre-party stress. Men have it pretty easy. It’s most often a matter of tie or no tie and no one notices if they wear the same suit to two parties in a row. But ladies, how many times have you made a wild guess based on a given dress code and over or under shot? Both are equally horrifying. Given the disparity of dress I’ve seen within the same party, it might be time to clear some things up.

WHITE TIE
Men: Tuxedo with tails, and collared shirt, vest, cufflinks, bow tie and gloves, all in white. Shoes should be black patent.
Women: Floor length evening gown. When going strapless, evening gloves should be worn.

BLACK TIE
Men: Black tuxedo with a white shirt, black cufflinks, bow tie, and cummerbund or vest. Shoes should be black patent.
Women: Floor length evening gown. Shorter lengths are acceptable if very dressy; velvet, satin, beads or sequins are good choices. And the dressiest little black dress is always appropriate.

*CREATIVE BLACK TIE: Same as above with fun accessories.

*BLACK TIE OPTIONAL: Same as above, men have the option of wearing a suit and women, the option of dressy separates.

FORMAL
Men: Dark suit, dress shirt and tie or dinner jacket and nice slacks. Leather dress shoes.
Women: Dressy floor length or shorter dresses. Perfect for the standard little black dress.

BUSINESS FORMAL: Same for men. For women; business-style dress with a jacket, stockings and heels.

SEMI-FORMAL
Men: Dark suit (lighter colors are acceptable, though not preferred), dress shirt and tie or dinner jacket and nice slacks. Leather dress shoes.
Women: Shorter dresses, little black dress, dressy separates

COCKTAIL
Men: Dark suit with a dress shir t and tie. Jacket and tie can be optional, as long as the shir t is dressy. Leather dress shoes.
Women: Shorter (at or above the knee) dresses, typically black, conservative colors are also acceptable. Don’t be afraid to add a little sparkle.

BUSINESS CASUAL
Men: Sport coat or blazer with dress or button down shirt, and coordinating slacks. Khakis and polo shirts are also acceptable. Tie is optional. Loafers or dress shoes.
Women: Skirts or nicer pants with button down or knit shirt, sweater, or open collar shirt.

As always, consulting a host or hostess when possible is a safe option, but these basic guidelines should help those of us who need a few rules to follow.