By guest blogger Joanne Blake – Have you ever received an invitation where a dress code is specified but you were unsure what was expected?  You know how it feels to show up to an event when you are underdressed.  Being overdressed can be just as awkward.  When you know your image is on target you can then relax, even forget about it, have fun and be yourself. Below are some tips to take the guess work out of looking your best:


For men:
This means the tuxedo (no tails). The most attractive and classy look for men is the classic black tuxedo with black tie, white dress shirt, cufflinks & studs (to replace buttons).

Top it off with black silk/fine socks (long enough to hide your shins), black shiny/patent leather shoes and a vest or cummerbund – the waist wrap (remember the folds face up to catch the crumbs – that’s why it’s nicknamed a crumb-catcher)

For women:

Black tie means glitter and glitz, evening/long dresses usually strappy or strapless with sheer hosiery and rich strappy, even Metallic sandals/pumps.

Style for Success Tip:

Men can go for other tux colors but they aren’t as classic for black tie and so if you’re buying one, you will get much longer wear and better value with a classic black tux. If renting, you can go for a more fashion forward look.

FORMAL (sometimes called – Black Tie Optional, most cruise ship formal evenings are at this level)

For men:
This means wear a tux but a dark suit can also work. If wearing a dark suit, a white shirt and dark tie work best. Dark dress socks and well shined, dark dress shoes.

For women:

Long dress or a cocktail length dress (somewhere around the knee) is also an option. Again rich strappy shoes or satin. Accessories/jewelry with glitter and shine.

SEMI-FORMAL (aka – also known as – Cocktail or Holiday Attire, more formal Christmas party or wedding)

For men:
Good quality dark suit, white shirt, dark tie with dark socks and black shoes
(lighter colored suit, brighter colored shirt and tie will work for a day time event)
For women:
Cocktail dress or dressy pant suit is an option
Sheer hosiery, dressy pumps

INFORMAL (aka – Business Attire)

For men:
This means standard business wear. Could be a suit but more likely dress pants and a sports jacket with or without a tie, colored shirt or fine gauge knit sweater/polo shirt.

For women:
A dress, pantsuit or a skirt with or without a jacket.
Add some bright accents/accessories.


For men:
A jacket is not essential, however have one on hand in case of an unexpected meeting. Slacks or khakis, colorful shirt/fine gauge knit top and tie is optional.

For women:
Colorful sporty looks. Novelty jacket or smart sweaters with skirt or pants.

More Style for Success Tips
Special occasions are just that – special occasions.
To look a little classier and feel more confident, try to dress at the same level as the top 25% of people attending the event.

If the invitation doesn’t indicate a clothing/dress code, it’s a good idea to call the event planner or someone who’s attended before, to check what’s expected.  When in doubt dress a little more formal.


About guest blogger Joanne Blake

Building Confidence ~ Inspiring Success

Joanne Blake is an internationally known speaker, trainer, author and image and etiquette expert.  She is a Certified Image Professional, one of only 150 image consultants worldwide who hold this designation. She and her company, Style for Success, work with organizations across the country providing valuable tools to build credibility and stronger business relationships.