Dress Codes, Decoded: What to Wear for Every Type of Event

It's time to take the guesswork out of the Dress Code Game.

Now you can focus on feeling your best at any and every event this year!

With every invite we receive in the mail, it seems like a new dress code is being made up and you’ll probably ask yourself, “what does this dress code even mean?!” That’s why we’re here to help you decode dress codes. It’s time to take the guesswork out of the dressing game so you can focus on feeling your best at any and every event this year.

Now before we dive in and explain what every dress code means!

Let’s go over a few do’s and don’ts to find the perfect outfit to fit any dress code.

  • DO: Research the venue. This can be a helpful guide in determining what to wear.
  • DO: Ask other attendees what they’re wearing.
  • DO: If you’re attending a wedding, find out what the bridesmaids colors are. You never want to look like you’re a part of the wedding party, unless you were asked to be of course.
  • DON’T: Underdress for the occasion. It’s always better to be overdressed. Plus, who doesn’t love standing out every once and a while?!
  • DON’T: Wear heels that you can’t be in for multiple hours. There’s nothing worse than having to sit out dancing because your feet can’t handle the heat!
  • DON’T: Wear white if you’re looking for wedding attire. Unless the invitation specifies that it’s an all-white outfit affair. In that case, you’ll want to shop our alternative bride section!

Now that you know the basic do's and Don'ts, let's get a little more specific! Continue reading to see the dresses and jumpsuits we would wear for each dress code you come across.

Formal Attire or Black-Tie Optional

The most common dress code.

This is the most common dress code. At the most general level, this means a dress code that is slightly less formal than black-tie. You can wear a floor-length gown, a dressy jumpsuit or a fancy cocktail dress. The real difference between Formal and Black-Tie is that it’s more appropriate to show off your ankles when an invitation calls for Formal attire.

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Woman posing wearing Navy Sara 2.0 Navy Sequin Lace Floor Length Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Navy Sara 2.0 Navy Sequin Lace Floor Length Dress from Connected Apparel
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Woman posing wearing Orchid Sara 2.0 Orchid Floor Length Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Orchid Sara 2.0 Orchid Floor Length Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular

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Woman posing wearing Mauve Grace Mauve Sequin Lace Formal Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Mauve Grace Mauve Sequin Lace Formal Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular

Available in: Regular, Plus

SHOP DRESS CODE: FORMAL ATTIRE

Black-Tie

Black-tie events are typically set in the evening.

When you see the words “Black-Tie” on an invitation, you should automatically assume the event is in the evening and that you’re expected to wear a formal floor length gown. The rule of thumb here is that your dress should not reveal your ankles. But, after doing some research on the venue, it may be appropriate to wear a cocktail dress for a black-tie event. You can also wear an elegant jumpsuit to a black tie wedding. Whatever option you choose, make sure to accessorize with sparkly, eye-catching jewelry.

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Woman posing wearing Navy Sara 2.0 Navy Sequin Lace Floor Length Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Navy Sara 2.0 Navy Sequin Lace Floor Length Dress from Connected Apparel
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Woman posing wearing Orchid Sara 2.0 Orchid Floor Length Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Orchid Sara 2.0 Orchid Floor Length Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular

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Woman posing wearing Mauve Grace Mauve Sequin Lace Formal Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Mauve Grace Mauve Sequin Lace Formal Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular

Available in: Plus

SHOP DRESS CODE: BLACK TIE

Cocktail Attire

The second most popular dress code choice.

We like to think of cocktail attire as being a balance between chic and comfortable; more formal than a day party but more casual than a formal evening event. Instead of a floor-length dress, opt for knee-length or midi dresses. But, if you want to wear a maxi dress or jumpsuit, don’t let us deter you! Just be mindful of how dressy it is.
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Woman posing wearing Mauve Sara Mauve Ruffle Jumpsuit from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Mauve Sara Mauve Ruffle Jumpsuit from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular

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Woman posing wearing Dusty rosewood Pauline Dusty Rosewood Cocktail Jacket Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Dusty rosewood Pauline Dusty Rosewood Cocktail Jacket Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular, Plus

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Woman posing wearing Mauve Meryl Mauve Sequin Lace Cocktail Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Mauve Meryl Mauve Sequin Lace Cocktail Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular, Plus

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Woman posing wearing Dusty Rosewood Brittany Dusty Rosewood Sequin Lace Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Dusty Rosewood Brittany Dusty Rosewood Sequin Lace Dress from Connected Apparel
SHOP DRESS CODE: COCKTAIL ATTIRE

Cocktail Formal

Think cocktails with a fancy up-do!

Now this dress code may seem like the hosts couldn’t decide on the party attire so they just made something up. But, we’re here to assure you that cocktail formal is a real dress code and you may find yourself in need of an outfit soon. The easiest way to describe this dress code is that you’re expected to dress up your cocktail dress. Think little black dress or jumpsuit with sparkly accessories or colorful, vibrant dress with an up-do.
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Woman posing wearing Mauve Sara Mauve Ruffle Jumpsuit from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Mauve Sara Mauve Ruffle Jumpsuit from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular

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Woman posing wearing Dusty rosewood Pauline Dusty Rosewood Cocktail Jacket Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Dusty rosewood Pauline Dusty Rosewood Cocktail Jacket Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular, Plus

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Woman posing wearing Mauve Meryl Mauve Sequin Lace Cocktail Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Mauve Meryl Mauve Sequin Lace Cocktail Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular, Plus

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Woman posing wearing Dusty Rosewood Brittany Dusty Rosewood Sequin Lace Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Dusty Rosewood Brittany Dusty Rosewood Sequin Lace Dress from Connected Apparel
SHOP DRESS CODE: COCKTAIL FORMAL

Semi-Formal

Not too formal, not too casual. Just right!

The best way to describe a semi-formal dress code is that it’s more formal than what you’d wear to the office, but slightly less formal than what you would wear to a cocktail party. Note the time of day for the event. If it’s in the evening, wear darker, more formal colors. If it’s a daytime event, wear light colors and fabrics.

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Woman posing wearing Mauve Sara Mauve Ruffle Jumpsuit from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Mauve Sara Mauve Ruffle Jumpsuit from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular

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Woman posing wearing Dusty rosewood Pauline Dusty Rosewood Cocktail Jacket Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Dusty rosewood Pauline Dusty Rosewood Cocktail Jacket Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular, Plus

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Woman posing wearing Mauve Meryl Mauve Sequin Lace Cocktail Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Mauve Meryl Mauve Sequin Lace Cocktail Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular, Plus

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Woman posing wearing Dusty Rosewood Brittany Dusty Rosewood Sequin Lace Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Dusty Rosewood Brittany Dusty Rosewood Sequin Lace Dress from Connected Apparel
SHOP DRESS CODE: SEMI-FORMAL/DRESSY CASUAL

Festive Attire

Glitter and sparkle the night away!

While this is a relatively new dress code, it’s most popular around the holidays. But no matter the time of year, festive attire gives guests the go-ahead to have fun and play with their look. Think cocktail attire or a party dress in bold colors. Whatever dress or jumpsuit you choose, pair your outfit with playful accessories and heels.

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Woman posing wearing Silver Gracie Two-Tone Silver Cocktail Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Silver Gracie Two-Tone Silver Cocktail Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular, Petite

Available in: Plus

Available in: Regular

Available in: Regular, Petite

SHOP DRESS CODE: FESTIVE ATTIRE

Casual Attire

Stylish and chic, yet laid back.

This means the event will be laid-back, especially when it comes to attire. If your wedding invite calls for casual attire, it likely means the wedding will be outdoors on the beach. Even though the dress code is casual, jeans, shorts and tank tops are nor appropriate unless specifically noted as acceptable. Opt for sundresses, light fabrics and comfortable silhouettes. This is also a great opportunity to wear a cropped jumpsuit.

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Woman posing wearing Navy Estelle Navy Work Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Navy Estelle Navy Work Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular

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Woman posing wearing Navy/Rose Tina Navy and Rose Floral Cowl Neck Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Navy/Rose Tina Navy and Rose Floral Cowl Neck Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular

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Woman posing wearing Navy/Lavender Stevie Navy and Lavender Floral Sheath Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Navy/Lavender Stevie Navy and Lavender Floral Sheath Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular, Petite, Plus

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Woman posing wearing Navy/Maize Patty Navy & Maize Floral Jacket Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Navy/Maize Patty Navy & Maize Floral Jacket Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular, Plus

SHOP DRESS CODE: CASUAL ATTIRE

Take on your next event feeling comfortable and confident!

We hope this dress code guide helped to take the stress out of getting dressed for your next event! Rest assured, you’ll arrive appropriately, comfortably and stylishly dressed for the celebration in Connected Apparel.

If you want to explore all that we have to offer, make sure to check out our Special Occasion section. And if you're looking for Mother of the Bride/Groom, Bridesmaid or Wedding Guest specific styles, you can visit our Wedding Shop!

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Woman posing wearing Navy Sara 2.0 Navy Sequin Lace Floor Length Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Navy Sara 2.0 Navy Sequin Lace Floor Length Dress from Connected Apparel
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Woman posing wearing Orchid Sara 2.0 Orchid Floor Length Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Orchid Sara 2.0 Orchid Floor Length Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular

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Woman posing wearing Mauve Grace Mauve Sequin Lace Formal Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Mauve Grace Mauve Sequin Lace Formal Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular

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Woman posing wearing Dusty rosewood Pauline Dusty Rosewood Cocktail Jacket Dress from Connected ApparelWoman posing wearing Dusty rosewood Pauline Dusty Rosewood Cocktail Jacket Dress from Connected Apparel

Available in: Regular, Plus

SHOP ALL SPECIAL OCCASION STYLES