Decoding Dress Codes

Call me strange, I love dress codes.  Dress code ensures I will not be over or under-dressed for events – dress codes make life easier – dress codes are there for a reason.  Not adhering to it is similar to disrespecting the host or organizer; which is the last thing you want to do because it might also mean it is the last time you are invited to something.

In many job training programs like those of a flight attendant or high-end retail personals, not sticking to dress codes can result in penalty points.  That is how important paying close attention to a dress code is.

A couple of months ago, I was invited to be a part of a huge international event in China – an event encompassing slightly more than a week.  Few weeks before departure, all invitees received programs with dress codes noted for each sub-event.  I remember feeling a sense of relief; knowing I will nail this.  After all, looking and feeling good, upkeeping of image and dress codes are my areas of study and profession.

In preparation, I had one my dresses designed and made, got a few more from reputable boutiques, shopped for shoes, makeup and accessories.  In short, I was all ready for this amazing week of my life.

When the departure day came, off I went on a jet plane.   My three huge suitcases filled; I was feeling an air of explosive excitement, thinking, “Well, I am indeed ‘armed’ and prepared.” Little did I know, I was going to be flabbergasted, shocked and open-mouthed astonished the next ten days.

I am not even exaggerating when I say I had witnessed few delegates donning their gala bests one of the nights when the program called for casual alfresco dining – and another evening when few came in cocktail dresses when it was clearly stated Denim Night – enough said!

To cut long story short, the ten days of experience makes me really want to write home and reiterate some more, what each dress code really entail.

Here are the most popular dress codes Asia has seen over the years.

Casual for Women

  1. Summer dresses
  2. Skirts – long or short
  3. Nice jeans or khakis
  4. Shorts (if occasion allows it)
  5. T-shirts (plain with no slogans), polo shirt, turtleneck
  6. Blouses (casual button-down)

Casual for Men

  1. Nice jeans or khakis
  2. Bermudas or cargo shorts (if occasion allows it)
  3. T-shirts (plain with no slogans), polo shirt, turtleneck
  4. Shirt (casual button down), sweater
  5. Loafers, sneakers (can be worn with or without socks)

Dressy Casual for Women

  1. Dresses
  2. Skirts
  3. Dressy tops
  4. Dressy pants
  5. Nice jeans

Dressy Casual for Men

  1. Blazer
  2. Slacks
  3. Dress shirt, casual button-down shirt, open-collar or polo shirt
  4. Tie (optional)

Business Casual for Women

  1. Skirts
  2. Khakis, pants
  3. Open-collar shirt,
  4. Knitted shirt or sweater
  5. Dresses

Business Casual for Men

  1. Dress shirt, casual button-down shirt, open-collar or polo shirt
  2. Blazer
  3. Slacks or khakis
  4. Tie (optional)
  5. Loafers or loafer-style shoes with socks

Semi Formal for Women

  1. Short afternoon or cocktail dress
  2. Little black dress
  3. Long dressy skirt and top
  4. Dressy separates

Semi Formal for Men

  1. Dark, business suit
  2. Matching vest (optional)
  3. Dress shirt
  4. Tie
  5. Leather dress shoes and dark dress socks

Business Formal for Women

  1. Suit
  2. Business-style dresses
  3. Dress with a jacket
  4. Heels (should not exceed 3 inches)

Business Formal for Men

  1. Dark business suit
  2. Matching vest (optional)
  3. Dress shirt
  4. Conservative tie
  5. Leather dress shoes and dark dress socks

Festive Attire, dress codes usually for holiday seasons for Women

  1. Cocktail dress
  2. Long dressy skirt and top
  3. Dressy pants outfit or separates
  4. Little black dress
  5. Feature holiday / theme colors

Festive Attire for Men

  1. Blazer in color of choice
  2. Slacks
  3. Open-collar shirt or dress shirt
  4. Festive tie
  5. Feature holiday / theme colours

Black Tie for Women

  1. Floor length formal evening gown
  2. Dressy cocktail dress
  3. Little black dress

Black Tie for Men

  1. Black tuxedo jacket and matching trousers
  2. Formal piqué or pleated front white shirt
  3. Shirt studs and cufflinks
  4. Black bow tie (silk, satin, twill)
  5. Black cummerbund or vest
  6. Black tie
  7. Dressy braces to ensure a good fit (optional)
  8. Black patent shoes and black dress socks

Creative Black Tie for Women

  1. Floor length formal evening gown
  2. Dressy cocktail dress
  3. Little black dress
  4. Fun or unique accessories

Creative Black Tie for Men

  1. Tuxedo combined with trendy or whimsical or fancy items, such as a black shirt or a matching colored / patterned bow tie and cummerbund

White Tie for Women

  1. Floor length formal evening gown
  2. Long gloves (optional)

White Tie for Men

  1. Black dress coat (tailcoat),
  2. Matching trousers with one or two stripes of satin or braids
  3. White piqué wing-collared shirt with stiff front
  4. Braces, to ensure a good fit
  5. Shirt studs and cufflinks
  6. White vest
  7. White bow tie
  8. White or gray gloves
  9. Black patent shoes and black dress socks

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