a coded dress code

I have had my share of dress code dilemmas lately. Although I always err on the side of formality, I don't want to look completely ridiculous when I am at a social gathering.

My first dilemma was a few weekends ago when I was invited to a beach side barbecue for a rehearsal dinner. Normally, when I hear "rehearsal dinner," I think a dress or skirt and fancy top and heels. But, in this case, the beach side barbecue threw me off. I had some help from a few coworkers who convinced me that white pants with heels would work. I paired it with a colorful tunic that had silver sequins around the neckline, cuffs, and bottom. My outfit ended up being casual enough but the sequins jazzed it up a bit. And it worked out well.

The next issue was that I was invited to a VIP party for a charity event this past weekend. I knew it would be at someone's house and would have drinks and heavy hor d'oeuvres so I thought "cocktail party." But the invitation said "casual elegance." I don't know about you but I don't think those two things really go together. And how is this different from maybe using cocktail attire or business casual? So I just made up something. I wore a cream-colored silk button-down blouse with a black pencil skirt and nude pumps. It was classy but a little unexpected in a sea of dresses. And it worked.

Now I have another dilemma. Most likely, the Hubs and I will be going to a masquerade ball towards the end of October. The dress code is actually a standard one - black tie optional. But what does that mean for me? Should I wear a floor length gown or a cocktail dress? I don't go to balls very often so I definitely want to go super fancy either way. But Salisbury isn't New York or LA so I may go with something that is knee length. And, of course, I will need to find a fun mask.

Have you ever encountered weird dress codes? What did you end up wearing? What would you wear to black tie optional function? What do you think is best for the guy to wear?

{image via my pinterest}


  1. My least favorite thing in the world is when someone says "business casual". I mean, come on! That means something different to every office. I cannot begin to think what you actually mean by that. I'd go knee length on the dress!

  2. if the black tie is optional, as opposed to definite, i would go with a fancier cocktail length dress. the occasions where a full length dress are appropriate are few and far between. unless, of course, you want to and are able to rock that. another option would be a full length skirt and a top, that perhaps lightens the spirit.... (i have this long black skirt, formal, and it could be paired with various tops to make it seem a bit more whimsy and fun)


  3. ooo ! formal wear is my favorite topic.

    i have worn both floor length and cocktail length dresses to BTO events. i think what makes this tricky is not the dress code -- BTO is pretty standard -- but like you said, the location.

    i have been to tons (and i mean TONS) of these types of events. here are some questions you should ask yourself :

    1) find out where this event is being held. is it at a party hall ? a mansion ? a museum ? a hotel ballroom ? a more formal, fancy location (someone's waterfront mansion with valet parking, for instance) merits something floor length. a party hall, eh, not so much.

    2) who are the hosts and how much to do you want to impress them ? is it your boss ? your husband's boss ? a friend ? a neighbor ? is it a charity event ? if it's either of the first two, i would say to dress more formally. if it's a charity event, and you are very involved with the organization, again, dress more formally. if you are just going to be a nameless face in the crowd, you don't need to make as much of an effort.

    3) do you have to pay to go to this event ? obviously, if the answer is yes, your attire should mirror the cost of the event.

    since the dress code is black tie OPTIONAL, stay away from full-skirted GOWNS. if you go with something floor-length, it should be fitted, sophisticated, and sexy. like this : http://www.neimanmarcus.com/store/catalog/prod.jhtml?itemId=prod126890137&parentId=cat35350732&masterId=cat000127&index=87&cmCat=cat000000cat000001cat17740747cat000127cat35350732&isEditorial=false

    if you go with something shorter, i would stick with black and clean lines, like this : http://www.shopzoeonline.com/shop/cart.php?target=product&product_id=22767&category_id=520

    unfortunately, i have to disagree with my sister and advise against a long skirt. it's always better to be the most fabulous person in the room than the woman who under-dressed because she didn't know any better or didn't plan ahead.

  4. sorry for the annoyingly long links. i don't know how to make them short and sweet.


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