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Editor’s Culture Corner 

Editor’s Culture Corner 

What to Where: Breaking Down Event Dress Codes for Every Occasion 

By Laureen Young 

Spring and summer weddings, galas and banquets, oh my. Event season is upon us. Here at HOME, our parent company, Costello Communications and Marketing, is elbow-deep in preparations for one of our own favorites, the 2024 FIERCE Awards.  

Along with the invitations, though, comes that age-old nagging question: “What the heck am I supposed to wear?” So, to ease the outfit anxiety and bring back the dress-up excitement, let us unfold the mystery behind all the many types of dress codes. Read on for expectations and examples of each so you can enter this event season looking great and feeling confident. 

White Tie 

The most formal of all the dress codes, reserved for elegant events like state dinners and royal banquets. For those lucky enough to receive this unicorn invitation, this is your opportunity to go full “Mr. Peanut.” 

Men: Tuxedo with tails, white piqué button-down shirt, white vest, bowtie and cummerbund. White-tie trousers often include a satin or grosgrain stripe along the outer seams. 

Women: Floor-length ball gown. Accessorize with glittering jewels and elbow-length white silk gloves. 

Black Tie 

Strictly for evening events, this dress code is often seen listed for galas and formal weddings after 6 p.m. For most of us, this is as swanky as it gets. Enjoy your red-carpet moment. 

Men: A tuxedo (not a black suit) with a black bowtie and cufflinks. 

Women: A formal floor-length gown in evening-appropriate fabrics like velvet, silk or satin. Carry a clutch. 

Formal/ Black Tie Optional 

These two apply an added measure of flexibility to a black-tie dress code. The venue and season of this event will play a bigger role in attire, so be mindful of color palates and the overall vibe of the affair.  

Men: This is where we see the shift from tuxes to dark suits. Still, stick with a white shirt, a tie and dress shoes.  

Women: Ladies are in a gown and heels (no wedges or sandals). A floor-length dress with a leg slit is an excellent choice here. The bold can opt for a fancy jumpsuit. 

See Also


These dress codes are also synonymous. Of the event dress codes, the semiformal and cocktail offer the most latitude.  

Men: A suit or sport coat, but ties are optional. Pair with leather dress shoes or dressy loafers. 

Women: Colors, patterns and shorter dresses are welcome here, but opt for darker colors for evening events. You can never go wrong with an LBD. Lace, knee-length sheaths and silky, midi-length slip dresses are other great examples. 

Trending Dress Codes 

  • Creative Black Tie: Just like the namesake, with a bit of added flair. Velvet suits or textured vests for men and sequin gowns or bold pops of color for women. 
  • Resort Casual: Not fancy, but not beachwear. Polo shirts, linen pants, sundresses and sandals. 
  • Smart Casual: Trendy, yet professional. Sweaters, blazers, chinos, dark denim– even clean, stylish sneakers.  

Laureen Young is the editorial director of Guide to Greater Gainesville, Guide to Greater Tampa Bay and HOME: Living in Greater Gainesville magazines. The Editor’s Culture Corner is a monthly column where she shares a variety of arts and culture-related topics.    

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