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With nearly two years spent indoors, we know it’s not just us finding our mailboxes exploding with event invitations.

And, as people who prioritize entertaining above all else, we absolutely love it. But it also can’t be just us finding ourselves increasingly confounded with the proliferation of new dress codes out there gone are the days of black tie and cocktail, ushering in a new era of highly specific guidelines that end up leaving us more confused than when we started. If you’re finding yourself struggling to decipher dress codes these days, read on for our helpful guide.


Cocktail attire isn’t quite “casual,” but it’s certainly not black tie. It doesn’t require a full suit, but best practice is for men to wear a jacket with pants of their choice (no tie required) and for women to wear a dress on the shorter side or something more inventive, like a velvet suit or silk pants with a nice top.


In our opinion, festive attire is the most difficult dress code to decode. It falls somewhere between cocktail and black tie, and often has a qualifying adjective in front of it (i.e., “Mediterranean festive” or “springtime festive). Typically, this directive encourages guests to dress in a way that feels congruent with the surroundings without getting too fancy–and provides a bit more freedom than cocktail (you don’t have to wear a short dress, but you certainly can). Our interpretation of springtime festive, for example, might be a pastel floral dress whereas Mediterranean festive might mean a vibrant, ocean blue linen suit. The world is your oyster with this dress code–and because it allows for the most creative freedom, it’s our personal favorite.

Black Tie

In North America, if you’re invited to a very formal event, there’s a high likelihood the dress code calls for black tie. For women, this typically means a floor-sweeping gown (although, these days, many women opt for ankle length–and in certain cases when the dress feels fancy enough, midi). For men, it’s simpler: you wear a tuxedo and a black bowtie.

White Tie

Sitting one rung above black tie on the formality ladder, white tie is far rarer–but if you ever find yourself invited to a state dinner or extra-formal event where you see this dress-code on the invitation, stick to a gown if you’re a woman. For men, white tie means, logically enough, a white bowtie alongside tails.

Morning Dress

Though you’re not likely to see “morning dress” pop up on an American or Canadian invitation, if you find yourself attending a wedding across the pond or if you’ve ever watched a royal wedding on TV, you may have noticed the men dressing slightly differently than we do for weddings over here. Whereas black tie is the most common formal evening wear, “morning dress” is code for formal attire worn during the day. And because most UK weddings involve a Church ceremony while it’s still light out followed by a ‘wedding breakfast’, morning dress requires men to wear a morning coat (a style of coat which originated during the horseback-riding days of the nineteenth century), a vest (or waistcoat), and suit pants (or trousers). Typically, morning dress is only worn prior to 4:30 pm. For women, there aren’t specific requirements, but if we take a cue from the aforementioned royal weddings, a hat or fascinator alongside an ankle length dress, typically in a cheery pastel, never feels out of place.


We want to know: what’s your favorite dress code? Share your stories with us on social media @casadesuna.

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