If you’re stuck on what to wear, we’ve got you covered with our guide to dress codes – from black tie to business and more!

It’s party season, which means that invitations are coming at you left, right and centre. It’s an exciting time to be alive, until that age-old question pops into your mind: what do I wear? We’ve all been there. A huge closet, overflowing with clothes, but nothing is quite right. Then, of course, you have the dress code to worry about.

Today, hosts are more creative (and more demanding) when it comes to party attire. They want their party to be a hit, and you want to stand out in the crowd. But what does ‘elegant casual’, ‘festive black-tie optional’ and ‘come as you are’ even mean? 

Thankfully, we’ve partnered with Myer to help Australians decipher these dress codes as the festive and partying season is upon us – helping you make an entrance with an in-style, head-turning and, most importantly, on-point look. 

What to Wear to a White Tie Dress Code Event:

A white tie dress code is the fanciest of them all; so if you are lucky enough to be invited to such an event, get ready to pull out all the stops. Think red carpet attire this is your opportunity to show off your most extravagant look.

A white tie dress code means a full-length evening gown is an absolute must, but be sure to keep it tasteful and elegant. Certainly don’t hold back on having your princess moment if your heart does so desire.

Forever New Curve, Nova Curve Cape Maxi Dress Navy | Collection, Long Sleeve Ruffle Mini Dress

What to Wear to a Black Tie Dress Code Event:

A slight step down, when it comes to a black tie dress code, it is all about elegance. Opt for a gown that is tea- or floor-length and, of course, made from luxurious fabrics. Traditionally, black tie calls for a black outfit, however this has evolved over time.

Today, more colour is appearing at black tie events, however you also can’t go wrong with a darker, monochrome outfit. Consider deep reds, emerald, navy or, if you prefer colour, keep the print to a minimum. Pair your gown with bolder accessories, such as drop earrings, a statement necklace or even some standout heels.

Wayne Cooper, Lace Midi Dress Black | Sass & Bide, Endless Thoughts Tee Dress

What to Wear to a Black Tie Optional (or Formal) Dress Code Event:

If an invitation dress code reads ‘optional’ or ‘preferred’, it means that the host is stating their preferred dress code, however will allow for some flexibility. In terms of hemlines, tea- and floor-length is still preferred, but it is still optional – so you will likely see some more midi and knee-length dresses at these events. 

This dress code for a black tie optional event also offers some more room to play with colour. Opt for bright and bold accessories to pair with a monochromatic dress, or feel free to introduce sophisticated prints and textures. You can definitely have more fun with an optional black tie, but be sure to keep it elegant nonetheless.

What to Wear to a Cocktail Dress Code Event:

As we delve into cocktail dress codes, we open the door a little wider for individual style. Here, you can branch out with your colours, prints and textures while also playing with more experimental silhouettes. For example, a stylish two-piece or co-ord set, or a fun puffy sleeve moment.

In terms of length, a short dress or matching skirt-and-top set  is certainly on the cards providing it is no shorter than two inches above the knee (we still want to keep things classy here). An elegant midi is also perfect for a cocktail event. No matter your outfit, it must be completed with some stylish footwear and a statement clutch.

Review, Nightingale Dress Champagne | Tokito, Ruched Mesh Midi Dress Animal Print

What to Wear to a Festive Dress Code Event:

For festive attire, think vibrant colours, bold jewellery and sparkles! Seriously, don’t hold back on the bling with a festive dress code. This is a great opportunity to break out your statement costume jewellery and diamante encrusted heels. Pair these with a bright coloured cocktail dress or two-piece we’re talking along the lines of electric blues, blazing oranges and vivid magentas. 

If you opt for a fun patterned outfit, pair it with some bold coloured heels to bring out a highlight colour in your print. As long as you keep your look elegant, you can really experiment and have fun with a festive dress code.

Tokito, Puff Sleeve Midi Tea Dress Ruby Ditsy | Forever New Curve, Brydie Curve Cotton Smock Dress Red

What to Wear to a Business Dress Code Event:

When it comes to business dress codes, it’s all about taking your classic work-day look and giving it some extra pizazz it’s elevated work wear. We still want to keep neutral colours, toned-down prints and basic silhouettes, while adding and switching out certain elements to make your look a little more event-esque.

Elevating your workwear can be as simple as swapping out your flats for pumps, pairing your tailored trousers with a bold coloured blouse, or sprucing up your sheath dress with some statement jewellery. Of course your boss-lady pant-suit is perfect here. Think simple yet classy, and be sure to keep your hemlines at the knee and your necklines conservative. 

Basque, Twist Bodice Ribbed Jersey Dress Military Olive | Cue, Back Cut Out Trench Dress

What to Wear to a Smart Casual (or Dressy Casual) Dress Code Event:

Ladies, get excited, because smart casual means it’s time to whip out your go-to jeans and a nice top combo. Essentially, smart casual is all about items you can dress-up and dress-down. Think denim paired with costume jewellery, ornate shoes and sophisticated outerwear.

During the day, have fun with flowy florals, fun prints and bright colours. For example, your favourite summer dress can be elevated with some cute heeled sandals and gold hoops. 

In the evening, smart casual can be a bit more adventurous with a trendy jumpsuit, bold print bottoms or an edgy blazer and jeans combo. Of course, don’t forget a bold makeup look to really bring your outfit together. 

As for the more confusing dress-codes, such as casual chic or resort casual, the general rule of thumb is to put some extra effort into your everyday look. Better to look overdressed than not having put any effort in at all!

Miss Shop, Tie Back Tiered Mini Dress Malibu Splice | French Connection, Broderie Midi Dress Black

What to Wear to a ‘Come As You Are’ Dress Code Event:

When asked to come as you are, it essentially means casual. You’re free to wear what you would in your everyday life. It’s a chance to have some fun and show off your unique style. White trainers or Converse shoes are totally fine. Please note, this does not apply to gym gear save that for your daily errands and actual workouts.

What to Wear when there is No Dress Code?

When no dress code is detailed on the invitation, consider the kind of event it is. For example, weddings are almost always cocktail or formal, business attire is most appropriate for any kind of work event, and if it’s a backyard party, you’d be more than safe in smart casual or to come as you are. If you are feeling completely left in the dark, simply ask the host and they will happily point you in the right direction. 

No matter the dress code, make sure your outfit is something that you love and feel comfortable in. Whether you prefer patterns or bright colours, stick to your own personal style and feel confident in your outfit!

Feature image: Photographed by Look Studio. Image via Shutterstock.
Editor’s Note: Hunter and Bligh has partnered with Myer to highlight what to wear to a variety of dress codes this festive season.