The top party dress codes, decoded
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Dress Expectations1 of 10
By Melissa Magsaysay
When summer arrives, so do party and wedding invitations with dress code requests that can be surprisingly tricky. What does "festive" attire mean exactly? How formal is "semi" formal? Lucky for you, we cracked the nine most common dress codes so you can relax and enjoy the party.
White Tie2 of 10
Not to be confused with the white party, "white tie" is the ultimate in dressing up. The occasion calls for elegant gowns punctuated by opera-length gloves and precious jewels.
SHOP NOW: Halston Heritage maxi evening gown, $486
Black Tie3 of 10
Go long. Floor-length gowns are the best fit for this occasion. Try something in a rich jewel tone—it's more interesting than black, but still just as fancy.
SHOP NOW: J.Crew dress, $365
Semi-Formal4 of 10
Just one notch below formal, ditch the fancy jewels and ball gowns for a classic cocktail-length dress.
SHOP NOW: French Connection dress, $168
Festive Attire5 of 10
The number-one rule here? Make it fun! Go for colorful fabrics and pieces adorned with some sort of embellishment.
SHOP NOW: Diane Von Furstenberg dress, $498
Cocktail Attire6 of 10
"Cocktail" may be one of the most common dress codes, but that doesn't mean your dress has to be. Go for something with an unexpected pop, like a peplum waistline and intricate lace detailing.
SHOP NOW: ModCloth dress, $26
Business Casual7 of 10
Business doesn't have to mean boring. Try a dark-colored knit dress with some fashion-forward piping for a look that's professional but still polished.
SHOP NOW: Tibi dress, $345
White Party8 of 10
A sure sign of summer's arrival: the ubiquitous all-white party made famous by the likes of P. Diddy and Kim Kardashian. Try something with a nice texture in order to break up a stark white ensemble. Finish the look with metallic accessories (yes, metallic is OK!), but stay away from any bright colors.
SHOP NOW: Topshop dress, $190
Resort Chic9 of 10
Skip the stilettos, but leave your flip-flops and cotton jersey at home. A printed dress accented with a jeweled collar is a perfect pick for a beachside bash. Pair it with simple brown or metallic flat sandals for that breezy, stylish island vibe.
SHOP NOW: Dorothy Perkins dress, $89
Smart Casual10 of 10
For a more casual yet classy affair—like a garden party or barbecue—think somewhere between business casual and casual-casual. We love this dainty floral-print sundress. Pair with stacked heel flats or wedges so you won't have to worry about your heels getting stuck in the grass.
SHOP NOW: Billie and Blossom dress, $57
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