The best part of going out – in my humble-ish opinion – is getting dressed. A quintessential moment, that, unsurprisingly can also bring a LOT of stress. Especially when the invite denotes a specific type of evening wear.


The hardest part for me, so I assume all of us, is always discerning the difference between what’s appropriate under each heading. So. Let us discuss, shall we?



difference between black tie and cocktail

The Difference Between Black Tie and Cocktail, & Casual Attire

If an invite says black tie…


For men, this is clear. Tux all the way baby. For my ladies, this is always a bit more complicated, for we can technically wear anything from a long dress to dressy separates to formal cocktail attire. But the BEST way I’ve figured out how to decide is to ask yourself: what is the host going to wear? And where are you going? Those two things will guide you in the right direction. Still confused? Go floor length – a long gown should do the trick.


If an invite says black tie optional… 


This one is a bit of a doozy. Again, men have the option of wearing a tux or a dark suit, whereas women are more open to wearing anything from a long dress to a cocktail number. AKA the pressure is off a bit, with more flexibility in the decision making process. You’re not expected to make a statement, but you can still make an effort. 


If an invite says cocktail attire…


Again, men – you don’t get much creative power here, but for women this means a fun, shorter dress that is essentially “party-reader.” Bold colors, statement jewelry, feminine pieces – the possibilities are endless.


If an invite says to look festive…  


Then it means you’re probably going to a party centric to a holiday or theme. Festive attire is similar to cocktail attire, but think more so about the colors you wear and the accessories you pair it with. And just make sure one element of your outfit falls into the theme.


If an invite says business formal…


You’re probably going to a daytime, or semi-formal event. For guys, this can be a suit and tie – and can be on the lighter side. For women, maybe a pantsuit, or anything that feels business appropriate that can also be a little dressed up.


If an invite says business casual…


Then pants and a blazer, a skirt and blouse or trousers and a fitted tee – anything works as long as it’s not jeans and sneakers. All my guys out there can wear slacks, chinos and any collared shirts.


And last but not least, if an invite says casual…


All Hail Sweatpants! Kidding – jeans! Anything goes in this case and you’ll most likely be uncomfortable if too dressy. I have always said it’s better to be overdressed than under dressed, but I feel like we all know what casual looks like – you do you on this one. (Just don’t actually wear sweatpants.)


Tadashi Shoji dress



EVENING GOWN PICTURED: Tadashi Shoji – Neptune Metallic Embroidered Gown – aka the dress of my dreams. (It’s expensive. BUT ON SALE for $557 – worth it!!!)



It’s no secret that I am Shopbop’s biggest fan, and I personally L O V E their curation of gowns. Check out their gorgeous selection of formal dresses – in all price ranges – HERE.


I spy with my little eye a whole new batch of stunning and fun cocktail dresses… perfect for holiday parties…. head HERE to take a peep!

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