Decoding the dress code

So, OK, before it’s my speshal day, I am about to hoof it up to Geraldton for someone else’s.

We’ll call it The Tall Wedding.

They’re both tall.

I thought that I would just throw something on that I already have in the PAX, but you see, I found myself on ASOS and before you could say ‘payday isn’t until next week’, a navy tulip-skirted number was already being dispatched from the UK.

Looking back, I’ve always tried really hard at weddings, but never truly got it completely right.

Mainly because my favourite threads are usually black.  And while I will wear graphics and colours casually, I’ve never had a moment at a wedding where I have thought, ‘yesiree bob, I totally nailed that’.

But now that I’ve said that I immediately want to take it back. Only one wedding did I really feel great it what I was wearing – a dark chocolate brown cocktail dress (my very first online purchase) with silver accessories and VERY blonde hair. I can’t remember why I got it right. But it was the only time.

I’ve since not worn it to any other wedding or formal – for two reasons. One, the shoes that went with it are totally broken and I can’t be bothered replacing them, and two, all the weddings I’ve been to since then haven’t been as formal.

I just thought of a third reason. It still needs a dryclean.  Yes. Two years later. I know, I disgust me too.

Dress codes are funny things.

I remember first time I received a professional placement in the newsroom at the ABC (read: unpaid).  I received a dress code about a week prior citing ‘corporate conservative’. I sat in my car in the Murdoch University green carpark, looking up, puzzled and saying to myself, ‘I think that means black’.

Lets just say that just because something is black doesn’t mean it screams Hillary Clinton.

However, if the dress code had said ‘more Portmans than Sportsgirl’, I would have sauntered into Aunty a little differently to how I did. No amount of skipping up Fielder Street singing ‘I Have Confidence’ in my best Julie Andrews prepared me for my looking like an awkward gothic Myer shopgirl.

Thank goodness I now work in a place where I can wear the weird a bit more freely. Only yesterday was I wearing black loose jodphurs, boots, and a Beetlejuice-inspired black-and-white short blazer with a ‘Drunken Clam’ t-shirt The Mister got from buying Family Guy season 13 on DVD.

It sounds odd, but strangely, it worked. But I could wear a ballgown to work and no one would be that surprised.


What I’m getting at is that we need a new set of fashion rules, so everyone knows what is going on and no one feels like they didn’t get the message that the furry animal costume party was off.

The bad news is, I have found 92 types of dress codes. The good news? I’m going to pare it down to a quick reference guide. And I’m fairly certain that you’ll ever need to know what the ‘Business California’ or the ‘Texas Tuxedo’ dress code consists of.

This is my interpretation…

Black Tie

Guys – Billy Zane in the first class dining room of the Titanic. Not Zany Billy at the buffet on a P&O cruise.

Girls – Think gala dinner at Downton Abbey


Guys – Don Draper having a scotch at 7(pm, but it could easily be am).

Girls – Oscars red carpet, not MTV awards red carpet


Guys – Think Bradley Cooper before he got the hangover in The Hangover.

Girls – Typical shorter-style dress Katie Holmes would wear. Not a typical shorter-style dress that Katie Price would wear.

Smart casual

Guys – Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers when he isn’t at a wedding.

Girls – Nina Proudman on any given day.

Still scratching your head?


The general rules are

Don’t – 

… be Richie Benaud and wear white, off-white, cream, ivory, beige, bone, vanilla or ecru. Unless you’re a total idiot. Or the bride.

…wear jeans. Now I am a pretty reasonable girl that loves jeans so much that I bought leggings that look like jeans. But not at a wedding. Ever. Jeans are never OK. If you MUST wear something that’s ‘casual’, wear chinos or khaki’s without cargo pockets.

… wear Crocs or thongs. Unless it’s a beach wedding that explicitly says ‘beach casual’. Try to wear thongs that look stylish, like leather (or leather-look), not ones you’ve picked up from Caltex on the way to the ceremony.

… wear new shoes. Especially the ladies. They may look great for 10 minutes, then it’s a slippery slope to look like you’ve had a tough day at the races. Pretty dress, bare feet, shoes slung over your shoulders isn’t hilariously gorgeous, but neither is looking like you’re trying to dance to Thriller when you’re just trying to walk to the buffet. My best tip is to either break the shoes in at least a week before (I’ve been wearing my wedding shoes under my desk at work during the day) or buy some flats like Jiffies that you can roll up and pop in your handbag and do the ol’ switcheroo.

… kid yourself. If you look in the mirror and question whether your choice is appropriate – Hmmm, I wonder if my (pair of jeans, nipple tassles, bare feet, overly-spilling cleavage, Nickelback or tuxedo-print t-shirt) is OK – the answer is no.

 Do – 

… read the invitation. If it doesn’t give a dress code, take your cue from where the ceremony and reception are being held, and at what time of day. Or ring the bride… take it from me, she’ll be stoked that you give a hoot. It will give you a hint on what sort of shoes to wear. Stilettos aren’t going to be a wise choice for a beach wedding, nor a garden cocktail party.

… pay attention to where the ceremony is being held. Religious dress codes might have to be considered.

… experiment with printed dresses during day weddings teamed with a sweet cardigan for the evening, ladies. If you’re in a cocktail number, don’t forget a gorgeous shawl or shrug (or a sexy man’s borrowed dinner jacket) in case it gets chilly.

… wear the same dress more than once to weddings, formals and such events – just change the accessories or splash out in getting your hair done. Also, don’t take a bulky handbag, pick up a cheap but cool clutch bag and a bold necklace or earrings. Accessories trick people into thinking they’ve not seen your outfit before.

But, as always, if in doubt, give the bride a shout.

…. Oh, and a full denim outfit consisting of jeans, jean jacket, chambray shirt and cowboy boot?

THAT, friends, is a bangin’ Texas Tuxedo.