Over the past 100 years, the concept of dress code has migrated from London to all major cities around the world. Addressing the challenge of choosing appropriate attire, we encounter corporate dress codes established by large companies to formalize the office attire of employees, as well as situational dress codes, such as adhering to strict face-control when heading to an exclusive nightclub. Situational dress codes are also closely tied to official and social events, various celebrations, and ceremonies, including banquets, weddings, receptions, and cocktails.
One might find themselves in an awkward situation attending an evening event in a sweater and jeans. Therefore, if you have been invited to a banquet, wedding, ball, corporate party, or any other event or celebration, carefully review the invitation. Invitations to social and business events increasingly come with a wish or requirement to dress according to a specific dress code.
Notations such as Btr, A5, Bb, R.S.V.P, S.t., C.t. are not blood types or chess moves but rather ‘secret codes’ that are often indispensable in organizing a celebration or business event.
White Tie is the most formal dress code. Men should wear a tailcoat with a white bow tie and a white vest; women should wear a full-length evening gown, gloves, high-heeled shoes, and a small clutch. Jewelry is minimal, and bare hands are not acceptable. This dress code is suitable for events like banquets at the presidential or ambassadorial level, weddings, balls, and award ceremonies.
Black Tie or Formal attire requires men to wear a tuxedo and women to wear a full-length or cocktail evening gown. Jewelry is acceptable. This dress code is appropriate for formal evening receptions, such as Christmas or New Year’s banquets, weddings, and theater premieres.
Black Tie Invited suggests men wear a tuxedo and women opt for a cocktail dress, full-length gown, or dressy suit. This dress code is suitable for formal dinners, corporate banquets, and family celebrations. The dress code for organizing and conducting these events may require a different style of clothing.
Black Tie Optional allows men to substitute a tuxedo with a dark suit and tie, while women can wear a cocktail dress or dressy suit.
Creative Black Tie encourages a creative approach to formal wear, allowing for fashionable innovations and unconventional accessories.
Cocktail Attire calls for a dark suit for men and a cocktail dress for women.
Semi-formal attire, for events after 6:00 PM, includes a tuxedo or dark suit with a tie for men and a cocktail dress or a full-length gown for women. For events before this time, men can wear a regular suit and tie, and women can wear a dressy suit or a daytime dress.
A5 (After 5) implies a cocktail or evening event after 5:00 PM. Men can wear suits of any color without a tie, and women can wear a cocktail dress or separates.
Casual or informal attire is suitable for corporate parties, picnics, and barbecues. When dressing, consider the nature and location of the event. It might be better to be elegantly dressed rather than too casual.
For business meetings, specific dress codes may include:
Btr (Business Traditional) or Undress: Standard business attire.
Bb (Business Best): The most formal and expensive business attire.
Unconventional dress codes, such as Total White (all in white) or Green Party (wear something green), may be introduced by event organizers.
There is an interesting nuance regarding women’s attire. In a cocktail dress, a woman is free to choose her company—she can arrive and leave alone, bring a companion, or change partners during the evening. However, a full-length evening gown implies the obligatory presence of a male escort. According to global etiquette rules, a companion is as essential an accessory as the fixed length of the outfit.
The organization and planning of banquets, corporate holidays, family celebrations, and anniversaries, as well as business meetings, may allow or, conversely, disallow tardiness.
In addition to dress code indications, invitations may include conditional signs:
S.t. (sine tempore — Latin): On time, without delay.
C.t. (cum tempore — Latin): Late by no more than fifteen minutes (academic tardiness).
R.S.V.P (Reponse S’il Vous Plait — French): Please respond.
Ignoring the last one is a significant breach of social etiquette. If you are invited to a banquet, ball, presentation, or any celebration, you should call or write a response, regardless of whether you plan to attend.