Understanding The Different Kinds Of Formal Wear For Women

Being able to dress to context is the most important fashion skill that any woman can have. However, there’s one set of contexts that can be very easy to mess up, and that is the “formal” occasion. Simply put, there are several different types of formal, and each of them has its own unspoken (and sometimes spoken) rules to follow. Here’s what you need ot know about them.

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Party “formal”

If it’s a real party, like a night out on the town or celebrating a loved one’s birthday in true loud fashion, then you pretty much want something that’s not too far from everyday wear in terms of mobility and comfort, but jazzed up a little to look fancier. Brighter colours, shinier textures, and more extravagant styles are called for, but you want it to be just as good for walking around and hitting the dance floor with.

Smart casual

If the event is supposed to be a bit of an informal gathering in formal trappings, between acquaintances or meeting new ones (like the in-laws) then you’re likely going to want to go smart casual. You typically don’t want to go with the full gown or cocktail dress, here. Any length can work well, as can trouser suits, but mostly you want things to look relatively effortless. It’s one of the more nebulous dress codes to navigate so be sure to ask if there are any specific preferences.

True formal

If a friend or family member says “formal,” they might mean something a little more along the lines of party or smart casual. For any official, public, or business events, however, then you want to play it conservative with a true formal style. The formal look is as good for weddings as it is for press conferences, typically relying on dresses between knee and full length, keeping things relatively safe in all elements.

Cocktail party

If you hear the word cocktail, then basically it’s somewhere between smart casual and formal. What it really means is slightly shorter dresses that are a bit of a mix between sophistication and comfortable party wear. Thankfully, most online stores label their cocktail dresses as such, so you should be easily able to find the right fit for the night.

Black tie

This is the kind of formal occasion where overdressing is rarely a concern. This is the perfect time to break out those floor-length gowns and to aim for opulence in your look. Keep things classy with relatively neutral colours. When it comes to long gloves, however, it’s best to ask ahead of time, as some people classify this as “white tie” instead, to make matters more confusing. Accessories like clutch bags and fancy jewellery are a plus, but you don’t want to be too extravagant.

If you’re ever confused about just what type of formal you should aim for, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask the host or hostess about expectations or even about what they’re wearing. You don’t have to spend days puzzling it out when they have all the answers.

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