Decoding Dress Codes on Summer Invites

Dress codes are always a gray area, but at least in Fall and Winter you can always rely on your good ol’ little black dress to get you through just about everything. If, like me, you have a mid length semi-sheer fabric little black dress, it skirts practically every dress code and can be dressed up into near formal territory or dressed down into a simple cocktail frock. But Summer… that’s a whole new ballgame. Summer invites are tricky as hell, so I am going to try and decode them for you with a cheat sheet of sorts.

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Black Tie or Formal

These two are essentially interchangeable and for women it traditionally means a floor length dress. Lately though ladies are getting creative with tuxedo suits or formal jumpsuits. For summer events, try to play with color and print- lighter and more flowy fabrics are the stars for dresses with pastels and lighter metallics and maybe even a brocade being a hit for a tuxedo suit. If the event is not a wedding, try and all white look.

Semi-Formal or Black Tie Optional

This means men can forego the tux and women can wear cocktail length dresses but the fabric and cut should be a step up from a traditional cocktail dress. Of course.if it’s a wedding, then sequins is probably not appropriate, but think ruffles, lace, maybe a high-low cut? Or go for a midi length or tea length dress to bring some extra formality.


This is the easiest dress code- choose above the knee length and go for a fun Summer popsicle color and some tassel earrings. Or play with florals and cutouts. Keep your audience in mind- if this is a work or family event, you may not want to show too much skin.

Business Dressy

This is basically cocktail with the reminder not to show skin or be flashy and also this gives people the okay to come straight from work. Men will feel comfortable in a basic suit and women can jazz up a pant suit or a pencil skirt and a cute top or a conservative cocktail dress.

Beach Chic

This is a popular one where I live on the coast. Thankfully, a lot of designers do this look well. Think flowy maxi dresses with sandals or white jeans and a jewel tone tunic with killer heels. Tory Burch, Tanya Taylor, and Prabal Gurung all do great beach chic looks.

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