Dress Codes: To Have or Not to Have?

As an event professional, you’ve probably questioned whether or not a dress code is appropriate for your event. In today’s day and age, dress codes may seem outdated and/or exclusive to ‘red carpet’ like events. On the other hand, many guests may see them as a helpful guide to figuring out what to wear.

There are many different types of dress codes, from black tie attire to business casual - and picking the right one for your event (or whether to have one at all) is not easy. Many party planners fear that defining a dress code will steer invited guests from attending. And, there are definitely implications to support this fear. When you stamp a dress code on an event, you may be asking guests (without knowing!) to go outside of their budgets to purchase suitable attire. Additionally, many people are confused by the different types of dress codes (what does business formal really mean?).

If you do decide to define a dress code, it’s important to consider the fashion, culture and geography of the event. For example, while the west coast may not appreciate a formal after-work event in their ‘blue jeans culture’, New York residents may be shocked and/or disappointed without a dress code to provide guidance on what to wear.

Looking beyond the structure and guidance that dress codes provide, dress codes also can be a fun way to stylize or fancy up themed parties and elegant events. They can also make guests aware of any perceived attire complications. For outdoor events that require getting dirty or sweaty, it may be helpful to provide a dress code that reminds guests to wear something that they’re okay with getting dirty - and maybe even a change of clothes!

As you can see, there are many different things to consider when you’re deciding whether or not a dress code is appropriate for your event. Putting yourself in the attendees’ shoes (‘would I know what to wear?’; ‘would I want to know that my clothes may get dirty’?) and really doing your background research on your audience can really help you to make the best possible decision for your event.

What tips do you have? In your experience, what are some unique instances where a dress code is appreciated - or disliked? We look forward to hearing your insights!

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