Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

July 26, 2019

GUEST POST by A Byers Guide: Deciphering Formal Dress Codes

     My vacation in Maine is nearing its end, but I still have one more fun guest post to share with you! Today's post is by Courtney of A Byers Guide- she's sharing how to decipher different dress codes, especially formal ones! What a useful skill. Thank you to Courtney and all the other wonderful bloggers who guest posted for me this week. Chat with you Monday! - xoxo Annaliese 

First off, I want to thank Annaliese for inviting me to do a guest post. What an honor! My name is Courtney Byers and I’m the content creator behind A Byers Guide Blog. I started my blog about two and a half years ago when my husband was in medical school. I desperately needed a creative outlet, and fashion has always been a huge part of my life. In fact, I even took a fashion design class in high school, and of course like many girls, I was always worried about what to wear to school. I have the need to create and this space has helped fulfill that. When people I know in real life find out about my blog, they’re never surprised. My blog was originally called Life of A Med School Wife, but I rebranded a year and a half ago to A Byers’ Guide. I wanted to do a play on words with my last name and buying, since I share a lot on fashion. My husband Jake and I just celebrated our 5th anniversary. We have a 15 pound Maine Coon kitty who is our baby (we don’t have a human baby yet). I blog mostly about affordable fashion, and I also share lifestyle posts as well as travel guides. You can read more about my blogging story here, follow my Instagram here, and like my Facebook page here.

Black dress | black tie wedding | black tie evening | black tie attire | black tie gown | black tie event dresses

Did you just receive an invitation in the mail for a wedding or a “formal” evening event and have no clue what to wear? Formal events are exciting, but can be stressful at the same time. Sometimes I feel like I have a full closet with nothing to wear. Can anyone else relate? Today I am hoping to help you “decode” the different dress codes by explaining how to decipher what dress code to follow, as well as giving tips for creating your outfit and examples of what to wear for each dress code.
This post was requested a while ago and is way overdue. I sincerely apologize for the delay. Life has been a little crazy lately with Match Day being so close. There has been a lot on my mind, so I am having trouble focusing and finishing projects (you should see how crazy my house is). I have also been out of town a lot over the weekends and feel like I haven’t had any time to catch my breath since I work full-time during the week. I am excited to share a bonus post this week.

Semi formal dresses | semi formal outfits for women | semi formal attire

Tips to Deciphering The Dress Code:

Before you can pick out an outfit, it is important to figure out what dress code is expected. Here are some clues to help you decide.
  1. What does the invitation look like?Is it dressy or is it casual? This will help you decide the “vibe” of the party.
  2. Location:Where is the event? This will make a huge difference on what you wear.
  3. Type of Event:Is it a wedding or is it a cocktail party? If it is a wedding, I don’t advise going for a sexy look.
  4. Clues:Does the invitation say semi-formal wear or cocktail attire? Does it not say anything about the dress code at all? If it is a wedding, does the couple have a wedding website? If so, there are probably clues on their wedding website. If it’s a wedding, what is the person like? I personally would never recommend wearing jeans to a wedding (unless the couple says to). If the couple is pretty casual, chances are they don’t expect you to show up in a ball gown.

Tips For Creating Your Outfit:

  1. Accessorize: adding a statement piece like earrings or a necklace can take your outfit up a notch
  2. Hair: Doing an up do or a dressy hairstyle will really help dress up your look
  3. If in doubt, overdress: This is my life motto
  4. Safe zone: If you have no clue what to wear, a darker color like black or navy will usually keep you in the safe zone.
  5. Look at sites to borrow a dress: I personally do not have hundreds of dollars laying around when an event comes up. I am blessed to be able to usually borrow dresses from my mom, since we are the same size. I have heard good things about sites like Rent The Runway. I have never rented a dress, but plan on trying this.
  6. Plan Ahead: This will help you not get stressed.
  7. If you're attending a wedding, save the white for the bride.

Examples Of Different Dress Codes:

Black tie:

Black dress | black tie wedding | black tie evening | black tie attire | black tie gown | black tie event dresses

This is the dressiest of the different dress codes. If it is black tie, I personally would wear a floor length dress like the one in my picture. This was actually a dress I wore as a bridesmaid at one of my friend's weddings. I added a little faux fur coat, heels, and dressy earrings to dress it up. Black tie can be pretty dressy, so I have provided some more examples below. According to Emily Post, you can wear a dressy cocktail dress or your dressiest “little black dress". I would recommend dressy accessories.

Black tie optional:

Semi formal dresses | semi formal outfits for women | semi formal attire

Semi formal dresses | semi formal outfits for women | semi formal attire
To me, black tie optional is an event where you can go all out and wear the formal floor length gown, but it’s only if you want to. Emily Post recommends formal floor length gowns, dressy cocktail dresses, a little black dress, or dressy separates. I used this sequin dress as an example. It would be perfect for semi-formal too.


What to wear to a wedding | JJs house dress | Semi-Formal dress | what to wear to a wedding

I think semi-formal is the way to go for most weddings that don't specify a dress code. For semi-formal outfits, it is all about how you accessorize. I also think fabric choice is important for a semi-formal look. This pink dress would be perfect for a semi-formal event. I think the accessories I styled with make it a little more formal, too. Emily Post recommends a short afternoon or cocktail dress, a “little black dress”, a long dressy skirt and top, or dressy separates.

Cocktail/Festive Attire: SHEIN-Embroidered-Mesh-Overlay-Skater-Dress.

Full blog post here
This is usually what you would expect for a holiday party. I would personally recommend a cocktail dress, skirt or black pants. I am using this dress I wore for my birthday post as an example, since it is festive. Emily Post recommends cocktail dresses, long dressy skirts and a top, an outfit with dressy pants, or a “little black dress, and recommends to wear colors that fit into the holiday.

Business Casual:

work wear for couple | fashionable couples | business casual | office style | 9 to 5 style
Full blog post here
If it is a business party, chances are it will be business casual or conservative cocktail attire. I added a statement necklace to make this business look more me. Emily Post recommends skirts, khakis, or pants, a dress or open-collar shirt.
Do you have an event coming up? If you ever have questions about what to wear to an event, feel free to email me at


1 comment

  1. Gorgeous dresses, I love every single one! Love the business casual shoes too :)

    Anika |


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