Get your own personal stylist to help you find clothes you love. All online, completely free

Sign In

Your guide to different dress codes this party season

Your guide to different dress codes this party season

Navigating dress codes is no easy feat. We’ve all been there when an invite comes through our inbox, and we’re greeted with the dreaded ‘festive and fun!’ or the intimidating description of a black-tie event, then frantically texting your friends to find out exactly what they’re going to wear. 

Don’t fret, now that party season is well and truly upon us, we’ve asked stylist Millie Rich to break  down exactly what each dress code means – from smart casual to festive – so you can show up feeling your most confident – and looking your best.  Have fun out there. 

The black-tie event

‘A black bow-tie worn with a dinner jacket’ is the dictionary definition of a black-tie dress code, which isn’t too helpful when it comes to what the women of the party should arrive in. So, if bow ties and dinner jackets aren’t exactly what you were planning to go for, you’ll instead want to think sophistication and glamour when it comes to your inspiration.

Photographed: Dune Ladies Casa Black ($130)

Now this event is as formal as it gets – it’s the floor length dresses, the slim-fit tailoring, you know all the fancy stuff. Millie says that delicate accessories like a sparkle or pearl earring can fit this attire, but to keep everything else slightly more conservative; no plunging necklines or super short dresses for this one. Colour wise, apart from the obvious black, navys, reds, and royal blues all fit the bill here too. 

The festive shindig

Who doesn’t love a festive party? It’s a great excuse to have some fun with your clothes and wear a little something that you usually wouldn’t gravitate towards. Metallic, sequins, velvet, and satin in festive colours all fit this brief perfectly. And the best part is, there’s no real rules here – dresses in all lengths, suits, or even just some fun hair accessories are all acceptable here. Just avoid the dreaded novelty jumpers, or anything novelty in that case. 

The cocktail party

Now cocktail attire is a little more fun than black tie. You can avoid the floor-length gowns and start thinking about some colours and interesting shapes. Here at Thread HQ, we’re all about a voluminous dress for this season – they quickly make a statement, plus it means you can consume all the party food without worrying about your dress feeling tighter and tighter as the night goes on.


Photographed: CECILIE BAHNSEN Alexa Dress ($831)

For this kind of party, anything goes colour wise. But if you go for a black or navy style, Millie suggests ensuring it’s doing some talking in other senses, whether that’s a puff sleeve or you’ve added a super fun accessory like a clutch or statement earring. Or, if dresses aren’t really your thing, that’s cool too. Opt for a wide-leg sleek trouser in something like a satin or in a bold colour and pair them with a top that feels a little more special – leave your jeans and t-shirt at home for this one.

The smart casual vibe

The trouble with smart casual is that it can mean something completely different to every person. But the failsafe option is of course, jeans and a nice top. Then, you can throw on a heeled boot or a heel for some elevation and depending on how far you think your event is leaning smart. Avoid anything knitted or jersey and instead go for something a little more opulent like satin or silk or anything with some detailing like a bow or some shirring. And, since your jeans are neutral, you can really afford to play around with some bolder colours here, which comes highly recommended.

Words: Yasmine Kennedy
Photography: Jack Batchelor
Styling: Millie Rich