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Smart casual. Who knew two words could be so confusing? We’ve all found ourselves in a state of utter bewilderment upon reading those seemingly oxymoronic dress codes at least once in our lives, leaving us worried if we’re over- or under-dressed.

To quash those worries once and for all, we decided to break down every dress code you’re likely to encounter, so you can attend your next dinner party, barbecue or wedding with peace of mind.

1. Black tie

It may be an uncommon dress code in our lives, but confusing nonetheless. While it’s pretty straightforward for men (a black tuxedo), women have it a bit more complicated. A long gown is the safest option, but dressy separates or a formal cocktail dress may be sufficient depending on the event.

2. Black tie optional

This one’s a bit blurrier. For men, stick to a tux or a dark suit and tie. Women, however, have a bit more freedom. Don’t dress like you’re attending a royal wedding, but keep it classy and formal. This means you don’t have to wear a long gown, but an elegant ankle- or calf-length dress should suffice.

3. Cocktail

A common wedding dress code, cocktail is one of the easiest to get right. For men, a suit and tie is perfect, while women should opt for shorter dresses or separates. A word of advice – you can never go wrong with a little black dress.

4. Smart casual

Smart casual could be taken one of two ways – business casual or dressy casual. They might sound similar, but there is a difference. For business casual, think your regular work clothes (pants, blazer, skirt, blouse etc.) but a little more relaxed – just don’t fall into the trap of thinking it means jeans and sneakers. Instead, inject some colour into your look or try a casual top under your blazer. Dressy casual, on the other hand, is essentially just a dressier version of your usual casual look. This means swapping sneakers for heels, boots or elegant flats, t-shirts for blouses or jeans for black pants.

5. Casual

Anything goes! If the dress code calls for casual, jeans and sneakers are back on the table. Simply wear what you feel comfortable in without worrying about perfect tailoring, accessorising or strictly neutral colours.

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