What is a formal dress code?

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Formal dress code is common in many settings, from weddings and business meetings to parties and cultural events. Formal dress code has been prevalent in society for many years, and most people are expected to adhere to this rule somewhat regularly in their lives, depending on their job and recreational activities.

While certain events are more formal than others, general rules apply to all situations.


According to Askandyaboutclothes.com, the history of formal dress codes can be traced back to European culture. The dress codes were brought to America by settlers. Up until around the mid 20th century, most decent citizens in America and much of Europe dressed formally on a day-to-day basis. This was a reflection of social status, as well as personal hygiene and self-respect. During the social upheavals and cultural revolutions of the mid-20th century, dress codes began to relax, leading to the popularisation of casual wear.


A formal dress code helps groups of people adhere to a similar basis of rules for how they look at certain occasions. Formal dress code may be explicitly listed in the invitation or rules to an event, or may be expected to be common knowledge transmitted culturally. For instance, the function of a formal dress code in a wedding is to establish the importance of the event, as well as help the bride be the centre of attention, rather than the other guests. This is achieved by usually having all the men wear black and white tuxes and the women wearing dresses that contrast with that of the bride.

For Men

The expectations for men commonly associated with a formal dress code include ties, whether regular or bow, as well as a collared shirt, jacket, slacks, and formal shoes. Optional items include cuff links, vests, cummerbunds, and watches. The most important thing for males dressing formally is to match the colours of your different outfit elements and make sure they fit appropriately.

For Women

In regard to formal dress, most women traditionally wear dresses and skirts. However, some women prefer to wear slacks and a blouse. It is important that a woman choose an outfit that is formal enough for the requirements of the event, but not overly formal, as they may stand out and look absurd. This is often more difficult for a woman to achieve than a man, since men often wear similar items to a variety of social events.


Formal dress codes continue to change from traditional norms. While much maligned by those who enjoy dressing casually, even organisations like the White House have relaxed formal dress requirements in the 20th century, according to NYtimes.com. Those who don't enjoy formal dress codes will often find that embracing their creativity and finding unique ways to celebrate their personality in formal wear make it more bearable. This could be as simple as wearing a unique tie or cuff links.