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Your style shortcut to decoding dress codes

Your style shortcut to decoding dress codes

Invites are flying in fast; weddings, birthdays, cocktail soirees, work events, dinner parties, impromptu BBQs.

An RSVP prompts one big question: what do I wear?

Dress codes can either provide helpful guidance or an existential crisis. If you’re in the latter camp? Well let’s get you a glass of your favourite tipple and ease those nerves with a stylish shortcut to decoding the dress codes.

Black Tie

Typically the most formal dress code we see these days, Black Tie is often misinterpreted as Cocktail. They are very different.

The traditional definition calls for a floor-length formal gown. The Aussie twist adds a slightly more relaxed tone to the dress code, which is why you’ll often see midi or ankle-length dresses taking the floor at events. The easiest way to approach Black Tie is to think of it as a ‘Moment’; a chance to really dress up and feel your finest in pieces that exude sophistication and polish. In the context of a wedding, consider ‘Formal’ the same as ‘Black Tie’.

Shortcut: Think longer lengths and quality fabrics that feel luxurious on the skin. Add flair with bolder or bedazzled accessories.


A slight step down from Black Tie but a step up from Cocktail. Hemlines can get a little higher, like midis, but still veer towards the formal dress or gown. A beautifully cut slip dress is a great modern adaptation of this. Don’t mistake the slight relaxation for too casual though; Lounge reflects an air of effortless sophistication that’s best captured with a sense of unrefined refinement. Auteur (coming soon) and Anna Quan offer some of our favourite options for this dress code.

Shortcut: You can play a bit more with cut and colour, but avoid anything too short. Finer details in trimmings or slinky soft fabrics are an easy way to channel effortless sophistication.


The most popular dress code, Cocktail spells fun and flirty. Now is when you can take out your minis and dial up the sexiness and seduction. Pant suits (perhaps with a sheer underneath or nothing at all!) are another great option. These are the kind of pieces that can be dressed up and down to maximise wearability for all the other non-occasion days too.

You’ll see Cocktail applied to all manner of events so take guidance from the time, venue and weather when choosing your outfit.

Shortcut: The mini offers maximum fun, with plenty of interesting styles available. You can also play around with feminine and masculine-styled pieces - think tailored trousers, silk shirt and a killer heel, or a beautiful structured blazer over your favourite party dress.

Smart Casual

The most relaxed of the dress codes, there are no rigid rules when it comes to Smart Casual, other than a degree of polish is still required. This can be all in the details; some beautiful jewellery, fresh blow dry, bright lipstick or bold manicure add a degree of finesse to your staple wardrobe basics.

Think a special family dinner or a beautiful night on holiday. Blouses, shirts, summery dresses, flats, blazers, tailored trousers and tanks can all be mixed and matched for failsafe Smart Casual ensembles.

Shortcut: When you invest in beautifully made and tailored pieces, you’ll always nail Smart Casual. Mix structured and relaxed and don’t forget the finishing grooming touches.

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