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Dress Code: How to Follow It Without Losing Your Style

Ever walked into a gathering and regretted your decision to be there in the first place? That was how Sean felt when he arrived at the luncheon. He was the only one looking odd all because he didn’t follow the dress code.

Sometimes, not following a dress code may not cause you more than a slight feeling of embarrassment. Other times, it could cost you your job, grade. an opportunity, and even your reputation.

Although specified modes of dressing may be limiting, let’s agree they exist to curb chaos in specific settings. Thus, we’ll discuss the topic in its entirety.

We’ll show you all you need to know about dress codes, including their types, and how to follow them without losing your sense of creativity.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What are Dress Codes?

John Legend and wife observing the dress code at a white tie event

Wikipedia defines a dress code as:

“A set of rules, often written, with regards to what clothing groups of people must wear. Dress codes are created out of social perceptions and norms and vary based on purpose, circumstances, and occasions. Different societies and cultures are likely to have different dress codes, Western dress codes being a prominent example.”

And the dictionary defines it as:

“A standard of dress established for a given environment, as in the military, in a school or business, or in a cultural group.”

Every institution and culture of the world has a dress code. For schools, the uniform students wear is their dress code and the way the teachers appear too.

Similarly, doctors, lawyers, military, and other professions have their mode of dressing we’ve come to recognize them for. Even grooms and brides too. That’s why, when you see a soon-to-be-married couple dressed traditionally, you can easily tell their ethnicity by their outfit. Furthermore, some couples also give their guests a specific way to grace their wedding. This helps to show uniformity and add color to their event.

Dress codes speak volumes about people. It also helps to show solidarity during social occasions such as weddings, funerals, naming ceremonies, etc., with the asoebi styles guest rock.

But are stipulated ways to dress all good? Are there any drawbacks? There’s only one way to know.

Let’s find put together.

Pros and Cons of Dress Codes

man wearing suit with shirt and dark shades
  • Standardized modes of dressing help to maintain uniformity in gatherings. It’s one of the reasons military personnel doesn’t joke with their uniforms. It’s also the reason school children of the same school wear a particular uniform so they can be easily identified.
  • It helps to maintain law, order, and professionalism in some settings.  It bolsters the reputation of companies. And for this reason, bankers don’t wear jeans and tees to work. That outfit alone can give customers the impression that the workers aren’t serious, don’t you think?
  • Specified modes of dressing also help to show solidarity, as I earlier stated. It sends a strong message of unity among colleagues.
  • It reduces the pressure that comes with deciding what to wear. I mean since you already have guidelines on what to wear, you won’t find it difficult figuring out what to wear every morning. You’ll just move over to the outfit that suits your dress code and get going.

On the other hand,

  • These outfit codes can be stifling. It cripples creativity when it’s time to dress up. You’re not allowed to express yourself. You’re only permitted to wear what you’re asked to wear and that sucks, to be frank. You can’t even express your style just because you have to obey the rules.
  • It breeds resistance and discomfort. That’s when you notice folks who can’t stand the no-jewelry rule put on necklaces and hide them under their shirts.
  • Some dress codes may be expensive to follow. Take wedding asoebi as an example. It’s no new fact that some couples sell their asoebi at exorbitant prices. And when people have to alter their budget to suit your dress code, it becomes an inconvenience to both themselves and their bank accounts.

How then do you follow these dress codes without losing your sense of individuality? You’ll find out as you read on. But first, let’s see…

Types of Dress Codes

couple observing the dress code for a black tie event

The types of outfits you wear to occasions fall under different modes of dressing. They include:

1. Formal Office Wear

black lady wearing formal office outfit at work

The business formal dress code applies to professional industries. Here, you can’t do without your suit, jackets, well-tailored dress pants, knee-length skirts, button-up shirts, ties, etc. 

man wearing formal office outfit

Formal office wear is the dress code for the office. It evokes sophistication and professionalism and also enhances the image of your workplace as well as your personal brand.

lady wearing formal office outfit

2. Business Casual Dress Code

lady wearing business casual outfit for a meeting

This mode of dressing is a relaxed version of business formal outfits. They are less formal yet suitable for the professional work environment. In essence, they are a blend of casual and formal office wear.

man wearing business casual outfit

If this is the dress code of your workplace, feel free to consult our style guide on business casual outfits.

lady rocking business casual outfit to work

3. Smart Casual Outfits

lady wearing smart casual outfit for work

This is a relaxed extension of business casual. You don’t wear them to the office unless you work in the creative or tech industry. You can also wear them to parties, weddings, dates, etc. 

man wearing smart casual outfit

Smart casual outfits include jeans, chinos, palazzos, bright-colored shirts, tees, blazers, sweaters, shirt dresses, sunglasses, etc. 

lady wearing smart casual outfit

Unlike business casual, you’re free to accessorize and mix colors as you want when the dress code is smart casual.

4. Casual

lady wearing casual outfit for her outing

Speak of comfort and pure relaxation? Then the dress code must be casual.

man wearing casual outfit for a date

Here, your jeans, tees, bodycon dresses, cargo pants, leggings, loungewear, streetwear, etc., come into play. 

lady wearing casual outfit for an outing

You wear these outfits to informal settings such as birthday parties, dates, visits to the mall, beach, cinema, club, etc.

5. Activewear

man wearing activewear outfit

This is the dress code when it’s time to hit the gym or partake in sports. They include tracksuits, joggers, T-shirts, sweatshirts, etc., paired with a cap, sneakers, trainers, or canvas. 

ladies in activewears at the gym
man doing sports in activewear outfit

6. Cocktail Dress Code

lady wearing green cocktail dress

This mode of dressing is for parties and social functions organized in the evenings. It features men wearing business suits and women wearing dresses that are not necessarily long.

bearded man wearing sunshades in a cocktail outfit
lady wearing cocktail dress for a party

7. Native Wear

man wearing African native outfit

This is the usual mode of dressing for traditional occasions. Some offices permit them on Fridays at the office.

lady rocking ankara outfit to match the native dress code for an event

Native wear outfits are usually made with indigenous fabrics such as ankara, kente, aso oke, lace, brocade, etc. Some styles that make up this dressing mode include agbada, iro and buba, woko, senator, dashiki, isi agu, etibo, ankara styles, etc. 

man wearing blue senator outfit

8. Black-Tie

lady in a dark green dinner gown

If the event is a wedding or one that begins after 6 pm, then it’s a black-tie occasion. 

man wearing suit to match the dress code of a black tie event

The mode of dressing for occasions like this has men wearing black /midnight blue tuxedo suit, white shirt, black tie, and women wearing floor-length dinner gowns, or cocktail length gowns, most times in the color black.

lady wearing black dinner gown

9. White-Tie

white couple observing the dress code at a white tie event

This mode of dressing comes in handy when the occasion is a red carpet, international award nights, ball parties, weddings, etc. 

lady wearing black long dress on the red carpet

While men wear a tailcoat, white vest, white shirt, and white bow tie, women wear floor-length statement dresses with statement hairstyles and jewelry. 

2 men observing the dress code at a white tie event

How to Follow a Dress Code Without Losing Your Style

lady wearing a long gown at a dinner event

It’s a no-brainer. When the dress code tries to limit you from expressing yourself, don’t let that bury the fashionista in you.

The key to following standardized modes of dressing without looking boring is to:


man wearing shirt and pants with a leather travel bag

If you’re an ardent reader of Svelte Magazine, then you must know how often we preach accessorizing.

And that’s because these little add-ons never fail to magnify your look. They may be the one thing that’ll transform your boring black and white attire into a showstopper even at work. So, don’t forget to add your hat, scarf, handbag, pocket filler, earrings, wristwatch, bracelets, and other jewelry to your look.

While accessorizing, ensure it suits the environment. If statement accessories will bring undue attention to you, stay away from them and make do with toned-down accessories.

Wear Good Hairdo

lady wearing casual outfit for an outing

A beautiful hairdo or haircut can fetch you compliments even when you’re wearing the same outfit as others.

Thankfully, we have a category dedicated to hair matters. Consult it to see the latest hairstyles and haircuts that’ll help you exude style regardless of any stifling mode of dressing.

Smell Nice

man wearing dark suit with black T-shirt

Your perfumes and deodorants come in handy here. Nobody loves to stay close to someone who has an unpleasant smell.

Even if you wear suit and tie every day, your perfume will still cut through the professional clutter and speak for you. But most importantly, ensure you know how to get rid of body odor so you can smell nice always.

Combine Colors Well

lady wearing a midi dress, ready for an event

If you don’t know how to match colors in your outfit, you really should learn because the way you match colors will stand you out when the mode of dressing is a boring one. 

However, some settings may not permit you to wear bold colors and that’s understandable. But we’ve figured out ways you can wear more colors without flouting the dress code. It could be through your handbag, earrings,  or your shoes.

We have a style guide on that. Go ahead and read it to see what we mean.

Invest in Quality Fashion

man wearing wearing dark suit with black turtleneck

Quality fashion is a statement outfit on its own. Not only will they last longer in your wardrobe. They also boost your reputation and position you as a classy individual.

If it suits your budget, don’t hesitate to invest in quality ready-made clothing or bespoke pieces. But if it’s inconvenient, then, by all means, go for thrift clothing.

Most importantly, never wear stuff you don’t feel comfortable in. Go for pants, tops, and cuts you love. Obeying a dress code doesn’t mean you should ignore your personal style. In all you wear, ensure it suits your sense of individuality and never sacrifice it for anything, not even comfort.

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Victoria B. Willie

Writing has always been a part of me. From writing stories as a young child to studying Communication Arts in the university, it has always been more than a medium of expression to me.

And then one day, I found myself toeing the path of an entrepreneur and becoming a fashion enthusiast. This made me develop an interest in content marketing and copywriting which I've been chasing alongside my fashion career.

That aside, when I'm not sharing style articles, selling with stories, or creating fashion-forward pieces for Ria Kosher, you'll find me telling wild stories that always come with a twist.

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