Ginger-Bred Guide to Dress Codes

Cocktail Attire
Cocktail Attire/Black Tie

The Ginger-Bred Guide to Dress Codes

 Especially during the holiday season, you may be attending several parties and special events – some business related, some not…..many invitations will specify the dress code, some will not….either way, it can be confusing and frustrating for many…..fret no more!  With this simple guide you can refer to the Ginger-Bred Pyramid™ and know instantly what direction to go in….First, here is a brief definition of acceptable gear in each category for both men and women:


Women:  Yoga pants, sweats, athletic sneakers, flip flops, tee shirts, sports logos.

Men:  Gym clothes, sweatshirts, sports logos, tee shirts, athletic sneakers, fleece jackets, golf jackets, baseball caps, old/baggy jeans, flip flops.

WHERE:  To the gym, select leisure activities, beach, sporting events/activities, on the sofa, in the yard.


Women:  Leggings, jeans, denim skirt/shirt, any skirt more than two inches above knee, corduroys, maxi dress, sundress or halter top, cowboy boots, ballet flats, clogs, Hunter boots, Uggs, oversized sweaters, turtleneck, tunics, puffer jackets.

Men:  Jeans, corduroys, khakis, tee shirts, golf shirt, construction boots, cowboy boots, boat shoes, denim jacket, golf jacket, ski jacket, fleece jacket.

WHERE:  Out with friends, parties, beach, sporting events, out shopping, some restaurants.

Upscale casual/Smart Casual/Dressy Casual/Festive Casual/Resort Casual

Women:  Your best jeans with a dressy top, dress pants, leather pants, leather or denim skirt, leggings with a long tunic; sweaters in fine fabrics (not bulky), dresses, blazer, leather jacket, fun accessories (wide belt, bold jewelry, scarf), high heels, polished leather boots (heels or flat), booties, coordinated handbag (a clutch or your ‘day’ bag).

Men:  Your best jeans, corduroys, wool trousers, or khakis (for all, close attention to style and fit) . Long sleeved collared shirt (solid, stripe, print, or plaid) or a slim fitting dark tee shirt with a blazer. Always a blazer, sweater, and/or leather jacket. Always a nice belt.  A dress boot or shoe, or a trendy sneaker.  Accessories such as an interesting watch, bracelet, scarf.   Tie optional.

WHERE:  Upscale restaurants, parties, select business events, on a date, shopping, on vacation.

Business Casual

Women:   Pencil skirts that are not shorter than two inches above knee. Blazers or cardigan sweaters…dress pants (NOT leggings!) hemmed to appropriate length. Silk blouse or tailored cotton shirt;  Shoes that do not expose too much of foot, no super high heels.  Sheath dresses or other conservative dresses; no cleavage.  Medium sized handbag or tote. Jewelry that adds flair without being distracting. Usually no denim.

Men:  Blazer and/or sweater worn with dress shirt or polo shirt.  Khakis or wool dress pants. Loafers, dress shoes or dress boots. Tie optional.  Usually no denim. Stylish ¾ jacket or topcoat.

WHERE:  To work, business events, restaurants.

Business Formal

Women:  Suit or coordinated jacket and skirt/pants, dress with jacket, closed toe shoes, high or mid heels, conservative jewelry, stockings optional.

Men:  Dark suit or dark colored sport jacket with dress pants, dress shirt, tie, leather dress shoes, dress topcoat.

WHERE: To work, work events, to a funeral, to court.

Cocktail Attire

Women:  Options include cocktail dress (above knee length), skirt and blouse, dressy pants, or floor length dress.  High heels or a dressy flat shoe; sheer stockings or bare legs,  glitzy or conservative jewelry; covered with a wrap or dressy cape/jacket. Always a small evening bag.

Men:  Dark suit or a sport jacket, tie optional, dress shirt or a dressy sweater, dress shoes.

WHERE:  Parties, weddings, charity events.

Creative Black Tie

Women:  Your dressiest black cocktail dress or a floor length gown, high heels or dressy flats.  Add a fun accessory such as a fur boa, hair ornament, hat, or gloves.

Men:  Black tuxedo with a fun accessory such as a wild bowtie or fashion sneakers.  Another option would be tux jacket with dark jeans or cowboy boots with a tux.

WHERE:  Parties, weddings, fundraisers.

Black Tie

Women:  Floor length evening gown or your dressiest black cocktail dress.

Men:  Black tux, black patent shoes.

WHERE:  Parties, weddings, fundraisers

And now………………..


Test Triangle 3

  •  It is OK to go up one level in the pyramid.
  • It is OK to go up two levels (or more!) if you aren’t shy about standing out in a crowd.
  • NEVER go down a level.


Now what?        

Now that you know what is acceptable and appropriate for various situations, your next step is to create outfits based on your own personal likes and dislikes – not everyone likes bold jewelry, not every woman likes high heels……Also consider the circumstances to make the best decision. If it is a work related event in the Caribbean (“Resort Casual”), you want to wear bright colors, but not your sexiest party gear. If you are alone with your significant other, go for whatever makes you feel good!

The most challenging category of the GB Pyramid™ is the Dressy/Smart/Upscale Casuals – especially for men. The average guy likely has plenty of work pants and shirts (not necessarily stylish), jeans and tee shirts for after work, and a suit for the potential wedding or funeral……Well, time to kick it up! This category may be the most challenging, but it can also be the most fun……if your goal is to improve your personal image and look more sophisticated, I promise you one thing – it will not happen overnight. You must regularly take the time to shop and be willing to spend some money….

If you can avoid it, never wait to go shopping when you need an outfit for an event. Instead, pay attention to styles you like and buy them when you see them, always keeping an eye out for sales/bargains. That way when you have a party to go to you already have great choices in your closet. Stress free!

Peter and Brad
Peter in ‘Creative Black Tie’, my son Brad in ‘Upscale Casual’


Our friend Kay looking elegant in 'Cocktail Attire'
Our friend Kay looking elegant in ‘Cocktail Attire’

Hope you find this guide helpful….let the party season begin!!! 🙂

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