Let's start by telling everyone that there is no such dress code as casually elegant.
An invitation that reads casually elegant dress code presents a bit of a dilemma to guests. We all know the definition of casual, and what elegant attire entails. To put the two together creates an oxymoron, making the statement seem contradictory. So what could a casually elegant dress code possibly be? Interpretation of this term is highly subjective. Save yourselves the trouble with a NEXT when you receive an invite with such a dress code. Now on to the meat of the matter; ladies and especially gents, here's your look book into dressing for specific occasions.
A black tie invitation calls for formal attire where men wear tuxedos, women wear, long dresses or dressy evening separates. Sometimes it is OK for women to wear a cocktail dress, but that is dictated by the location, type of event, the look of the dress etc. A little black dress is completely appropriate for black-tie functions. Men should wear traditional tuxedoes with formal white shirt, black bow tie, and black cummerbund. Men may also choose to add their own flair to their tux by wearing a traditional style tie or coloured bow ties and cummerbunds. Nowadays, dark suits are also appropriate.
Not commonly done in Jamaica, a white tie or ultra-formal invitation requires men to wear a full dress suit complete with a black coat with tails and white pique vest. This is worn over a white formal shirt with white pique bow tie and black patent leather shoes. Women wear only long gowns, formal evening gowns. Long gloves are often worn, as well.
Black Tie Optional
A black tie optional event gives you the option of wearing a tuxedo or formal dress, but it should clue you into the formality of the event, meaning a dark suit and tie would be your other option. For women it's pretty standard to wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.
Creative Black Tie
Creative black tie leaves room for trendy interpretations of formal wear and allows for personality influences in your outfit choices.
The gents can go for a bit more modern with a tux - maybe a black shirt, no tie, while the ladies are either in long or short dresses or tasteful evening separates. Sometimes, themed parties call for dress codes like texas black tie, or other variations of creative black tie. In situations like those, you can have more fun with it, choosing a dressy look with a theme (for him, it could be a tux with boots (let's leave the cowboy hat for another occasion) and for her it could be a long dress paired with a southern style silver belt and jewellery).
Cocktail attire means short, elegant dresses for her and dark suits for him. The little black dress is the ultimate cocktail dress and appropriate for most special occasions.
'Tis the season of Christmas and with the mood of the parties usually being informal or semi-formal, it's the perfect excuse to whip out that festive frock. For her, it means to choose looks with a bit of sparkle or holiday twist (i.e. sequins, glitter, lace). Men, its usually the standard suit, but you can mix it up and throw a coloured shirt in, or a tan blazer with white pants and a leopard print shirt (for those confident enough to try).
Casual generally means anything goes (including jeans, sneakers, etc), but please be tasteful, so no holes, tears or paint spots. If the host or hostess wants more-dressed-up attire, it would and should be indicated on the invite, so pay close attention. Dressy casual calls for dressed-up versions of casual looks. For him, it could be slacks and a blazer or even standard khakis with a button-down shirt and for her a dressy pants look. Jeans, shorts, T-shirts and other casual looks are not appropriate for dressy casual.
Semi-formal means that tuxes are not required, nor are long dresses. An evening event (after 6 p.m.) would still dictate dark lounge suits for him, and a cocktail dress for her. For a daytime semi-formal event, stick to a suit for him and an appropriate short dress or dressy suit for her. For men, business formal is the same as semi-formal, but for women it suggests that women opt for more tailored dressy suits and dresses with structure. The idea is to be business appropriate but dressy at the same time, which means nothing too sexy, slinky or tight.
This is a dress code that really isn't utilised on the Jamaican social scene but informal is often interpreted as being the same as casual. However, when the event is associated with a wedding or another special occasion, some form of decorum and respect should prevail - dark suits for the gents or a pair of slacks and a shirt and short dresses for the ladies would be deemed appropriate, yet respectful, for the event.
NB: Appropriate attire has been traditionally indicated by the time of day and location of the event and does not properly appear on wedding or formal invitations. With many guests being potentially unaware of this point of etiquette, you may feel it necessary to indicate appropriate dress on your invitation or reception cards. When using black tie, the 'B' is uppercase and the 't' is lowercase. 'Black tie' generally appears in the lower right-hand corner of the reception card. When no reception card is used, black tie appears in the lower right-hand corner of the invitation.