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Dress Codes Decoded: How to Look Killer for Every Occasion

Look killer for every occasion.
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It's almost spring (who's counting the days?!) and the fancy invites and Paperless Post emails will soon be flooding your mailboxes. As much as you're looking forward to the weddings and soirées, the fine print is another story entirely. Never fear, we've broken down the most common dress codes for event-going newbies so you can party in the right style.
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Black Tie

Sorry ladies, there's really no wiggle room on this one: A fancy floor-length gown is the key to acing this dress code. Opt for luxe fabrics like lace, silk, and chiffon and wear your prettiest jewels to match.

Ivanka Trump Strapless Sheer Overlay Gown, $209; lordandtaylor.com

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creative black tie
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Creative Black Tie

Think black tie with a slight twist: Choose a bolder color or a number with cascading ruffles at the bottom. Or, wear a simpler gown and break out the coolest accessories you have—we’re loving a unique metallic clutch for added interest.

DKNY Illusion-Strap Crepe Gown, $495; netaporter.com

Rauwolf Constantinople Clutch, $1845; rauwolfnyc.com

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Black Tie Optional

This is still super formal, so either wear the same attire you would to a black tie affair or wear the fanciest cocktail dress you can find. If you go the cocktail dress route, make sure there are rich details like beading on the frock and that you are strutting your stuff in your favorite stilettos.

A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz Strapless Cocktail Dress, $390; lordandtaylor.com

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festive attire
Courtesy of Company
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If you're getting invited to something that says semi-formal, it's either your sorority's annual event, prom, or you're attending a family member's sweet 16. Similar to black tie optional, but more forgiving, you can go long or short or opt for color-coordinated separates a la a full midi skirt and matching top.

Elizabeth and James Brendan Sleeveless Crop Blouse, $265; intermixonline.com

Tibi Silk Faille Full Skirt in Sapphire, $525; tibi.com

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Welcome to cocktail dress territory! Your prettiest short dress + your favorite heels = instant success.

Diane Von Furstenberg Zarita Lace Dress, $219; intermixonline.com

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dress codes
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Festive Attire

This type of attire is usually reserved for the holidays, so you can go all out, but venue is key! Choose a sparkly dress with a shorter hem or wear a fancy embellished top with cropped black pants and sky-high heels.

Topshop Petite All Over Sequin Shell Top, $70; topshop.com

Helmut Lang Stretch-Leather Leggings, $920; netaporter.com

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Business Formal

This is where tailoring is key. Try a formfitting sheath in a basic hue and always pair with a leg-lengthening pump (for extra inspiration, Google Claire Underwood's work attire in House of Cards). *You'll probably find this dress code on invitations for rehearsal dinners or showers.

Rebecca Taylor Tweed & Twill Dress, $297; rebeccataylor.com

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Beach Attire

Pick a flowy, long dress (remember that it may be windy, so a maxi is perfect!). We never thought we would say this, but leave your heels at home and opt for embellished flat sandals with a pretty pedi to match.

Saloni Ashley silk maxi dress, $967; matchesfashion.com

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Smart Casual

Channel Kate Middleton à la Prince George’s public debut. The trick here is to look totally put together but without trying too hard, which means a classic short dress and wedges or low heels. Leave the busy extras at home. You’ll find this dress code on some restaurant websites.

Diane Von Furstenberg Carpreena Stretch-Cady Dress, $325; netaporter.com

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