modeling black tie optional

Black Tie Optional
Translation: Dignified glamour. But a full-fledged to-the-floor, walk-the-red-carpet gown isn't de rigueur; and subtly witty touches keep stodginess at bay. 

To pursue: Rich color, dressy fabrics like velvet and lace, frothy details. 

Variations:To make a quieter (but still grand) entrance, long and flowing is always good.

AKA: "Black tie," "creative black tie," "black tie and long dresses," "bohemian black tie," "white tie," "Texas tuxedo," "gala garb," "formal attire.".
modeling black tie optional

Translation: Be playful. Pick a hotter color than usual and take a chance on flamboyance with rows of ruffles, lots of leg, shoulder-sweeping earrings, even a tiara. 

Variations: If you're happier in a low-key mode, do a single showy item (bright silk wrap, antique kimono, a little tasteful glitter) with simple black silk. 

AKA: "Holiday threads," "holiday chic," "festive holiday attire," "colorful gowns," "carnival attire," "exuberant shindig," "glitterati gear," "fiesta fashion." 
modeling black tie optional

Cocktail Attire
Translation: A little black dress with a deliciously modern twist—like an off-the-shoulder neckline, shorter length. "I can take classic black from day to night," says New York publicist Desiree Gruber. Of her husband, actor Kyle MacLachlan she says, "He likes sexy—I like a little black dress, he likes the littler black dress."

Variations: Since black reads as more formal than navy or camel, it's the best base if you're coming from work. 

AKA: "Fun cocktail attire," "simply fabulous," "gorgeous garb," "dress to kill."
modeling black tie optional

Suit & Tie
Translation: With this dress code, women wonder, So what do I wear? The answer: pulled-together, not-too-naked stuff. The flared skirt here is flirty but not risqué—silk and satin evening fabrics add a certain mad extravagance. 

Variations: Its slightly formal connotations make black-and-white totally appropriate. Bare legs? No problem. And you can go a little crazy on accessories. 

AKA: "Bring your suit," "dark suit," "jacket requested," "dark and chic," "semiformal."
modeling black tie optional

Casual Chic
Translation: The rule—mix a dressy element, like this elaborate velvet jacket, with something more informal, like jeans. "Slacks and a leather jacket are usually as fancy as I get," says actor Djimon Hounsou. 

Variations: Contrasting fabrics are key. A charmeuse blouse lends razzle-dazzle to gray flannels; a sharply tailored shirt tones down palazzo pants. 

AKA: "Smart casual," "dressy casual," "casual threads," "informally fabulous," "simple and chic."
modeling black tie optional

Business Attire
Translation: A suit is shorthand for "I'm professional"; all you have to do is glam it up. Wear red satin heels, a beaded bag, and crystal earrings to finish the job. You can show a bit of décolletage, but be prudent: You want to look approachable, not overtly sexy.

Variations: Suits in brighter, lighter colors are showing up now. 

AKA: "Business casual," "trade-show chic," "town dress," "urban chic," "city dress."
modeling black tie optional

Come as you Are!
Translation: Flexible but not sloppy—even a laid-back daytime happening is still a party. You can wear anything from jeans to a dress to a relaxed suit, like this camel ensemble on model and actress Carol Alt. 

Variations: Infinite. Sporty clothes at a party? Controversial, but we approve if they're well cut and a bit dressy (velours, cashmere). 

AKA: "Dress as you please," "day clothes," "smart day," "smart attire."