Dress Codes Decoded

There is nothing like the holiday season to make you question how much you really know about dress codes. Luckily, Suits by Curtis Eliot is here to help! Read on to learn about how to translate each dress code to an outfit that is sure to impress.

Business Casual

Business casual is what most people wear to the office. Even though this is the most casual section in our list, you still want to look put together. Make sure your clothes are wrinkle free to make sure you aren’t rocking the “I just rolled out of bed” look. For a bit more fun, try introducing a patterned top instead of just solid colours.

What to Wear

  • Chinos
  • Khakis
  • Collared Shirt (polo or button down)
  • Dress shoes or loafers

What to Avoid

  • Jeans
  • Shorts
  • T-shirts
  • Sneakers

Smart Casual

Now here’s where things can get a bit confusing. Smart casual is basically a combination of casual, business casual and business attire, mixed together to create a “smart” ensemble. Think jeans and a sport coat, or khakis with a button down shirt and vest. No item is really off limits here, so long as the formality is balanced. For every casual piece, make sure there is a business casual or business item to compliment it.

What to Wear

  • Dark jeans
  • Sport coat
  • Vests
  • Khakis or Chinos
  • Solid t-shirt (no band tees, please)
  • Dress shoes, loafers, clean sneakers

What to Avoid

  • Jeans with holes
  • Flip flops
  • Ties (these are usually reserved for business attire)


Business attire is also known as informal attire, which makes things confusing as there definitely is a bit more formality involved. Slightly more sophisticated that smart casual, business attire calls for a suit and tie.

What to Wear

  • Suit
  • Tie
  • Dress shoes
  • Sports coat

What to Avoid

  • Jeans
  • Bright colors or patterns (stick with navy, black, or brown)
  • Casual shoes


Semi-formal is fancier than business attire, but just a notch below a tuxedo. As dress codes increase with formality, bright colors or loud patterns become less acceptable.

What to Wear

  • Dark suit (lighter colours are acceptable if the event is during the day)
  • Long tie

What to Avoid

  • Mixed tops & bottoms (make sure it’s a matching suit)
  • Loud accessories (pocket squares and ties should be subtle and understated)


Formal events are among the most fancy of all dress codes, so expect to be surrounded by tuxedos and floor length gowns! A formal dress code may also be referred to as black tie, or black tie optional. Keep in mind that just because it’s called black tie doesn’t mean you must wear a black tie. Many men will opt for a matching tie and cummerbund combo of a different colour.

What to Wear

  • Tuxedo
  • Vest
  • Cummerbund
  • Tie
  • Dress shoes
  • For black tie optional: a black suit & conservative tie is acceptable

What to Avoid

  • An ill-fitting tux
  • Bright colours or patterns

We Can Help

The team at Suits by Curtis Eliot will make sure you’re dressed appropriately for any occasion. Book your appointment today to get your custom suit started.