Dress code types can be super confusing.

Seriously, decoding the differences between black tie, formal, semi-formal, cocktail and causal with business casual and semi-casual is a literal minefield.

And with a slew of other made-up dress codes rolling in like boho-chic, garden party, or fancy-hipster-unicorn-brunch-formal, decoding dress code types is becoming near impossible.

I know there are few things as daunting as being under or overdressed.

So understandably, your group chat floods with "what are you wearing" messages before every outing.

From a few faux pas and a few wins, I have learned one big thing about dressing up and down, and that is no matter how vague, confusing or made up the dress code, you can't go wrong if you stick to the basics.

So here is your dress code bible for every event, complete with hairstyles to match.

Black Tie and formal

The fanciest of all the dress code types, black tie.

Think floor-length gowns and uber-chic hair and makeup.

This is what we mean when we say dressed to the nines.

There can be some confusion with formal and black tie, and while there is some crossover, the two can be different.

Back tie events are so luxe; they sometimes don't allow cocktail length gowns or suits without jackets and ties.

Whereas formal can sometimes be interchanged with high scale cocktail.
Confusing, I know.

A good way to gauge the event's fanciness is to look who, what, when and most importantly, where.

The where will tell you what to wear.

For example, if it's a formal wedding in a backyard, a mid-length cocktail gown is probably on the money.

Where a formal or black-tie wedding at, say a ballroom, will call for a chic floor-length gown.

As a general rule for both, keep the dress below the knee.

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As far as hair, let the exquisite gown speak for itself.

Keep your locks sleek and minimal.

Go for a smooth bun, ponytail or big voluminous water waves.

Keep the messy beach waves, and boho buns for the causal hangs.

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Cocktail or Semi formal

While still keeping it classy, cocktail attire isn't as strict as its older sister, formal.

So you can be a little more bright and bold with your semi-formal dress code type.

Traditionally, cocktail refers to knee length party dresses, but it's more flexible nowadays.

Think fun, flirty and fierce.

Bold prints, bright colours, unique silhouettes and trendy accessories are encouraged for cocktail parties.

You could even rock an androgynous pantsuit with a killer pair of stilettos or a long skirt and crop combo.

This is the dress code to experiment and have fun with current trends.

As the kids would say; you do, you boo.


Cocktail and semi-formal hair are pretty easy breezy.

You can go for something sleek and chic or a hairstyle with a little more edge.

Curls or textured waves are a cocktail stable and messy buns or elevated high ponytails with statement jewellery.

Braids and plaits are back in a big way, so experiment with this trend and mix up your accessories.

Instead of the standard statement earring, why not go for a statement hairpiece?

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The Medium Halo in Col. #613/10

Business Attire

There are two dress code types when it comes to business.

Business formal and business casual.

Just to be more confusing.

Generally speaking, business attire is for the office.

This clean-cut dress code is growing popular even outside the corporate confines, with more and more people choosing to rock this style from 9 until after 5.

It usually involves pencil skirts, collared button-down shirts and slim fit work pants.

Read: 5 Easy Hairstyles With Halo Hair Extensions

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Business Formal

Business formal is dressier then what you'd wear every day to work.

Unless you work somewhere super fancy, like vogue, or maybe a big four bank.

Business formal is great for corporate parties, functions or even important meetings.

Think structures dresses, and tailored blazers with heels.

For the ultimate power move, channel your inner Jackie-O and rock a matching pantsuit. Pillbox hat not encouraged.

As for hair, keep it sleek.

Go for smooth high or low buns and ponytails.

Keep your locks clean and tucked behind your ears.

You mean business; after all, no time for distractions.


If you're choosing to wear this style out and about, do the opposite.

Business formal can be a subtle and sexy style for the bar too.

So if you're wearing something so structured in a more casual setting, sex it up a little.

Ditch the undershirt and go for an open blazer with a lace bralette.

Team this with messy textured waves with a whole lot of oomph.

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Business Casual

The business casual dress code is a little ambiguous.

Think conservative but still knock-off-drink apprope.

I'd suggest slimline pants or linen culottes paired with sweaters over collared shirts.

Dresses with slightly above the knee hemlines and cardigans are also a big yes.

Pair with tennis shoes or statement flats and minimal accessories.

You can have a little more freedom with hairstyles when it comes to business casual.

Im partial to low ponytails but, as long as your hair is clean and not too messy, you can really do anything.

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Unfortunately, a casual dress code does not mean activewear.

Rude, I know.

And confusing.

So what is casual?

Well, this can have many meanings.

For example, causal for a wedding could mean a shorter flowy dress with sandals.

Whereas a casual hang with friends might mean jeans and a nice top.

There are two main types of casual, smart and semi, and often the beloved and helpful host won't specify what.

It's up to you to figure out what is appropriate based on the venue, event type, and attendees.

So let's talk semi-casual and smart casual.

Read: 10 Ponytail Hairstyles You Can Do At Home

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The Medium Halo in Col. #18

Semi Casual

This is the most, well, casual of all the dress code types.

Think skirts with t-shirts, jumpers or camis, or shorter sundresses.

Depending on the occasion, you might also be able to get away with jeans, tennis shoes, an oversized jumper, or a tee.

It all depends on the type of event and venue, though.

Keep in mind; shoes are critical when it comes to semi-casual.

You can dress down a dressy dress with tennis shoes and a cardigan or boots and a leather jacket.

Similarly, you can dress up jeans and a tee with a killer pair of heels.

This means you can mix your business casual or cocktail pieces with different footwear and accessories for everyday events too.

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The Medium Halo in Col. #613/10

Semi casual hair is really up to you.

Steer clear of anything too neat and done.

Instead, go for something natural and low maintenance.

Loose waves, messy ponytails and boho buns are the casual staple hairstyles.

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The Medium Halo in Col. #613

Smart Casual

Smart casual should be your go-to dress code type for work events, casual Fridays, low-key birthday brunches, and even (some) job interviews.

Go for firm fitting jeans, slacks or boot cut pants teamed with tailored tops, graphic tees and blazers.

Midi skirts and sheer shirts with tennis shoes or chunky sandals are also semi-casual staples.

We are going for a laid back, low maintenance yet presentable and professional vibe.

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The Thick Halo in Col. #613

Your hair can be a little less done but still neat and tidy.

I'd opt for clean waves or a stylish curl ponytail.

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The Thick Halo in Col. #6

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