Ah, dress codes. Those vague yet utterly nerve-wracking bits of information at the bottom of every invitation. It also means a little different in certain parts of the world – mostly depending on how laid back a certain country is.

I believe in dressing up well for an event as a sign of good manners. It shows respect towards the host. It also makes sure you don’t embarrass yourself the moment you step into the venue.

In this post, I’d be sharing my cheat sheet on how I pick my clothes. My husband picks his but always asks for my advice so I’d put some of those for the males here as well.


This basically means there’s no dress code. However, if the invitation comes from a colleague of my husband’s (either from the same embassy or a different one), I make sure to dress a little professionally. Nothing too revealing and nothing too sporty – unless the invite is for an activity that requires such clothes.

I would normally take this as ‘Comfortable Clothing’ with the lightest touch of professional.

For him: A polo shirt with jeans that can either be denim or khaki plus loafers.

For her: A simple dress, no shorter than two inches above the knee. Finish it off with some ballet flats.

Business Casual / Smart Casual

In a nutshell: It’s what I’d wear to the office if I had a corporate job.

For him: A dress shirt, a seasonal sport coat, slacks, and either dress shoes or loafers. Tie, optional.

For her: A shift dress paired with some kitten heels and a blazer. You can also opt for dress pants and a trendy top. Sometimes, I’ll also go for a button down shirt or a chiffon top paired with either a skirt (plus points when I use t’nalak) or some skinny slacks.


This is the one people aren’t always sure about and people often find themselves either over or under dressed. I like to do a little bit of research whenever we get an invite that says semi-formal. Things to take into consideration: The country you’re in. Is it laid back? Are they more particular to dress codes? Who’s hosting the event and how do they usually dress?

For him: A dark suit and a tie plus dress shoes.

For her: You will never go wrong with the classic Little Black Dress (LBD). I usually wear it with heels and carry an eye-catching clutch. There are also events when I like to incorporate a little bit of Filipiniana into an outfit as a nod to my heritage. So I’d probably wear a cover up made by our local weavers.

Black Tie Formal

One of my favourites because it means I can bring out some of the big guns that I’ve been saving for such events.

For him: While I dream of a chance for my husband to wear a tuxedo, the black tie events we’ve been to were set in a more laid back country. So, he would usually wear a dark suit. Sometimes, he’ll go for a dressier dinner jacket.

For her: A floor length evening gown or a dressy, embellished cocktail dress. Also with heels, of course. No gloves.

White Tie

And here’s something for (if and) when you get invited to meet the Queen.

For him: A dress coat with a tail coat, a bowtie,  gray or white gloves optional.

For her: Under no circumstance should you wear a short dress. Go for floor length, formal and you also have the option to wear gloves.

There you have it. My quick cheat sheet as promised. 🙂 Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful and if you have anything to add, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email or a comment down below.

More later.



Diplomatic Incidents: Decoding Dress Codes in the Modern Age

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