De-Coding the DRESS CODE!

Every social event has a dress code. You should know what to wear for each event. The terms used in the invitation will indicate the clothes to be worn. Here we illustrate what these terms will mean in the context of an invitation. However, these terms will also be culture and event specific.


This dress code is used for a gathering of family and friends.  You can wear anything you like to express your individuality and be comfortable in. However, even with this dress code, shorts, rubber slippers, beach wear etc. are not appropriate unless it is a beach party!

Smart casual:

This dress code is the most confusing. It can be used for less formal receptions and family dinners. Kurta/pyjama/churidar with a sleeveless jacket could be the Indian alternative for men. Traditional Indian women’s wear with light embellishments and accessories will be correct. For western wear the safest attire would be a tailored jacket, collared shirt and closed shoes for men and a similar look for women.

Informal/Semi-formal/Lounge Suit:

Semi-formal clothes are worn where casual attire is not acceptable but formal attire would be considered excessive. Normally, government functions, institutional functions, formal cocktails, musical soirees and other such events is where such attire is worn. It is a conservative form of dress.

For men, it consists of a suit, which is worn with a long-sleeved shirt and matching tie.  For morning events, a light colored suit is suitable and for the evenings a dark-coloured suit should be worn. Shoes should be well polished, with matching socks.

The ethnic Indian wear for men is the bandh-gala coat, the achkan or the sherwani in appropriate weaves and colors. For women, heavier fabrics and ornate embellishments and accessories are acceptable.

Formal Wear:

Western formal wear is divided into the ‘Black Tie’ and the ‘White Tie’ dress code.

‘Black Tie’ is worn only for formal evening events such as public dinners, dances, and parties. For men, it consists of a suit made of black or midnight blue good quality fabric, with the jacket lapels and trouser braid are of silk, a formal white dress shirt, a black bow-tie or regular tie, an evening waistcoat or cummerbund, and black dress shoes. Women’s dress for black tie occasions are floor length or mid-calf evening gowns with suitable accessories.

‘White Tie’ is worn for ceremonial occasions, very formal balls and society evening weddings. For men it consists of a black dress coat or tailcoat, white bow tie, white waistcoat and starched wing collar shirt and  formal pump or court shoes.  For women, formal evening gowns with suitable accessories are appropriate.

The alternative in Indian clothes for men would be a black band-gala suit, a sherwani or achkan in cream or black, in traditional Indian weaves such as brocade, tanchoi, kimkhab. A cream wool churidar kurta with a jamawar or pashmina shawl properly draped, would also be acceptable in winter. When wearing Indian clothes, the footwear should be juttis or nagras.

For Indian weddings the men, especially the bridegroom, can wear heavy brocades and embroideries in the traditional wear.

For women, any Indian outfit in rich traditional weaves and embroideries would be correct. However, heavy gold/silver embroideries or embellishments on the fabric is not suitable for formal state dinners or ceremonial occasions.  Matching accessories, jewelry and footwear would complete the outfit.

For an Indian wedding, there is no ‘over the top’ dressing as the heavier the better! However, even a very plain outfit can be suitable for a wedding with the right accessories.

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