The Christmas soiree season brings with it an age-old fashion problem: how to decipher the dress code now that tradition and the new guard have become blurred. Does black tie really require a penguin suit? What should one wear to that daytime cocktail party? We've taken the guesswork out of the dress code question to ensure you and your partner remain appropriately clad at every occasion.
There's no need for a penguin suit here but that doesn't mean jeans and a shirt, either. Lounge suit/cocktail/stylish dress codes call for a suit and tie for men (feel free to embrace colour - navy, grey or tan is chic) and a glamorous frock for women (long or three-quarters are your best bet). Look for pieces that are on trend - nudes and draping are big this season - rather than a glitzy frock for the sake of it. Again, accessories are key - luxe metallics are lovely for ladies while for guys, a silver watch and tie (or even a pop of bright colour to match your partner) is chic and fashion forward.
There's no getting around it: black tie is the formal dress code and must be adhered to when stated on an invitation. The rules dictate a black tuxedo and bow tie for men and an evening gown for women, preferably floor length. It's also important to choose the right accessories. For men, that means good leather dress shoes and belt (in black, of course) and some statement cuff links. Ladies, you don't have to wear a black dress, a block colour will complement a tuxedo nicely - just steer clear of anything too busy or fussy. Some statement earrings - pearls or gold are classic - and a glamorous clutch and heels (nothing too strappy or summery) will complete your black-tie transition.
This is the most relaxed of the dress codes but shorts and thongs will not do. Think dressing for an important lunch, posh barbecue or beach wedding. You should be on trend and smart. Women could embrace colour or bold prints in the shape of a cute summer dress or skirt, worked back with a statement tote and jewellery and, for this season, '70s-style wedges. Guys could wear neutral trousers or even dressy jeans with a button-up shirt (short-sleeve is OK but T-shirts are a no-no). And leave the thongs at home and wear boat shoes or lace-ups.
In Australia, a soiree can mean a daytime garden party or afternoon cocktails, so the key here is to dress up without overdoing it. Men could wear smart trousers and a shirt (minus the jacket), while women should still wear a statement frock - a mini is a more relaxed choice and remember to steer clear of anything too evening-esque. Neutral shades and minimal accessories are also the way to go and feel free to embrace more casual footwear - open-toe heels or even dressy wedges are the ticket.
Carla Zampatti knotted georgette dress, $599, (02) 9260 9700, Lara Bohinc 18ct yellow gold-plated cuff, $650, offtherunway.com.au, Kosheen heel, $220, www.kosheen.com.au, Escada clutch, $1690, (02) 9223 3283 and Marcs grey-blue suit jacket, $499, and trousers, $199, 1800 688 290, Fletcher Jones navy shirt, $59.95, 1800 061 425, Orange vintage tie, $75, from The Vintage Clothing Shop, (02) 9238 0090, Hugo Boss silver watch, $529, (03) 9580 6268, Antoine & Stanley suede shoe, $199, antoineandstanley.com and 3 Wise Men silk tie, $60, (02) 8354 1662.
Bianca Spender long blue gown, $799, (02) 9260 9700, Jan Logan pearl earrings, $145, janlogan.com.au, Rachael Ruddick Opera clutch in onyx stingray with pearl crowns, $560, rachaelruddick.com, Nut-Sui black jewelled heel, $280, nat-sui.com.au, Herringbone tuxedo suit, $1295, and pleat-front shirt, $249, (02) 9362 9901, Bow tie, $75, from The Vintage Clothing Shop, (02) 9238 0090, Tiffany & Co. cuff links in titanium, $590, 1800 731 131, Armani Exchange leather belt, $99, (03) 9600 4888 and Milu shoe, $329, (03) 9349 4440.
Saba printed shift dress, $224.25, 1800 441 739, Mulberry Tillie tote, $2060, (03) 9600 4888, Carmen Steffens denim wedge, $289, (08) 9284 5560, and House of Harlow 1960 tiger's-eye ring, $83, miijo.com.
Thurley beaded dress, $449, (02) 9368 7711, Mimco hard-case clutch, $149, mimco.com.au, Peep Toe jewelled heel, $299, peeptoeshoes.com.au and Colette Accessories stone earrings, $8.95, colette.com.au.