What is Dressy Casual Attire? [Decoding Dress Codes]

It’s still casual, just a bit dressy, but really not too dressy — was what my friend said when I asked her what dressy casual attire means.  I didn’t get much from her answer; in fact, I was just as confused as ever.

Following the dress code as stated in the invitation is a must.  It not only shows our respect for the one throwing the party or organizing the event, but it also reflects our regard to etiquette.  Dress codes guide us in what to wear and what not to wear during an important event or occasion.  They ensure us that we will neither be overdressed nor underdressed, hence saving us from any embarrassment.

However, decoding dress codes can be a bit tricky, especially if it’s other than formal or strict formal.  I realized this the moment I was handed an invitation to an event stating that the dress code is “dressy casual attire” and I had no idea how it differs from my concept of casual attire.  Luckily, the dress I wore to the event fit the description and I was able to save myself from any embarrassment.  However, I don’t want to rely on pure luck again the next time, so I’m gathering all my sources to answer this ultimate question:  what is dressy casual attire?

Dressy casual attire means an outfit that looks chic but less formal.  It’s also a bit dressier than business casual attire and your ordinary casual attire.  It must not be too formal and not too casual as well.  The outfit should therefore be in the middle or in between casual and formal as it’s usually meant for afternoon and evening events that are more social and less formal, or less of a business-type event.  You can think of your Sunday look or your business or work outfit that’s on a more informal level.

dressy casual for women

The most classic example  would be fitted or slim slacks paired with a silk blouse or any dressy pants outfit.  Aside from the pants, women can also experiment with a skirt or trousers paired with a dressy top, a dress, a chic jumpsuit, or a cashmere shell.  However, when it comes to skirts and dresses, make sure that it’s knee-length or three inches above the knee (a length shorter than this would already make the outfit look too casual).  Almost anything would actually do for dressy casual attire except shorts, sweats, t-shirts, mini or short length skirts, and denim.

Also, it screams a well-accessorized and a well-coordinated outfit.  So, when choosing what to wear, especially when you opt to combine different pieces, make sure that the separate pieces coordinate with each other and that they are made with semi-dressy fabrics or are well-accessorized if made with plain fabrics to make them look elegant.  However, the jewelry must be kept at a minimum, and very showy pieces must be avoided.

When it comes to shoes, avoid wearing stilettos, sky-high heels, sneakers, slippers, and tennis shoes.  Instead, opt for wedges, or a very nice pair of flats or semi-formal heels.

If you’re still in doubt about what to wear for a dressy casual outfit or if you want to make sure that what you’re planning to wear for the event is within the dress code, you can always ask the organizer or the one throwing the party to shed some light.  Never be afraid to ask him or her about what he or she expects guests to wear.  There’s really no harm in asking.

What is Dressy Casual Attire?

It’s still casual, just a bit dressy, but really not too dressy.” – Was what my friend said when I asked her what dressy casual attire means. I didn’t get much from her answer; in fact, I was just as confused as ever.

Following the dress code as stated in the invitation is a must. It not only shows our respect for the one throwing the party or organizing the event, but it also reflects our regard to etiquette. Dress codes guide us in what to wear and what not to wear during an important event or occasion. They ensure us that we will neither be overdressed nor under dressed, hence saving us from any embarrassment.

dressy casual attireHowever, decoding dress codes can be a bit tricky, especially if it’s other than formal or strict formal, like dressy casual attire for example. I realized this the moment I was handed an invitation to an event stating that the dress code is “dressy casual attire” and I had no idea how it differs from my concept of casual attire. Luckily, the dress I wore to the event fit the description of dressy casual attire and I was able to save myself from any embarrassment. However, I don’t want to rely on pure luck again the next time, so I’m gathering all my sources to answer this ultimate question: what is dressy casual attire?


Dressy casual attire means an outfit that looks chic but less formal.
It’s also a bit dressier than business casual attire and your ordinary casual attire. Dressy casual attire must not be too formal and not too casual as well. The outfit should therefore be in the middle or in between casual and formal as it’s usually meant for afternoon and evening events that are more social and less formal, or less of a business-type event. You can think of your Sunday look or your business or work outfit that’s on a more informal level.

The most classic example of casual attire would be fitted or slim slacks paired with a silk blouse or any dressy pants outfit. Aside from the pants, women can also experiment with a skirt or trousers paired with a dressy top, a dress, a chic jumpsuit, or a cashmere shell. However, when it comes to skirts and dresses, make sure that it’s knee-length or three inches above the knee (a length shorter than this would already make the outfit look too casual). Almost anything would actually do for dressy casual attire except shorts, sweats, t-shirts, mini or short length skirts, and denim.

shopping shoesAlso, casual attire screams a well-accessorized and a well-coordinated outfit. So, when choosing what to wear, especially when you opt to combine different pieces, make sure that the separate pieces coordinate with each other and that they are made with semi-dressy fabrics or are well-accessorized if made with plain fabrics to make them look elegant. However, the jewelry must be kept at a minimum, and very showy pieces must be avoided.

When it comes to shoes, avoid wearing stilettos, sky-high heels, sneakers, slippers, and tennis shoes. Instead, opt for wedges, or a very nice pair of flats or semi-formal heels.

If you’re still in doubt about what to wear for a dressy casual outfit or if you want to make sure that what you’re planning to wear for the event is within the dress code, you can always ask the organizer or the one throwing the party to shed some light. Never be afraid to ask him or her about what he or she expects guests to wear. There’s really no harm in asking.

How to Have the Perfect Dressy Casual Attire

Every woman wants to be dressed beautifully for an event – neither overdressed nor underdressed but just appropriately and perfectly dressed.  Dress codes help ensure that we’ll never be underdressed nor overdressed, which is why, when attending an important occasion or even just an ordinary event, it’s important to know the prescribed outfit and to faithfully follow it. One of the dress codes that are in need of deciphering is dressy casual attire.  A perfect dressy casual attire is between casual and formal, or a somewhat dressed-up version of your ordinary casual attire.  It may seem difficult to nail dressy casual attire, but it can be possibly achieved through these five simple steps:

Do your homework

Before looking for the perfect dress to wear, you should first research the Dressy Casual Attire Do’s and Don’ts so that you understand what the dress code actually entails.  You also have to research the venue or the place of the event so that you’ll be sure that the dress that you’ve in mind is appropriate not only for the party but also for its location.

If you’ve any doubts or if you’ve some questions regarding the dress code, this is also the perfect time to ask the organizer or the one throwing the party about what he or she expects guests to wear.

Look for nice pants or a skirt

Bottoms first before tops; look for nice pants, slacks, or a skirt first before buying a blouse or a nice shirt to go with it.  It’s harder and more time-consuming to look for a nice pair of pants or a skirt, so do this first.

When choosing a pair of slacks or pants, make sure that they’re slim and fitted.  If you’re planning to wear a skirt, make sure that it’s knee-length or not too short.  Also, when choosing your bottoms for a perfect dressy casual attire, make sure that it’s of a darker color for it to look a bit formal and not too casual. perfect dressy casual attire

Pair it with a dressy top

For a perfect dressy casual attire, your pants, slacks, or skirt should be paired with a dressy top, a formal blouse, or a silk shirt.  A plain blouse or shirt with richer and dressier fabrics, a sweater set, or a cashmere shell are also good options.  Just make sure that the separate pieces and the overall outfit looks well-coordinated.

Be well-accessorized

Dressy casual attire must not only be well-coordinated, but it must also be well-accessorized.  A glam clutch, wedges, or not-too-high heels must go with the dressy pants outfit.  However, jewelry must not be bold and loud but must only be kept at a minimal level.

Smile and rock your outfit with confidence

Your smile and confidence are the best accessories that you can add to your outfit.  Your dressy casual attire won’t be perfect without them.  So make sure that you exude great confidence in what you wear and that you’ve your best genuine smile to complement your dressy casual attire.


This Article is part of the Dressy Casual Attire series. Read On:

Decoding Dress Codes: What is Dressy Casual Attire?

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Amy Taylor on Email
Amy Taylor
Hi, I'm Amy, the Beauty section editor for Independent Femme! I've worked at a cosmetics distribution company for a number of years and learned my way through beauty tricks by making a ton of mistakes along the way. I'm here to ensure you don't make the wrong choices some of my former clients and I made!

You'll find me at all the trade shows and I'll be listing my appearances and speaking dates soon!

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