Dress Codes 101: The Right Clothing for Every Situation

Dress Codes 101: The Right Clothing for Every Situation
Night at the opera or a charity event? It's time to dress to impress. (Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock)
Dressing to go out in public isn’t something many people spend too much time thinking about today—and they should. It’s up to us to set a new standard. Let’s bring back dressing with class, dignity, and traditional values.

Out and About

Inspiring others starts the moment you step out the door—dressed well. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more common to see people in stores, on the subway, or walking their dogs while dressed in pajamas or something that looks like pajamas. Pajamas are for the breakfast table or curled on the couch to binge-watch a TV series, but don’t step outside while you’re dressed for bed, unless you’re just getting the newspaper off the front stoop. Your oldest sweatpants fall into this category, too.

A good rule of thumb is to choose something you’d be proud to be wearing if you were to bump into your high school crush.

Raise the corporate bar with your work attire. (Pressmaster/Shutterstock)
Raise the corporate bar with your work attire. (Pressmaster/Shutterstock)

Office Wear

No matter how great someone is at their job, they are kidding themselves if they believe what they wear doesn’t matter. It does. A lot. Many offices have relaxed attire dress codes, sometimes Casual Friday, sometimes all week. Leave the sports team T-shirts and ripped jeans, no matter how comfy they are, for after-hours or weekends. And no yoga outfits—ever—unless you work at a gym. If in doubt, pay attention to how your boss or supervisor dresses; as long as they aren’t fashion challenged, follow their lead. If not, raise the corporate bar with your attire.

Home Depot

We’ve all been there planting prized roses, laying sod, or painting the front porch, when we realized that one more essential item was needed for the project and had to dash to the store. When covered in mud, paint splashes, or perhaps a bit odiferous, take a fast, hot shower and climb into a clean T-shirt and shorts or jeans. You’ll feel refreshed and recharged, ready to climb back into the trenches when you get home with whatever supplies you need to complete the job. (If you’re single, keep in mind some home improvement stores are better than a singles bar.)

Date Night

It doesn’t matter if it’s a first date or the 310th date, or if you’ve been married for years—make date night special. You can easily spot what we call “First Date, Last Date” couples: She is wearing a cocktail dress, while he’s in old jeans, a rock band T-shirt, and black Crocs with white socks. One failsafe bet is khakis and a button-down for him, both of which should be ironed, and a cute summery dress or winter sweater dress for her. Think of something you’d wear to a job interview, as this may be the biggest interview of your life.

Opera Night

The saying, “Dress to impress” definitely applies to trips to the opera, the ballet, or any organized event benefiting a charity held at a swanky venue. This is the chance to raid the wardrobe for your favorite outfits. When in doubt, women can never go wrong with a classic black evening or cocktail dress and heels, a strand of pearls around her neck, while men should, at minimum, wear dress slacks (dark gray is always appropriate) with a nice shirt and a blue blazer or tweed sport jacket. Or, drag out the tuxedo; women will tell you that there’s nothing like a man in a tux.
Sandy Lindsey is an award-winning writer who covers home, gardening, DIY projects, pets, and boating. She has two books with McGraw-Hill.
Related Topics