I'm all for people getting creative with their party décor, but not so much with their dress code description. (Unless, you know, it's a theme party.) Island fancy, mountain chic, dress for the summer solstice (?!): these are all real dress decrees I've been given and all ones that immediately sent me into Gchat-polling madness to figure out what the host was trying to tell me.
Here's what I discovered about six of the most common and confusing dress codes in the process—and the best way to tackle each of them.
"Come As You Are" (Shown at top)
Really? Come in the moth-eaten t-shirt and old boxer shorts I've been wearing to watch Scandal? Didn't think so. I wish they just said "Hey people, jeans are fine" instead. That's how I usually approach it, then add a cozy button-down and flats. And then maybe a cool bag that makes me seem like I tried just a little bit.
If this were a legit excuse to go buy myself some diamonds, I would love it. But on my budget it morphs into something more like "denim & something shiny." In that case I'm all about some jewelry that's a little unexpected, like these earrings, which add a punch of color in with that bling. (And a denim skirt, which is slightly less predictable than jeans.)
Dark wash rip denim mini skirt, $39, dorothyperkins.com; orange ds earrings, $412, Shourouk, charmandchain.com; Heidi eyelet top, $138, Ella Moss, shopbop.com; "Toni" slim sandals, $208, shopbop.com .
(See more: 6 shoes to tribute pin-up legend Bettie Page’s style )
"Dressy Resort" / "Island Formal"
Beach weddings! They love this dress code. Nail it by wearing a free-flowing maxi dress that flows a bit in the breeze and feels very "I'm on vacation." Then add flat sandals that let you walk in the sand/boardwalk/beach grass without having to take them off.
Long printed dress, $90, zara.com; beaded tassel earrings, $55, Isabel Marant, netaporter.com; bangle set, $111, Kelly Wearstler, shopbop.com; embellished sandals, $90, topshop.com .
"Festive"/ "Dress to Impress"
Everytime I see this , I think , "What? Do you think I normally dress to not impress?" But I guess they mean to step it up a notch, in the sort of high-voltage stuff that seems very New Year's Eve to me: full skirts, sequins, mega-heels, major makeup.
Short-sleeve sequin dress, $140, Ali Ro, amazon.com; false eyelashes, $15, Illamasqua, sephora.com; navy party skirt, $195, skotapparel.com; lace court shoe, $49.90, zara.com
This one should just say "casual but not really, haha" or "casual but not jeans-casual, eww." It means you've got to step it up a teeny bit with proper pants and a blouse, or maybe a sundress and sandals. (Add red lipstick if you're worried you're on the borderline. It always makes everything look a level more polished.)
Polka dot blouse, $198, J.Crew, netaporter.com; cuvee chic lipstick, $34, bite beauty, sephora.com; trousers with zips on waist, $ 59.90, zara.com; leather ballerinas, $79.99, mango.com
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