With countless events in the next week, Heather Taylor decodes the often frustrating world of dress codes and formalwear for Freshers’, balls and beyond!


Events and special occasions usually require some sort of dress code –  the written, and often unwritten, rules of clothing etiquette. Can’t tell your Glamorous Gala from your Garden Party? Ensure that you don’t make a fashion faux pas with this essential guide on what to wear.

Black Tie

Apart from White Tie events – which are extremely rare – Black Tie is the most formal dress code you will probably come across in St Andrews.  The Kate Kennedy Opening Ball will be one of the first Black Tie events of 2014 and is therefore the perfect excuse to get dressed up in all of your finery. For the gentlemen, a tuxedo is the order of the day – you guys have it easy! Black tie is a little more complicated for us ladies, however. An evening gown will always go down well, but if you don’t own one and don’t want to buy something new, a cocktail dress you already have would also be acceptable. However if you do take this option, make sure to keep the colours rich – reds, purples, metallics – to avoid looking too casual.  Your dress does not have to be black, although, when in doubt, a little back dress paired with heels and costume jewellery is the fool-proof option.




Black Tie Optional/ Black Tie Creative

This dress code is much more open to interpretation than ordinary Black Tie.  You aren’t expected to go all out as if you were attending the Oscars, but this dress code still calls for formal attire. Gentlemen will never go wrong in a tuxedo or dark suit and tie. However, a velvet dinner jacket can also look really stylish – as long as it is a perfect fit. Velvet has that smoking jacket appearance and gives a vintage look that is very on trend at the moment. If you do choose to wear one, pair it with smart black trousers and a bow tie to complete the look.

Ladies – we can wear anything from a long dress to a flirty cocktail dress or even a voluminous midi skirt. Hair and makeup can be more experimental too – this is the time to wear bold and bright lipsticks or eye shadows. Hair can be worn down or in a casual style.  Dress appropriately for the type of event, paying close attention to the theme, while having fun with your outfit using colours, patterns, sparkle and accessories.




Smart Casual

Smart Casual is frustratingly vague as far as dress codes go, as it requires a degree of personal judgement based on the location of the event, people attending and even the weather (a very important factor to take into consideration at St Andrews.)  Smart Casual can typically be defined as the sort of outfit you would wear at a dinner party or out for drinks with friends – nothing to formal or fancy, but still smart.  Depending on the situation, jeans may or may not be acceptable, so my suggestion for men is to wear a shirt, blazer and chinos. There are many options for the ladies, anything from dark jeans and a blouse to a mid length dress with a fitted jacket could work.

With such a wide variety of events due to take place in St Andrews this year there will be many opportunities to dress to impress – and if you get it wrong, don’t worry, everyone will be having too much fun to care about what you – or anyone else – are wearing!


Heather Taylor


Photo Credits:

Nicolas Genin (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Manfred Werner (Tsui) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons