Let’s face it, finding the perfect wedding guest look is one of fashion’s biggest challenges. There are just so many variables to consider. There’s the venue, the season and, of course, the dress code specified on the invitation. Wedding dress codes are infamous for being tough to crack, especially in today’s world where couples take major liberties with the attire specifications. (Ever heard of farmhouse chic? It’s a thing now.)

Luckily, we come bearing expert advice. Neil Timiraos, Rent the Runway’s Style Specialist in New York City, gave us the 411 on the world’s toughest wedding dress codes. Whether your invite bears a classic (black tie) or quirky (coastal casual) sartorial directive, Neil’s got you covered. Check out his A+ tips below.


If the invite specifies “cocktail attire”:



“Cocktail attire is the least formal dress code,” Neil explains, “pretty much anything is appropriate, including simpler gowns and jumpsuits” In other words, you have the green light to get creative with your look, whether you’re in the mood to dress up or down.

If the invite specifies “black tie”:



Black tie has a reputation for being one of the more nebulous dress codes, when in fact it’s quite simple. According to Neil, there’s one thing you should remember when dressing for a black tie wedding: “Depending on the venue and hosts, ‘black tie’ calls for a gown.” As Neil mentions, however, if you feel you could get away with something more casual based on the location of the event, go for it. Make sure to dress up a more casual choice with statement accessories.

If the invite specifies “beach chic” or “coastal casual”:



As prime examples of popular DIY dress codes, we had to ask Neil about “beach chic” and “coastal casual.” “These dress codes are most common in the Northeast and in Southern California,” Neil clarifies. “Depending on the coast, they either call for preppy florals or breezy maxis.” While there aren’t hard and fast rules around either dress code, Neil does make one suggestion: “Avoid wearing sequins or black and opt for brighter colors.”

If the invite specifies “black tie optional”:



Neil’s trick for helping clients dress for black tie optional weddings is genius: “To me it is easier to interpret black tie optional as ‘festive cocktail.’ This calls for more formal cocktail dresses and party dresses rather than a simpler cocktail dress.” This slight shift in perspective makes things way easier, right? The bottom line is you should fun with your black tie optional choice, as there’s no need to go over the top: “A ballgown is often too much,” Neil states, but you should feel free to play with more casual floor length dresses that feature a statement print, bold color or funky cut out detail.

If the invite specifies “bohemian black tie” or “farmhouse chic”:



Bohemian black tie and farmhouse chic are also frequently used among couples who want to subvert the dress code standards. Although creative, these attire specifications are quite difficult to decode. Neil breaks it down: “This is the landlocked version of ‘beach chic’ or ‘coastal casual.’ For this type of dress code, vintage inspired laces and neutral colors are expected.” Sounds easy enough, right? Bring it on, hipster weddings.