What Does Formal Dress Mean?

Formal dress may refer collectively to all attire considered appropriate for social events that demand strict adherence to ceremonial etiquette. It may also refer specifically to a ladies’ garment suited to that purpose.

Although the trends of the 20th and 21st centuries in Western society have moved toward the loosening of fashion conventions, formal wear is still often considered de rigueur for social events steeped heavily in tradition, such as weddings, dances and debutante cotillions. For a man, a formal dress code conventionally requires a black tuxedo with a black tie or bow tie. For a woman, formal dress requires a long gown. Although the black tuxedo leaves little room for interpretation, ladies’ gowns vary more widely in color, fabric and style.