Skip to main content

Julie’s Guide to What to Wear over the Silly Season

by Julie Goodwin, / Saturday December 10th 2016



So, you survived the Spring Racing Carnival with budget, liver and feet intact. Bravo!

Now it’s time to consider festive season invitations that will be heading your way and deliberate what to wear (or what not to wear) to the various casual or formal occasions you will be attending.

Whilst Flemington issues dress code regulations to reassure those who wonder what is appropriate, there is no such watchdog for general event dressing. Confusion over what to wear to various Christmas shindigs can take the shine off your baubles.

Here’s my rough guide to point you in the right direction…

White Tie

Astaire in white tie and tails – what more inspiration do you need?

Astaire in white tie and tails – what more inspiration do you need?

This is a serious occasion. For men, white tie means just that: a dinner suit preferably with tails worn with a white bow tie, dinner shirt and vest. Ladies should pull out the big guns for this one; a ball gown is a must. This should be floor length, and in a colour rather than black. Put your hair up and get out your best jewels. All set.


Black Tie

Carey and Grace - black tie regulars

Carey and Grace – black tie regulars

A black tie event is the most common formal wear dress code in Australia where men are required to wear a black bow tie, white shirt and black trousers. Dinner jackets can be matched to the trousers, but also be worn in plain white, black velvet or with satin lapels. Ladies, your dress should be floor length and attention grabbing, in either colour or embellished black. Hair can be worn up or down but should be well groomed.


Lounge suit

Lounge suit. Simply elegant.

Lounge suit. Simply elegant.

Men can wear their best business suit to a lounge suit function but probably not the pinstripe! A collar and tie are required. Ladies, your dress should be floor length, less showy than for black tie – understated elegance is called for here. You could get away with ankle/ballerina length.



A suit is the best choice for men attending a cocktail party although a tie is optional. Ladies, you are safe to expose your legs for this one. Your cocktail dress should be low cut, with sleeves, or sleeveless with a high neckline. Save low cut and sleeveless for a nightclub or private dinner party.


Semi formal

In Australia, ‘semi-formal’ is often seen as interchangeable with ‘cocktail’ but in fact it traditionally means ‘black tie’. Find out what sort of event it is (wedding, ball or dinner?). If in doubt, check with your host.


Smart casual


The Bogarts nail smart-casual.

The Bogarts nail smart-casual.

Smart casual is the world’s most frustrating dress code because it is so vague. The lack of ‘rules’ can be confusing but generally some degree of effort is required. Men should wear their ‘good’ denim, chinos or trousers with a t-shirt and jacket or shirt. No tie. Ladies can wear pretty much anything they feel good in: heels or flats, dress or trousers. Just make sure your hair and nails are in order. Oh, and leisure wear is NOT smart casual!


The beauty of bespoke: why investing in quality fashion is smart dressing

Erin Modaro interviews Julie Goodwin

A Julie Goodwin Couture shoot to define my everyday muses

I don’t do alterations, but they are central to my philosophy, and here’s a pile I did last week.

Julie Goodwin Couture features in ‘Sustainable Fashion Melbourne’

Jane Vandermeer and the art of holistic soulful styling