Restaurant Dress Codes Defined

dress code

You’ve just snagged a reservation at the hottest new restaurant in the city. As your mouth waters for the delectable new flavors and your excitement builds for your big night out, you start to wonder what to wear. What expectations does this new restaurant have for their guests? Are jeans acceptable or do I need to wear a pant suit? Does my date need to wear a jacket?

In general, restaurant dress codes can be organized into 5 different categories: casual, business casual, casual elegant and formal. A quick phone call to your restaurant can help determine the category of dress code you need to adhere to. Though these dress categories can’t tell you exactly what to wear, they’re a great guide to help you dress appropriately for your next meal out.


Your options are vast with a casual dress code policy. Blue jeans are acceptable as well as shirts without collars. Keep in mind that casual still means polished at most restaurants so pajama pants, ripped jeans, and dirty gym shoes are not acceptable. In general, lighter colors come off as more causal than darker colors.

Business Casual

When going business casual, think about what would be accepted at the workplace. A restaurant with a business causal expectation most likely wants you to be comfortable, but also fit in with their more upscale appearance. For men, business casual apparel items would include a collared shirt, dress pants, a belt, and tie or loafer styles shoes. As for women, skirts to the knee, dresses, and casual suits are all appropriate. Shoes should be closed-toe and cleavage is not acceptable.

Casual Elegant

At a restaurant with casual elegant dress code, think about bringing your business casual outfit to the next level. For men, jackets and slacks should be worn in dark colors. Women may want to wear a little black dress with accompanying jewelry and matching wrap.


Though fairly uncommon today, some restaurants like the Waldorf-astoria in New York City require formal dress for their customers. Diners must wear their best, with men in suits, and women in their finest dresses. Black tie calls for women to wear cocktail dresses and men to wear tuxedos. White tie is more formal than black tie and requires women to wear gowns and men to wear a white tie, vest, and shirt.