Your reservations are made in a high-class steakhouse with dim lighting, romantic ambiance, and a menu that makes choosing an entrée the toughest decision of your life and then you realize that you have no idea what to wear. What are the expectations of the restaurant for their guests? You call them, but the dress code does not clarify what is acceptable —it only leaves you more baffled.

Today we will discuss four classifications of restaurant’s dress expectations: casual, casual elegant, jacket required or formal. These classifications can be helpful, but they cannot choose the right outfit from your closet. Use these guidelines to help you choose the right outfit for whatever the suggested attire may be.

Casual 

When restaurants classify the dress code as casual it may lead you to believe that the anything goes, but keep in mind that when a fine dining restaurant mentions casual, their “casual” expectations are much higher than the norm. Sweats and t-shirts are not recommended—don’t let your entrée’s appearance out-do your own. A casual dress code for fine dining restaurants means comfortable… but polished. Light colors, bolds, and patterns are considered more casual than darks and blacks; and collared shirts are standard. Collarless shirts are not acceptable. Linen and canvas will take an outfit down a couple notches, while leather shoes and smooth fabrics will take it up some.

Casual Elegant

When a restaurant calls for casual elegant dress they want guests to wear a dressed-up variety of their casual attire. This will vary, depending on the extent you want to dress up. For him, wear a dark suit or a button down with trousers, and a sports coat. For her, a formal pants outfit, or a chic black dress with an evening wrap or an envelope clutch bag. Use your finer jewelry, bold makeup, and show some skin.

Jacket Required

Restaurants calling for “Jackets Required” expect both men and women to be dressed accordingly. Men wear jackets or blazers and long pants. It is suggested that women choose attire that is comparable to the men’s suit, while capturing the elegance, more than the casual, of the casual-elegant category. This elegance is found in gowns of any length and evening separates, such as embellished pantsuits and dresses with a complementing jacket.

Formal

This category is rare, but when it is required, it is crucial that it be followed. The formal standard requires patrons to wear their best. Not “Black Tie,” so no need to wear your tuxedos and gowns. Men wear an elegant jacket and tie, and women wear evening dresses or very high-end separates.

Dress codes are suggested by some eateries as a way to add to the total supreme culinary experience. The best way to savor the luxury of the first-rate service is by dressing to dine, but regardless of what you decide to wear, have a Happy Valentine’s Day!