Your initial reaction to receiving an invitation to a special event from a friend or family member is likely excitement, but if the invitation specifies a dress code your second reaction may be anxiety. The fact that one person’s idea of business casual may be another person’s semi-formal — and that there is no standard dress code database — can make complying with a requested dress code confusing. However, if you’ve been invited to an event that requires elegant dress, selecting your outfit may be easier than you think.

What it Means

Simply put, elegant dress is formal attire, but it is not black or white tie. For men, elegant dress means a suit and tie. For women, it means a formal dress, or pants suit. Unlike black tie, which necessitates you wear a full length gown, and cocktail attire, which calls for a dress no longer than knee-length, an elegant dress code leaves the length of the dress up to you. Elegant dress is one of the more flexible dress codes.

Consider the Setting

Since you will have many attire options that comply with an elegant dress code, narrowing down your possible outfits may be difficult. One good way to start is by considering the setting of the event you have been invited to. If it is an outdoor event, you will want to take the weather into account. A full length dress and a jacket may be better for an outdoor wedding in the winter than a strapless, mid-length dress would be. If you are attending a party on the beach, however, a full length dress should be avoided because it would drag in the sand.

Consider the Time

If the event is during the day, bright colors are an appropriate option. Consider a neon skirt paired with a more sedate top, or a jewel-toned dress. For an evening event, go full-glamor by breaking out the beads, sequins and jewels; however, you may wish to stick to darker color pallet. Traditionally men wear dark colored suits to events that take place after 6 p.m., so stick to similar tones in order to match your date’s attire.

Consider the Crowd

Finally, what you feel comfortable in around your girlfriends is likely different than what you would wear to meet your boss’s family. When selecting attire for an event with an elegant dress code, take into account who else will be attending. If you are unsure what you will feel comfortable in, err on the side of the conservative. When all else fails, a dark-colored, mid-length dress is always elegant and appropriate. Pair it with statement jewelry or bold shoes to add a bit of interest, and you will be ready for any event that calls for elegant attire.