Have you ever looked at your closet and thought, I have nothing to wear? Picking the perfect outfit can be a struggle, especially when trying to adhere to a particular party dress code. From finding the perfect cocktail dress to deciding what to wear to a fall wedding, the choices can feel endless. So in an effort to take some of the stress out of decoding dress codes, we spoke with celebrity fashion stylist and designer Mickey Freeman. Ahead, you'll discover his signature tips for nailing any party dress code, how he defines everything from black-tie attire to business casual, and of course, a little about his career. Keep scrolling for Freeman's guide to party dress codes, along with formal-attire outfit inspiration and shopping recommendations that will make dressing for your next big occasion a breeze.
About Mickey Freeman
Photo:Courtesy of Michael Creagh for Mickey Freeman
Let's start from the beginning. How did you become a fashion stylist? And who is on your client list?
Fashion styling as a career has always been inside of me. In retrospect, I have subconsciously prepared myself for my trajectory throughout my entire childhood. My earliest beginnings as a fashion stylist started with me as my own muse. It was imperative for me to develop the necessary business acumen to help make my vision a reality. As I got older, I would be my own representation of who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go, so I would dress the part—and that was the driving force behind my career as a stylist.
After years of traveling back and forth to NYC from my hometown of Philly to freelance and shoot with local photographers on various editorial test shoots, I eventually created a demand for me to actually be at the helm of an editorial shoot for GQ Portugal. I haven't looked back since. Fast-forward, I am a celebrity fashion stylist and creative director represented by The Only Agency and have worked with many of the top entertainers in the industry, more recently, actors including Brett Gray, Keke Palmer, Peyton List, Kiana Madeira, and Woody McClain, to name a few.
Photo:Courtesy of Michael Creagh for Mickey Freeman
As a stylist, what's the most challenging part of following a party dress code for your clients?
The most challenging part of styling a client while also adhering to a specific dress code would be making certain the look is reasonably appropriate for the occasion and the client's body type while simultaneously achieving a great fit, comfortability, and a sense of individuality.
What's the one piece of advice you'd share when it comes to following any party dress codes?
Making the most impactful statement while navigating within the confines of any dress code comes down to the details. It's important to showcase your individuality through things like accessories and jewelry. Even choosing classic options (like a mid-length black dress) with interesting textures or ornate embellishments can make all the difference in the world.
Breaking Down the Party Dress Codes
When it comes to defining and dressing for a white-tie party dress code, Freeman gravitates toward a royal-inspired look. "White-tie is one of the most formal of affairs. It's a dress code in which I feel someone should be as tasteful and regal as possible," he explains. "I would recommend a long-length gown with intricate details, especially around the bodice. Feel free to have a princess moment!"
When it comes to black-tie events, Freeman is a fan of pure elegance with thoughtful accessories. "I would describe black-tie dress codes as a formal way of dressing," Freeman continued. "It's one in which the most appropriate option is a mid to long-length dark-colored dress or gown. I'd recommend completing this look with a statement clutch and attention-grabbing necklace and or earrings."
What's the difference between black tie and black tie optional? According to Freeman, black tie optional should still adhere to black-tie guidelines as far as dress length is concerned. "The difference is that one would be able to play with color a bit more, so long as the dress is monochromatic," he elaborates.
Not exactly sure what the invitation means when the party dress code is creative black tie? Freeman advises us to think of creative black tie as an embodiment of black tie but with a twist. "For example, opting for avant-garde millinery or sculptural clutches is one way to honor this dress code," he explains. "It is also easy to achieve this look through eccentrically designed jewelry."
When the party invitation says cocktail attire, remember this: A cocktail affair should be flirty but sophisticated. According to Freeman, "The easiest way to achieve the perfect cocktail-party outfit is by opting for a short dress with a nice A-line or peplum combined with a pair of pumps."
Ah, the vaguest dress code of all! Before you roll your eyes or decide to skip the gathering altogether, you'll want to listen to Freeman. He confessed, "The only rationale behind this code is to ensure guests don't come in their gym clothes. It's all about maintaining your sense of style, and it's up to your discretion." So as long as you ditch the leggings, you'll be okay.
The holiday season is here, and so are the business-causal events. Before you fret over what your boss will think about your 'fit, keep in mind that this is simply a more elevated version of workwear. According to Freeman, "Business casual is about combining office attire with casual pieces usually worn during the day in earth and mineral tones." He suggests wearing a sharply tailored pair of trousers with a bold blouse and flat leather mules or oxfords.
With so many other things to think about during the winter months, the last thing you should be stressing about is what to wear to that holiday party. Freeman's advice for dressing and surviving the holiday season is to "tastefully decorate yourself by wearing garments with elaborate embroidery, gaudy rings, and luxe fabrics. Be extra," he encourages. After all, it's the season to celebrate.
Let's be honest: A party with a casual dress code can feel more daunting than a black-tie affair. Because the definition can be unclear, Freeman suggests going for a low-key vibe. "When adhering to a casual-chic or just causal party dress code, your outfit should always have an element of comfort and relaxation," he explains. "Refer to boho-chic trends and streetwear trends, and invest in classic pieces with an interesting twist, such as leather jackets and longline T-shirts."
Besides packing your swimsuit, what exactly should you wear to a beach wedding? Freeman mused, "For all of the holiday jet-setters, invest in pieces that are made of breathable fabrics, such as drawstring linen pants, silk slip dresses, and bright jewel-tone sheaths. A rigid and good-quality pair of sunglasses will be necessary for almost all instances while on vacation as well."
The idea of a party outside sounds superb considering the current state of the world, but to nail this party dress code, you'll want to adhere to Freeman's advice. "Outdoor functions should naturally include outerwear, especially now that autumn has set in. When in doubt, prepare yourself with hats, gloves, and scarves just in case the temperature suddenly dips," he suggests. Follow his lead, and you'll look like your outfit was put together by a stylist.