English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Does dress style mean attire, or is it specifically a style of dress worn by women?

For example: "What is the proper dress style for the interview?"

share|improve this question
That would depend on the context. Can you provide more details? – Monica Cellio Jan 5 '12 at 16:16
@Mitch: "dress style" not "style of dress" – TheOne Jan 5 '12 at 16:24
Either way 'dress style' means the general style of what you wear; e.g. informal = jeans and t-shirt; 'business casual' means for guys nicer pants than jeans, collared shirt, no tie, for women the same or a reasonably nice outfit; business formal - coat and tie or business suit, etc. I'm not up on the particulars. – Mitch Jan 5 '12 at 16:36
I believe the phrase you're looking for is "dress code", which is the category of clothing to be worn (by either men or women). For example, an interview dress code might be "formal", while the general employer dress code might be "business casual" or "casual". – Monica Cellio Jan 5 '12 at 16:46
I imagine the recommended dress style / code for people going fox-hunting, for example, might well specifically exclude the wearing of actual dresses. I don't go in for such things (and I only wear dresses in the privacy of my own home with the curtains drawn! :) but I'd have thought women would be expected to wear jeans or similar when tramping/riding around the countryside. – FumbleFingers Jan 5 '12 at 17:20
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The confusion here arises from two meanings of the noun "dress".

1 : apparel, clothing 2 : an outer garment (as for a woman or girl) usually consisting of a one-piece bodice and skirt

In this particular use of the phrase "dress style", they are using the first definition -- a general purpose word for your choice of clothing.

"A dress" always refers to the women's item of clothing.

You are not being asked to wear a dress to the interview!

share|improve this answer
If used in phrases such as traditional African dress, dress is not referring to woman's clothing. – kiamlaluno Jan 5 '12 at 18:24


Dress codes are written and, more often, unwritten rules with regards to clothing. Clothing like other aspects of human physical appearance has a social significance, with different rules and expectations being valid depending on circumstance and occasion. Even within a single day an individual may need to navigate between two or more dress codes, at a minimum these are those that apply at their place of work and those at home, usually this ability is a result of cultural acclimatization.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.