What To Wear To Clubs & Why: The Definitive Nightlife Fashion Guide For Men and Women

Have you ever waited in line at a popular club for hours, only to be haggled at the door with ridiculous cover charges? Or perhaps you’ve seen other guests skip the long line as they were ushered ahead of you through the velvet ropes?

The culprit here may be what you wear!

Well, have no fear. This will be your definitive guide to nightlife fashion, with everything you need to know about what I like to call, “The Universal Nightclub Dress Code.”

Best of all, this information is firsthand knowledge from a nightlife expert and club promoter who he worked with top clubs for over a decade. Not some random blogger or fashionista hired by a fashion website who has no clue about the inner workings of the nightlife industry!

Speaking from experience, the first thing you should understand about nightlife fashion is that your clubbing outfit should match your expectations of the venue. Most popular clubs have a reputation for attracting great-looking crowds. But that’s a result of being selective about the guests they allow to enter – primarily in regards to style.

And although most venues don’t explain it in detail, there is always a preferred “Dress Code.” So, in this article, we will cover all of the preferred styles for nightclub attire that will help you get into the best clubs easier, turn a few heads, and maybe even get you a few free drinks!

The rules do tend to vary slightly for men and women – yes, there are gender biases in nightlife. So, we’ll cover recommendations for each gender, kicking things off with the gents, since we tend to struggle a bit more than our counterparts in this arena.

What Men Should Wear To A Club

Generally, when it comes to club attire, guys should always wear business casual at the very minimum. A button-down or v-neck shirt with fitted jeans and shoes works well for all occasions. The addition of a blazer is ideal, goes with almost any clubbing outfit, and gives the impression that you have a little money in your pocket, which nightlife venues unanimously love.

Do not don athletic apparel or construction boots. Those are items that break most nightlife dress codes, and will likely get you turned away at the door. Unless you intend to buy bottle service, which trumps all dress codes.

Here are some examples of the best fashion options for men to meet nightclub dress code standards:

Business/Formal Wear

“The Best Option For Men For Nightlife Fashion.”


Business formal wear is hands down the best nightlife fashion option for men. Culturally, a 2 or 3-piece business suit with dress shoes continues to signify maturity and prosperity.

No other option on this list commands more respect or is as widely accepted among nightclub dress codes.

Since most clubs welcome the image of businessmen among their crowds, your options are endless. Even the most judgmental doormen give extra consideration to a group of well-dressed men in suits, and will often usher you in past other guys on the line who chose to wear running sneakers.

Business formal wear positions you to get a little VIP treatment, like reduced or free entry without having to buy a bottle!

However, this style can be a double-edged sword. A suit with shoes isn’t the most comfortable club attire for a long night of dancing. Also, some opportunistic doormen may expect you to pop bottles since you are dressed like you have money to spend.

Nevertheless, whenever I go out for a night of upscale club hopping, I always lean towards wearing a 2-piece suit as my go-to clubbing outfit. Oh, and ladies love guys in suits – trust me.

Business Casual or Smart Casual

“Great Fashion For Any Occasion.”


Business casual wear is “business on the top, and a party on the bottom,” and the perfect balance between comfortable and classy. This is the go-to style that should dominate your wardrobe for both fashion and flexibility that is appropriate for almost any occasion in the nightlife from clubbing, to dating, and social events.

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Dress codes often refer to the business casual style as “smart casual,” and their similarities make the terms fairly synonymous. Business casual wear works for both upscale and low brow venues, and is universally accepted by most clubs or lounges – so you will rarely seem out of place in it. I have yet to see a doorman give someone in business casual wear a hard time unless it was ill-fitting or not well put together.

To pull this style off flawlessly, you will need a strong sense of coordination. Throwing a blazer over a button-down and slacks can be a game-changer, but it still needs to match well with the rest of your clubbing outfit – so don’t kill the vibe with basketball sneakers, even if they are fresh Jordans or Uptowns.

Color coordination is a big factor that takes the business casual style up a notch. So, I highly recommend colorful blazers to make your club outfits “pop.” There are plenty of colors that you can’t go wrong with:

  • Reds
  • Blues
  • Pinks
  • Any pastel colors

You can’t tell me anything when I match up a pastel pink with a white v-neck, skinny blue jeans with subtle rips, and some fresh oxfords. That simple smart casual combo knocks most other guys in the club out of the box – and ladies love colorful ensembles!

Although you won’t stand out as you would with a 2-piece suit, when you are looking for a night out but not sure exactly the type of venues you may go to, then business casual is the most flexible option. Now, if you are attending a rave, that may be a different story.

Urban Fashion

“A Good Choice In The Right Places.”


Urban fashion is best when it is fresh, clean, and trendy. This is a style that only some guys have the innate skill and fashion sense to pull off without looking like they are High School students. It is also highly dependent upon the latest streetwear fashion trends.

I recommend the urban fashion style for clubs that cater to younger audiences and hip-hop crowds. These clubs tend to be a bit more casual, open to current street styles, and don’t have strict dress codes that adhere to mainstream fashion like most popular, upscale clubs will have.

Just keep in mind that the urban fashion style is often subject to superficial judgment, and stereotypes, and carries negative connotations for many people – including clubs.

And don’t expect most doormen to know the latest urban fashion trends or what a pair of Yeezy sneakers are to give you the respect or adoration that you feel they are due. They are more likely to instead charge you a higher cover or require a $1k minimum for bottle service to enter.

The fact is, most popular clubs don’t even permit athletic sneakers – unless they are on the feet of bottle clients. So, if you want to wear urban fashion to the hottest club in town, be sure to check out the nightclub’s dress code and crowd there first, then adjust your style appropriately.

5 Important Fashion Tips For Guys

Let’s sum up what we learned here in 5 tips:

  1. Wearing a blazer can make your casual outfit pop. While many colors are great, dark blues or blacks are best for functionality to avoid stains.
  2. A button-down shirt, v-neck, or crew cut long or short sleeve shirt works for any occasion.
  3. A nice pair of fitted jeans or slacks always looks great. A few rips are ok but don’t overdo it.
  4. Fashion boots or shoes are great choices for footwear.
  5. You can never go wrong with a business suit and oxfords.

What Women Should Wear To A Club

Very often, you may find that nightclub dress codes are more flexible for ladies than for men. Nevertheless, ladies should always dress in business casual or cocktail attire to meet any nightlife dress code requirements.

Recommended nightlife attire for women would include a fitted shirt or blouse and slacks or fitted jeans matched with a pair of heels or flat shoes. A form-fitting dress with heels is ideal for a sexy and fashionable look and will increase your odds of skipping lines and being treated to free libations! 

Unlike gentlemen, ladies can often get away with high urban fashion styles, casual wear, and sometimes even athletic wear if the result is a clubbing outfit that looks amazing and fashion-forward. A pair of sweats and heels may go over well if you pull them off correctly.

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Nevertheless, I still do not recommend athletic wear since that style is highly subjective and depends greatly on the bouncer’s preference, the venue, locale, and the night.

Here are some examples of the best options for ladies to meet nightclub dress code standards:

Cocktail Attire

“Knocks ’em Dead Every Time”

Black Top and Black Skirt Cocktail Attire Model Stephanie S What To Wear To Clubs Nightlife Fashion Guide Always The VIP
Model: Stephanie S

Cocktail attire is hands down the best option for ladies in the nightlife. This style will get you into the doors of just about every nightclub with ease.

For cocktail attire, simple and classy is always best. You can never go wrong with a black fitted dress with heels. If you are looking for a night full of dancing, then you might want to wear a loose flowing dress with a skirt and your choice of more flamboyant colors.

Cocktail attire is the one style that every club encourages, will often get you escorted in for free, and sometimes earn you free drinks all night. This is one of the ways you can use your looks to work the system – and why not? Work the system in your favor!

While it is not the most comfortable of nightlife fashions, wearing high heels all night is the cost of turning heads and likely being the recipient of the VIP treatment from clubs and guys alike.

Business Casual Wear

“Grown and Sexy Never Goes Out of Fashion.”

woman business casual standing near building
Photo by Alessio Cesario

You can never go wrong with business casual. While this style often involves high-end brand names, it does not necessitate it.

For business casual, it’s all about looking amazing without trying too hard. You want to look conservative, with a hint of sexy. Ladies can pull off this style with a fashionable overcoat with a nice sweater, form-fitting blue jeans, and shoes with heels. Natural, muted earth tones are a nice touch.

This is the style that fashion connoisseurs or mature men will notice and attract. If you are heading to the right upscale club or lounge, then you won’t need a big designer Gucci or Balenciaga logo on your bag for the doorman/doorwoman to know exactly what you are wearing. Those are the places that will make sure that you are treated well.

Business casual is perfect when your objective is not to turn just anyone’s heads – only those with great taste and fashion sense to appreciate it. And, at least in my not humble opinion, grown and sexy will never be out of fashion.

Urban Fashion

“Playful and Eye-Catching”


While urban fashion doesn’t often work out for men’s fashion in the nightlife, it is more widely accepted for women’s fashion. This style is best for ladies who have great fashion sense, the versatility to make a casual outfit look classy, and stay on top of the evergreen or latest streetwear trends.

Generally, the urban fashion style works best at hip-hop clubs, dance clubs, raves, and any trendy clubs that cater to a young local crowd. These clubs may also embrace streetwear, which is a segment of urban fashion that changes quickly according to the latest trends, such as those inspired by influencers and celebrities.

For the urban fashion style, ladies can blend different street styles, as long as it has a little sex appeal added. Think of a Wu-Tang t-shirt tucked into jeans or shorts and your favorite Dr. Martens on. It is pure chaotic elegance that adds character to a party and is often embraced by the doorman at casual clubs.

Although urban wear is not recommended for upscale clubs, some may accept it if you pull it off exceptionally well – and you may even land the VIP treatment if the club embraces creativity.

Of all the recommendations here for ladies, this is the most fun style, and the best if you want to stay in your comfort zone while turning a few heads. Even when I host Ladies Night VIP sections, I love to have a couple of ladies who know how to kill it with urban fashion effortlessly. It can stand out in a great way.

5 Important Fashion Tips For Ladies

Let’s sum up what we learned for this section in 5 tips:

  1. Dresses are ideal. A little leg goes a long way. (Enjoy the advantage, this doesn’t work so well for guys.)
  2. A blouse with a fashionable jacket can keep you in your comfort zone. But keep your eyes on your coat!
  3. Tight-fitting jeans or slacks work great with any outfit.
  4. High heels look great and get you in clubs.
  5. You have a lot of flexibility to be creative, just make sure the look is awesome on you.
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Since fashion is subjective, these style examples are just to offer some perspective on the looks you are going for.

Practical Fashion Tips For All

It’s not always all about what the club wants. So, here are some tips that focus on your personal comfort.

  1. Business Casual wear is comfortable and will get you into most clubs.
  2. Cocktail Attire can be coupled with comfortable shoes. They don’t always have to be high heels.
  3. Be “Sexy But Classy.” You don’t need to expose a lot to look amazing.

If you follow this guide, then you are bound to see a big difference in your experience at every club. Just keep in mind that popular clubs often favor people who look like “models.” Which is typically the Westernized image of beauty that idealizes fair skin and slender physiques.

This is a perception that I’ve challenged throughout my nightlife career, and why I always aim to keep my guests diversified. Just look anywhere on the promotional side of this website, and you will see proof of that.

So, take an extra 15 minutes to throw on that blazer and shoes or dress and heels. It’s a small investment of time and effort towards the success of your night out! My motto is, “It is ALWAYS better to be overdressed than underdressed.”

To get the full picture of the best choices for clubbing outfits, read my article, “What Not Wear To Clubs and Why” next. There I will explain more about nightlife fashion and insider secrets than any other website can offer since they never worked in the business!

If you are looking for a club promoter in NYC, or just want to connect, find me on Instagram @nezalpha and my brand @alwaysthevip. And this website will always be your best resource for the latest nightlife trends and best parties to go to.

Cheers to your great night out!

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About Author
C. "Nez" Byrd

An expert club promoter, innovative marketing executive, and entrepreneur from NYC. The founder of Always The VIP LLC, a top nightlife trend website, and creative mind leading growth marketing strategies for SaaS, B2B, and B2C companies. He is a sought after blogger, having written authoritative articles on email marketing, SEO Due Diligence, and the nightlife industry who finds deep joy in creating memorable experiences to connect people of all colors together.

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