For new people and established ones alike, deciding what to wear to an event can be an adventure-in fun, in stress or in dread. Admittedly, it is much easier for someone who has been to the dungeon, the event, the club to know what to wear upon a return visit. But even someone who loves to get dressed to go out can face moments of uncertainty when it comes to planning an outfit for the evening.
So, let's see about shedding a little bit of light on things?
For a munch:
Munches are typically held in a public, vanilla setting and are designed for new/potential club members to meet people who are already members or who are leaders in said group. Since a munch is often held in a casual restaurant or similar setting, your casual clothes should be fine. A lot of people stop in at a munch on their way home from work; because of this, you may see people in business casual clothes, jeans with a collared, logo shirt, or even scrubs. At a munch, there is a chance you are going to be nervous so having comfy clothing is a huge plus. And, there are probably going to be people at the munch who are active in their clubs and remember what it was like to attend their first party. I highly doubt that anyone is going to mind if you ask them what the club/dungeon dress code is.
For a club or dungeon demo and or party:
Most parties are "pimped" on FetLife in the events area. In the event description, there is a section (fourth one down) called "dress code." When I create an event, I add to this section. Now, I typically indicate that the dress code is "fetish wear" or "theme appropriate" or "costumes welcome." Since the last is the easiest, I will address it first. "Costumes welcome" is pretty self-explanatory as is the term "theme appropriate." You will likely find inspiration in the title of the event; for example, if the title is "Back to School Party" then a school girl/guy outfit, goth kid, sexy teacher outfit would work. For these two cases, reading the event details will greatly help you understand what wardrobe you need. Theme parties are some of the most fun and surprisingly simple outfits to put together.
On the other hand, the term "fetish wear" is really open to interpretation. It could include anything from a corset and skirt/pants to a body hugging outfit made from latex or PVC. I have seen everything from corsets paired with tutus to naked chests with suspenders and dress pants. Please note however that some clubs have strict rules about exposing "pink parts" in either all of the club or in certain areas so you may want to make exposing yourself an alternate choice until you learn what the club does and does not allow. Black is always a good choice. A nice black dress shirt paired with black pants or a black skirt looks pretty sharp. Also, the funny T-shirts with kinky sayings seem to be a popular choice. Finally, lifestyle club T-shirts and lifestyle event T-shirts etc are a safe choice.
The good thing about these dress codes is that you are really limited only by your imagination and budget. But, to help with the expense, you can find lots of choices on eBay and even at thrift stores. Once you see what the typical style of clothing is, you will begin to look at things in a new way. Try not to stress the first party or two, look nice and meet people-the wardrobe will come in time.
And lastly, most clubs ask that you arrive "street legal" and they provide a place for you to change clothes once you get there. For "street legal" I use the rule of thumb "would I die if my kids/mom/boss saw me in this?"
For a con-type/conference event:
Con-type events will typically mirror club or dungeon event dress codes-with a lot more flair and a lot more wardrobe to pack. A lot of cons have a lot of dress-up opportunities for those who want to take them. Note - examples of these cons in my area are Frolicon and DragonCon.
However, there are some conferences that are primarily educational and more lecture/talk driven. These events are probably going to have a dress code similar to that of a munch. I recently attended my first conference event and it had the munch type dress code - it was LLC XVI (Leather Leadership Conference 16) in Nashville.
Again, read over the event details on FetLife to get clues but, don't forget that these events are likely to have entire groups on FetLife dedicated to them. And those groups will have threads where you can ask questions about what type of clothes to bring along.
For both of these, event T-shirts and lifestyle club T-shirts should be ok.
For a Leather event:
THIS is the hard one. I will admit it, it is the one I was dreading trying to address. For a Leather event, I have one main piece of advice - avoid leather unless you have earned it or been gifted it. There is a certain degree of respect that should be paid to the people in the leather world in that so many of the established people have paved the way for the rest of us. They have probably earned their leathers and they wear them proudly. The leathers may be beaten up, may have loose strings and that is fine-those leathers have been worn with love for years.
For a leather event, wear your leather if you have earned it or been gifted it. If not, the choose your clothing based on (again) the information you can find on FetLife. Ask if you need to.
Regardless of where you are, you will see a huge variety of clothing and possibly even various degrees of undress. As you spend more time in the lifestyle, you will develop a knowledge and a wardrobe that will suit you perfectly. And, at some point, you will probably be approached by a new person-who is wondering how to "dress the part."