After opening up an invitation to an event most people’s gut reaction is …
“What am I going to wear? Let me start by saying not all parties are created equal. The time, host and event must be considered when selecting your outfit.
A friend’s wedding may require very different attire than a formal evening corporate event. Are you going to be in a premier hotel’s ballroom call or a formal restaurant? What time will it take place—evening start times suggest a more formal dress than those scheduled earlier in the afternoon or day.
Also take the season into account. Colorful floral prints and strappy sandals are more ideal for the warmer months, while a winter event calls for closed-toed shoes and an evening wrap/coat.
Here are some guidelines for the suggested attire for after hour occasions (in decreasing order of formality):
White Tie or Cravate Blanche dress code. (Also described as Formal)
The most formal of evening wear. Very few of us will ever need to dress at this level so don’t stress. State dinners, diplomatic functions and very formal charity balls.
Women: Ornate ball gowns, upswept hair, long gloves, even tiaras are worn.
Men: Black tailcoat, white evening waistcoat, and white bow tie.
Black Tie or Evening Dress dress code. (Also described as Semi-Formal)
Weddings, gala dinners, charity balls, opening nights, year-end functions.
Women: Floor length evening dress. Sophisticated and elegant. No plunging necklines or daredevil slits.
Men: Tuxedos/smoking/dinner jackets in black or white. A fly front or ruffled dress shirt. Silk handkerchief in pocket is optional. Black bow tie.
Ethnic dress is also appropriate.
Social black tie or formal dress code
Weddings, gala dinners, year-end functions.
Women: Don’t waste this wonderful occasion by going in a plain frock–turn on the GLITZ. Floor length evening dress. Glamorous, red carpet at the Oscar’s stuff!
Men: Black tie as above or dark suit worn with white shirt, luxurious evening silk tie in black or bold color.
Ethnic dress is also appropriate.
Collar & tie or Cocktail dress code
Year–end functions, cocktail parties, business dinners, anniversary celebrations.
Women: Knee length or just above the knee cocktail dresses-the style and color of the dress is dictated by the formality of event. A classic – the little black dress (LBD). Karl Lagerfeld said, “One is never over-dressed or under-dressed with a Little Black Dress.” However don’t limit yourself to only black options. Make use of color depending on the season. Lighter, brighter colors for the warm months. Rich earth tones, deep jewel tones in rich textures like satin or velvet.
Cocktail wear no longer means only cocktail dresses can be worn. Some other options – skirt with a glitzy or chiffon top, evening jumpsuit, a sleek blazer and trousers combo.
Men: Dark to mid tone suit, color or white collared shirt and tie. Shirts and ties can have a print, be textured. If attending a less formal cocktail party the tie can be skipped and even a mismatched suit can be worn (jacket different color to pants)
None of the above is set in stone – you need to insert your personal style into these guidelines. However don’t go overboard. Ladies, don’t wear your favorite white dress to someone’s wedding, or attend your new client’s cocktail party in jeans and sneakers. Use discretion.
If further to these guidelines you still feel confused as what to wear at a specific event check in with the host/hostess to clarify the appropriate level of dress. If an annual affair, ask, “What did everyone wear last year to this function?”
So now you know all about dress codes for different formal occasions – enjoy and mingle.
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