SO, YOU’VE BEEN INVITED TO A HOLIDAY PARTY – WHAT’S THE DRESS CODE?
Let me set the scene: It’s 6:30 pm on a Friday night two weeks before Christmas. Sondra walks through a balloon arch covered with candy canes to enter the party room festooned with holiday decorations. Jingle Bells is playing softly in the background and groups of people from her community service club are scattered across the room, laughter ringing out at regular intervals. All the signs of a wonderful affair.
BUT, as she makes her way to the bar for a cocktail and a chance to check out the crowd, she slowly notices that she’s the only woman wearing a suit. Now it is a lovely blush-pink crepe skirt suit. And she had thought to wear a fabulous silk cami under the jacket with just a peep of lace showing. But, it is not nearly dressy enough for this particular affair.
Had Sondra picked up the phone to call the party’s organizer, a gal who serves on the same committee, she would have “gotten the memo” that everyone was changing into “cocktail attire” after work. “Darn”, Sondra thought, “I have that fabulous off-the-shoulder silver dress hanging in my closet with the price tag still attached!”
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK THE HOSTESS WHAT SHE’S WEARING
With so many different dress codes these days, it can be difficult to know what to wear for every occasion, even when the type of dress requested by the host is stated right on the invitation. Understanding dress codes can sometimes be a subjective things, but most of the time, not-so-much!
There is no real way around the fact that if you want to feel comfortable and confident at a gathering of any type, the best way is to ask your host how you should dress. In some circumstances you’ll know the person who sent the invitation well enough to call them directly, or if you only know the host casually, you can always send a quick email.
The host of a party would much rather their guests be comfortable and enjoy the seasonal soiree that they took such care in planning. I swear, pinkie-promise! Back when I catered professionally, I can’t tell you how many party guests actually called us to find out what they should wear to an upcoming affair we were scheduled to cater! Now that IS a little too much.
Once you start understanding invitation dress codes with the help of the explanations and hints below, you will feel confident knowing what to wear for every occasion. I thought it was high time that dress codes get demystified!
LET’S DECODE YOUR OCCASION’S “DRESS CODE” – What To Wear For Every Occasion
Courtesy of Laura Hunt from Freeway Fashion and Tannya Bernadette, a wardrobe stylist graduate from The Art Institute of Seattle, this comprehensive breakdown gives us the skinny on how to dress for our holiday business and social invitations.
Women: Wear a pencil skirt or dress pants, paired with a silk or button-down top and high heels.
Men: Opt for dressy trousers, paired with a collared shirt and loafers.
When to wear it: office parties, happy hours, business luncheons.
Women: Avoid wearing denim, tennis shoes, and cotton tees. Instead, opt for silk pants, dress pants, or a skirt. Pair with a patent leather flat, or one with nice embellishments such as a bow, buckle, or a print.
Men: Wear trousers and a dress shirt with a leather loafer, oxfords, or a slip-on shoe. Pair with a blazer or sport coat. Avoid showing up with wrinkles or clothes one size too big, too small, or in a non-coordinating color. A tie is optional.
When to wear it: church, dinner, or an invite received via phone or e-mail.
COUNTRY CLUB CASUAL
Women: Choose an open-necked or polo shirt. You can also opt for dresses and skirts with minimal accessories.
Men: Wear an open-necked or polo shirt, paired with khakis. Accessorize with leather shoes and a belt.
When to wear it: cruise lines, the country club, friend’s home for dinner, nice restaurant.
Women: Put on a skirt, khakis, or dress pants paired with long sleeve or three-quarter sleeve tops. A casual dress and flats are options as well.
Men: Wear a button-down or a polo shirt, paired with khakis, or dress pants. If you so desire, layer with a v-neck sweater, a blazer, or a sport coat. A tie is optional.
When to wear it: company party, daily work attire, business lunch meetings.
Women: Wear a shorter dress with some frill. The classic little black dress makes for great cocktail attire, and is the easiest to show your personality by accessorizing to suit your mood.
Men: Wear a dark suit, coat, and tie. Opting for dark jeans paired with a jacket and tie is also acceptable at some cocktail events, depending on how casual the atmosphere is.
When to wear it: adult birthday parties, evening social events.
Women: Wear a dress that would be appropriate for brunch or afternoon tea. It should fall to, or slightly above, the knee, and not be too sparkly or low-cut. Incorporate a jacket or shawl to cover the arms.
Men: Opt for a dark suit, paired with a French-cuffed, crisp white shirt. You can go with or without a tie. Opting for a vest instead of a tie adds to the informality of the look.
When to wear it: daytime engagement parties, business breakfasts, afternoon tea.
Women: A floor-length ball gown is a must. Accessorize with opera length gloves, glamorous jewels, and up-do hairstyles.
Men: Wear a short or waist length black tailcoat (tails should reach the back of your knees,) white bow tie, starched white shirt, and a cummerbund (optional). Sport high-quality black pants.
When to wear it: charity fundraisers, government ceremonies, weddings, the opera.
Women: Gussy up in a floor-length ball gown. A very dressy cocktail dress may be acceptable depending on the venue of the event.
Men: Wear a dark suit or a tuxedo without tails. Pair with a white shirt and a tie, or a bow tie with or without a vest and a cummerbund.
When to wear it: charity fundraisers, political dinner parties, weddings.
CREATIVE BLACK TIE
Women: Dress up in a long gown, cocktail dress, or snazzy separates. Accessorize with the latest trends, such as feathers, sequins, sheer fabrics, and capes. Show off your personality with every detail.
Men: Incorporate trendy prints in with your tie and a dressy shirt. Mix fabrics such as a silk blazer and a dress shirt to create a formal, yet interesting, look.
When to wear it: galas, silent auctions, weddings, and formal dinners that have a fun atmosphere.
WARM WEATHER BLACK TIE
Women: Wear a long gown with white gloves and minimal jewelry.
Men: Wear a white dinner jacket, in a worsted wool, gabardine, linen, or cotton fabric material. Pair this with a white
dress shirt, bow tie, a cummerbund, and nice black leather shoes.
When to wear it: formal events that are held outdoors, such as a cruise line or country club dinners, weddings, and galas.
BLACK TIE OPTIONAL
Women: Look glamorous in a long gown, cocktail dress, or luxurious separates. Accessorize with items such as long gloves, clutches, and jewelry to top off the whole look.
Men: If you own a tuxedo, put it on. If not, wear a suit in a dark color such as charcoal or black, paired with a white dress shirt, and a solid colored tie. Make sure patterns are kept to a minimum and shoes are shined. Accessorize your look with a pocket square and cuff links.
When to wear it: elegant events such as galas, silent auctions, weddings, formal dinners.
EVENT DRESS CODES DEMYSTIFIED
Now that the current “dress codes” have been demystified, I hope you’ll be able to more easily navigate your holiday party and event schedule. Knowing what to wear is always a bit of a challenge, even for people who have a closet-full of clothes.
But with the proper information at hand, you’ll always walk into a function with confidence and your own personal style shining through. Learning what to wear for every occasion takes time and practice, but you’ve got this, right?
Why not post a few pics of you in your holiday finery over at The Fab Life Facebook Group? We’d love to see how you put together your holiday season outfits. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours!
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