September 27, 2016 Sadiki Pierre

Unlocking the Evening Party Dress Code

Black Tie affairs

When you’re invited to a corporate event, a benefit, or a gallery opening, do you often wonder what to wear? It’s easy to get lost in the maze of terms (cocktail, semi-formal, black-tie) if you’re someone who did not grow up in these kinds of circles.

But don’t worry, we’ll break everything down for you and get you on the right track to dressing appropriately for social gatherings.

For Women

1. Business Casual and Business Formal

Business casual for women can mean open collar shirts or sweaters teamed with skirts or trousers. No spaghetti straps and tube tops please. Business formal, on the other hand, means a business-style dress, a dress paired with a jacket and high heels. Accessories should be kept to a minimum (no chunky, loud baubles) and some light make-up would do.

2. Festive and Cocktail

Festive is different from themed parties. It does not mean coming in a costume. Some events just want to celebrate an occasion such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, but the dress code pretty much remains the same. Cocktail dresses are shorter than formal dresses and gowns and normally don’t have long sleeves. While most cocktail parties see different versions of the “Little Black Dress”, festive events allow more color. Accessories are welcome in these types of gatherings.

3. Black Tie and White Tie

Black tie gatherings means its time to have your gowns dry cleaned. The bare minimum is an ultra dressy cocktail dress. Otherwise, it’s floor length gowns and some sparkle. High-heels are the norm here as well as tiny clutches. When the invitation indicates white tie, this is even more formal. These could mean formal gowns with trains and bustles and long gowns. Bring out the diamond accessories, or tiaras if you have them. Darker, more dramatic make up and coiffed hair are also must-haves.

For Men

1. Business Casual and Business Formal

It’s actually a little easier for men. Business casual means a dress short or a casual button-down shirt teamed with slacks. Ties are optional but a sport coat or dinner jacket is considered tasteful. Loafers and socks are the bare minimum. For business formal, a conservative tie and a dark business suit is expected. It is also classy to wear a vest and matching dress shoes.

2. Festive and Cocktail

For men, the festive and cocktail gatherings can be differentiated by the tie you choose to wear. Playful and colorful ties are the norm in festive soirees. They can wear light-colored suits or even slacks and a sport coat. Cocktail events on the other hand require dark business suits, dress shirts and shoes and a conservative tie.

3. Black Tie and White Tie

This is where it gets exciting for men. Black tie affairs call for the dapper suits and the slicked hair. Black tuxedo jacket and matching trousers require a formal white shirt, a vest and a bow tie. Team this with black patent shoes and black dress socks. Cuff links, yes. Gloves, no.

White tie events on the other hand, require more pomp and glamour. Men are expected to wear a black dress coat teamed with matching trousers. Interestingly, a single stripe or satin braid is added to the trousers in the US; and two stripes in the UK and Europe. White vest, white bow tie and white or grey gloves complete the look. Finish off with shirt studs and cuffs as well as shiny black patent shoes.

Formal parties do indicate the dress code when they send out the invitations. Be mindful of themes and special instructions (for example: hats or Gatsby theme) so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb. In the unfortunate event that you come to a party under or overdressed, don’t ruin your evening over it. Trust your confidence and personality to carry you through.