What Do I Wear to the Party?
Attire: Shabby Chic; Razzle Dazzle; Cowboy Couture
Word to hostesses: when listing the attire on the invitation for your party, make it clear. Do not let your creative thoughts have you writing a description that requires an interpreter. We do not want to force our guests to solve a riddle to understand what is expected of them. There is a phrase I like to quote, “To be unclear is to be unkind.” When we are unclear, this only serves to add undo stress on those we have invited. An invitation to a party should be a joyful experience from beginning to end. Growing up with grandparents that were cattle ranchers, if I received an invitation that said “cowboy” in it, I would don my favorite pair of jeans and boots and head out the door. The word “couture” might give me a clue that I should elevate my choice of attire, but why leave your guests wondering?
If you have been invited to a party, most likely the dress suggested will fall under one of the categories below.
Let me clarify up front. Casual does not mean athletic gear or cutoff shorts. Save this for the gym or yard work.
Women: If your invitation says casual, the best choice is a pair of jeans and a cute top. A comfortable pair of crop pants and flats always works, too.
Men: A nice pair of jeans and a collared shirt. This can be a golf shirt or a button down with the sleeves rolled up. *
Step up your game a little in the casual department.
Women: Add heals with your jeans and throw on a blazer. This has you covered.
Men: If you mix jeans with a sports jacket, you will fit right in.
Women: Business skirt or slacks and a blouse. Maybe throw on a blazer.
Men: Slacks, a collared shirt and a sports coat or blazer. Know your audience when choosing your dress. There are some groups that feel Business Casual is your standard khakis, button down and no jacket. When my husband receives a Business Casual invitation, he always wears some type of jacket. If his attire is too dressy when he arrives, he can leave the coat in the car. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Women: A short, black dress is usually a great “go-to” outfit. Throw on some jewelry, heels and a great handbag, and you are set.
Men: Dark suit with a tie.
Black Tie Optional
I find this dress code more difficult, because it leaves people wondering which way they should go. Let me clear this up. The word “optional” means, “If you do not own a tux, or just do not feel like renting one, we do not want this to keep you from attending our event, so come on anyway.” The hostess is saying she wants you in black tie, but your presence is more important to her than your attire. So, when my husband and I receive a Black Tie Optional invitation, we always err on the dressier side and go Black Tie! If you do not wish to do this, though, here is the best choice.
Women: A longer dress, but not floor length, heels and great jewelry.
Men: Dark suit, white shirt, and very dark tie. Preferably a solid black or dark navy. This can be a regular tie or a bow tie.
This is the easiest to decipher, because we all know what to expect.
Women: Floor length gown.
In all things, though, know your audience and your hostess. A Hollywood gala or political black-tie event might be dressier than a friend’s 7p.m. wedding. Use your judgement and feel free to ask the hostess what she is wearing. This is sometimes the best route!
*A comment about men and shorts. In our casual culture today, it is more common and acceptable to see grown men wearing shorts. A word of caution, though. Here is a quick recap on the history of shorts and when they should and should not be worn.