It used to be when you looked at the dress code on an invitation you had clear instructions. Wear a tuxedo (Black Tie) or a jacket and tie (Cocktail Attire).
Now I’m getting invitations with dress codes such as Smart Attire, Festive Attire, Cocktail Glamour, Party Chic, Country Club, Festive Fete. What’s a guy to do?
–clueless about dress codes, Boston
Or no instructions. Which means wear what you like. The first principle of etiquette is to make guests comfortable
Nevertheless, you want guests to dress in a certain way and they may not understand your vision without guidelines. You don’t want to embarrass an over-dressed or under-dressed guest, but you hope your friends will still flaunt their own style.
The time of year, starting time, and location of the party are your first clues. In warmer weather, the codes are rather fun because they are generally more relaxed with guests wearing sandals, boat shoes, open-collar shirts, shorts and no socks. For instance: Casual Hawaiian, Country Western, Casual Fun Attire, Costal Cocktail, Newport Chic, Smart Casual, Dressy Casual, Yachting Attire, Indoor-Outdoor, and No Socks — my personal favorite.
During the holiday season dressing becomes more celebratory with festive dress codes: Black Subversive Glamour, Cocktail Glamour, Party Chic, Festive Fête, Gold & Silver, and Festive Attire — not necessarily black-tie but season appropriate.
When we see the words ‘Formal Attire,’ we think black-tie or tuxedo, and yet for some guests ‘Formal’ may mean a tie with a tweed jacket or blazer. Upmarket restaurants and private clubs require a Jacket & Tie, and you won’t be allowed in without both.
Actually — because we’re bored with the same-old ‘Black Tie’ and ‘Cocktail Attire’ — we’re seeing more helpful dress codes specific to cracking codes: Suits & Dresses, Business Suits, Black Tie Formal, Black or White Tie, White Tie (can be with or without tails), Black Tie Optional, and ‘Dress: Uniform, Morning Coat or Lounge Suit.’
What to wear where? Out of respect for the host, dress up. At the very least, wear a tie and jacket. To fit in, when the party timeframe spans between 5:00 PM and 9:00 PM, you can count on ‘Suits & Dresses,’ meaning a knee-length or midi cocktail dress and pantsuit. Or wear what you want to wear.
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Accepting A Compliment