Formal Attire

When an event calls for formal attire, it’s a special occasion and you don’t want to get it wrong. Here’s our advice for women and men.

For the ladies

Women can pull out all the stops when the invitation indicates “formal attire”. A short, elegant cocktail dress is a solid choice, but this is also a great and rare opportunity to choose a spectacular floor-length evening gown. Shoes and accessories should match in color and level of formality: heels are expected, and you can show off all your most sparkly jewelry. Rather than carrying a large shoulder bag, limit yourself to a small purse. Invest in a beaded or jeweled clutch in a glamorous neutral color like black, silver, or gold, any of which would be versatile with a number of different formal gowns. For an event that requires “formal attire”, consider having your makeup done by a professional. Listings for local in-home makeup artists are available online, or call your favorite cosmetic counter or flagship store to set up a short appointment.

For the guys

When the occasion calls for “formal attire”, choose a suit in black, navy blue, dark brown, or charcoal grey. If these options seem boring, opt for pinstripes in either a conservative or bold color. Coordinate a silk, hand-tied tie to both the color of your shirt and the fabric of the suit. If you don’t wear a suit in your day-to-day affairs, or haven’t in many years, it’s time to invest in a new one. Anyone who has seen “Father of the Bride” already knows that the suit you wore to your wedding – or heaven forbid, your high school prom – will not still fit. Do not wait until the afternoon of the event to find this out. Finally, a style professional has carefully coordinated the fabric, cut, and fit of the jacket and pants that comprise
a suit. Do not try this at home. Putting on any old black pants with a black jacket does not count as “formal attire”!

Rules of Thumb

  • Unless the invitation says “Black Tie”, male guests are not expected or required to wear a tuxedo.
  • Don’t expect formalwear to fit right off the rack. Simple alterations by a professional tailor cost less than you’d expect and are worth a lot more than you might think.
  • When you visit your tailor, bring the shoes you plan to wear to the event. This will help ensure your hem is exactly the right length.
  • Proper undergarments can make all the difference to an overall flawless formal look. Brands like Spanx make special body-shaping garments for both women and men.
  • Avoid blisters and other foot pain by wearing your formal shoes around the house for a day or two before the big event. Guys, this goes for you too!