Weddings, prom nights, balls and cotillions are some examples of events people attend in formal clothing. These are formal events where the people invited receive instructions regarding the attire that is expected, usually inscribed at the bottom of the invitation. If you are not too familiar with the rules of formal attire or are having a difficult time choosing what to wear, follow these guidelines to avoid any social blunders.
Formal Attire for Women
There is only one truly acceptable type of clothing considered formal for women—a long, elegant gown. Some women make the mistake of wearing cocktail dresses or that little black dress to formal parties. Although some cocktail dresses and the little black dress are not considered casual, they are rather semi-formal in categorization. Think of the Oscars or beauty pageants when you need to envision what formal attire for women should look like. A long gown should be at least at ankle’s length, and many gowns are even longer. Made from expensive and elegant fabrics such as chiffon, taffeta, silk or velvet, some have exquisite embroidery and beads and pearls. They come in long or short sleeves, sleeveless, spaghetti straps or off-shoulder cuts. Some come with billowing skirts and some have pencil-cut or A-line skirts. Some women wear simple gowns while others opt for ornate designs and long trains.
Formal Attire for Men
Formal attire for men means tuxedos or black or dark suits with a tie. White and black are acceptable tuxedo colors, and a white tuxedo top and black pants would be more appropriate together than all-white attire. Black-tie parties mean that invited men should wear dark suits or tuxedos with black ties. The black ties can be in butterfly or long neckties. Ties made from pure silk materials with matching handkerchief placed on the top left outer pocket of the tuxedo or suit make the look more put together. Dark colors acceptable for a formal party are black or very dark blue and very dark gray that are almost black. Thin pinstripes are acceptable. The shirt should be white with long sleeves. At times black long-sleeved shirts are acceptable; however, that is not common. The materials used for the tuxedo and the suits should be silk or expensive polyesters and gabardines. Denim-like materials and corduroys are not appropriate choices for a formal occasion. Neckties do not have to be black, unless specified; dark blue, dark grey and dark purple also work.
High-heeled ballroom shoes for women are great for long gowns. They come in closed- or open-toe style. Black velvet, black leather and metallic colors with or without rhinestones are also acceptable styles. Choose colors that go with the color of the gown. Matching the colors is just fine. Flats, rubber shoes, flip-flops and ballerina shoes are not acceptable. Stockings are optional since the gown is long, however, if you want to wear stockings, nude color is the safest choice, or black for all-black attire.
Men should wear Oxford leather shoes—the shiny ones. Avoid casual black leather shoes, such as those that come with rubber soles, also known as loafers. Always wear black socks inside black shoes.
Women should wear earrings, whether they are wearing their hair up or down. A pair of diamond studs is simple yet elegant. Dangling earrings are also appropriate, as long as they do not overpower the outfit. Simple diamond-studded earrings with a teardrop stone of emerald or ruby would look stunning on the dance floor. Avoid earrings that go around your ear lobes, even if it is the fad. Necklaces are optional. Many women keep their necks bare so as not to compete with their gowns. If desired, a simple necklace worn a few inches below the neck and a few inches above the neckline of the dress would be appropriate. A bracelet and diamond ring can finish the overall look. Make sure that all the metal colors match, from the earrings to the bracelet and the ring.
Men can wear a tie clip, a pair of cuff links, a dress watch, a gold bracelet and a ring as jewelry. Some men wear a dress watch as their only form of jewelry for its functionality rather than as an adornment.
Women can carry a handbag or clutch bag made to either match or complement the gown. The safest way to choose is to pick out a color that matches the shoes. Some women wear shawls or bolero jackets over their gowns and may even wear a pair of gloves during colder months.
Men can wear black leather belts and suspenders as accessories. Some men wear hats and gloves when the weather is colder but remove these pieces once inside.