Don’t let an invitation get the best of you; learn how to dress formal and be ready to face those slick pieces of mail without fear and attend events without looking like a dunce. A black tie event requires formal wear, as do events that state black tie optional. These are only slightly different.
- A black tie event typically calls for a tuxedo, or the equivalent Traditionally, daytime dress formal means wear a black or gray tailcoat or walking coat with matching trousers. This is a rare look these days, except for weddings or formal diplomatic receptions in Europe, but it is always good to know the guidelines for such events. Add a double-breasted vest, long tie, gloves and nice cufflinks. A tall hat and boutonniere makes for a complete morning dress, which is the other name for daytime formal.
- Evening formal, even black tie optional events, still call for a tuxedo or dark suit. Pair the suit with a white shirt, dark silk tie, or bright color or pattern with a matching handkerchief if you want to express a little personality. Be sure the tie is of good quality and tied with a classic knot if you are attending a formal evening event.
- Dress formal does not allow for even the nicest T-shirt, polo or open collar dress shirt. Choose a fitted dress shirt for the best look. Have a nice button down tailored to your body for a designer look for less.
- Nice shoes are a must to dress formal. Don’t skimp on quality here, you may think no one will notice, but trust me, they do. Choose black for a traditional and safe choice or depending on the suit, brown or ox blood will also fit in nicely.
- Attend to detail. Wear a nice watch, not the Swatch or plastic number from the corner store. No watch is better than a cheap watch. Match the belt to your shoes, put on cufflinks and make sure you are impeccably groomed when you need to dress formal.
- Wool is your best choice when choosing a formal suit. Worsted wool is nice for spring and summer events. Wool crepes have a soft finish and are lightweight while gabardine and flannel wool is heavier.
- Official dress formal events call for strict adherence to the rules. Other events can be tweaked to your particular liking, but in order to look stylish and make a good impression, you will want to conform.