Appropriate Formal Attire

Appropriate Formal Attire

If you recently received an invitation to a wedding that read “formal attire requested,” and it left you scratching your head in wonderment, don’t worry. In today’s typically casual world, it can be difficult to determine what counts as “formal” and what doesn’t. But the general rules of formal dress are long-standing and easy to follow.

Black Tie: If you are invited to a black tie formal event, you are required to wear a single or double breasted tuxedo jacket and a black silk bow tie. Simple as that. As I have mentioned before, it is not recommended that you substitute a black suit for a tuxedo. However, if the choice is between a perfectly tailored black suit and an ill-fitted rented tuxedo, go for the suit. Make sure your shirt is perfectly pressed and you spruce up your look with elegant cuff links. A white tuxedo jacket with tails and a black bow tie is appropriate for the evening but should be avoided during the day. Typically, you will not be invited to a black tie event that takes place before 5:00 pm.

Formal: If the invitation simply reads “formal attire,” this usually means the same as “black tie.” If the event is one that you think may be a little bit trendy, such as a benefit auction at a theater or art gallery, you may wish to wear a black suit with a black shirt instead of a white shirt. Or, you can stylize your look with an accessory such as a nice silk vest or pocket square. If the invitation you receive does not specify “formal attire” but gives you hints that the event will indeed be formal (heavy paper, calligraphy, engraved details, lavish menu) your best bet is a well-tailored dark suit and a dark tie. As a wedding guest, you do not want to outdress the wedding party, so if you have the option, touch base with a wedding party member to see what they will be outfitted in.

Black Tie Optional: This name is intended to let you know that it would be appreciated if you were to wear a tux, but it is not required. It’s sort of like a hint that says, “hey, we’re trying to make this a formal event.” Don’t let the hosts down. It is best to wear a tux with a black bow tie or a black tie with a nice neat tie knot. A dark suit and dark colored tie would alternately be your best option. For black tie optional events, it is not acceptable to wear trousers and a sport coat. Choose either a tux or a dark suit and tie.

Semi-formal- Do not mistake the words semi-formal for “casual,” because they are not one in the same. This simply means that the event is just a cut below “formal.” Oftentimes daytime weddings are semi-formal ones. A good option for this type of dress code is a pair of flat front dress pants, a dress shirt, and a blazer. Alternately, you can wear a suit in a lighter fabric such as linen or cotton if the event is outdoors during the day. If the event is indoors in the evening, stick to a classic dark suit. You can lighten up the look with a shirt with a pin stripe, and a light or brightly colored tie.