Last week a friend texted me looking for advice on what to wear to a wedding where the stated dress code was “Cocktail Attire.” After a lengthy back-and-forth (in 250 characters or less), I realized the topic probably deserved its own post. After all, wedding season is upon us, and those big fat cream-colored envelopes showing up in our mailboxes can bear some pretty confounding wardrobe instructions.
Below, you’ll find a translation for even the most head-scratching dress codes you’ll encounter this season:
For the ladies, cocktail attire is pretty straightforward – short sparkly dress. Done. For guys, though, cocktail attire can be tough because it can change throughout the year.
This should be a no-brainer, but for spring and summer, you want to keep your colors light, so you can stay cool. Tan and light gray are good options. You can also get away with more color – try a tie in a tropical color, or maybe even a brightly-patterned handkerchief poking out of your coat pocket.
* A note: While linen is a totally acceptable summer fabric for a suit, wear it at your own risk. It wrinkles – fast. Also, stay away from cotton suits – you wouldn’t think it, but wool actually breathes much better. Just get one with a lighter lining and it’ll take you through the seaons.
I might get in trouble for saying this, but if you have a really (really) nice black suit, you can get away with wearing it with a crisp white shirt and a black tie. If you haaaave to rent a tux, do it, but no bow ties!! And remember that your pants should always be darker than your shirt, so no white tuxes with black shirts. Seriously. Also? Tails are for butlers and bunnies, not the back of your suit.
BLACK TIE OPTIONAL
Same advice as above, but more technically correct this time. Wear a tux if you have one lying around the house (because, really, who doesn’t?), but otherwise a well-tailored black suit with black tie is fine.
CREATIVE BLACK TIE
The most obnoxious of all dress code dictates. Basically, creative black tie means the groom is going to show up wearing something ridiculous – a cummerbund with penguins on it, cowboy boots with spurs – and expects you to get in on the “fun.” Just follow the black tie dictates, and maybe re-evaluate the kind of people you’re friends with.
What are you, a Rockefeller? How many white tie weddings do you attend? And can I go with you to the next one? (I bet the party favors would be badass)
White tie is black tie on crack. Men wear full dress – that is, white tie, white shirt, white suit. And I imagine all the invitees have to participate in some type of Fred & Ginger choreographed dance number during the reception. Good luck with that.
Usually reserved for a wedding after 5pm. A suit is fine, in a darker color if you have it.
Don’t be deceived! You cannot show up to a wedding dressed in jorts, no matter how much you may want to. Informal is – oddly – pretty much the same thing as formal because you’re still expected to show up in a suit. You can always take your jacket off if you feel overdressed (it’s better to feel overdressed than underdressed).
Jorts are still not okay (though, really, jorts are never okay), but finally, you can break free from the shackles of your suit. But don’t go too sloppy. Khakis, a button-down or polo, and maybe a blazer, and you should be good to go.
One more thing:
If you’re still confused about what to wear, I say, ask! You’ll get brownie points for wanting to make sure the bride gets her way on her big day, and you’ll look good for all the pretty bridesmaids in attendance. Everybody wins!
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