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Understanding Holiday Dress Codes

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This is the season for parties and “Puttin on the Ritz”. How ritzy is often the dilemma. What exactly does white tie, black tie, formal attire, semi-formal, cocktail attire, dressy casual, and festive attire mean. In today’s society white-tie events are the most formal. They are usually diplomatic events, state dinners, or royal weddings. Events most of us only read about and are spared the stress of what to wear.

A black tie event is probably the most formal event the majority of us receive invitations to. This is the time for all out glamour. Think Oscar awards and red carpet. A long gown or a cocktail dress is appropriate. When choosing a gown remember to consider the activities at the event. Black tie events are usually sit down dinners. Can you comfortably sit through a three to five course meal in what you are wearing? Will there be dancing. Can you comfortable dance in your outfit? Not to be indelicate, but believe me it matters – does your gown allow you to use the restroom without assistance?

Black tie optional is less formal than black tie. Eveningwear, cocktail dress and dressy separates are appropriate.

Creative black tie usually means black tie with a theme.

Formal is similar to black tie. It can be more creative.

Semi-formal is a vague term. It is also referred to as informal or after-five and is similar to cocktail. Cocktail attire or an elegant suit would be appropriate.

Festive attire is similar to semi-formal but with a holiday theme and a little sparkle.

Cocktail is a little less formal. A short elegant dress or skirt, or an elegant pair of pants would be a good choice. This would be the time to wear those fabulous palazzo pants that have been hanging in the closet. The little black dress is the quid essential cocktail dress. Fascinators are wonderful accessories for cocktail attire.

Dressy Casual is similar to business casual but with more pizzazz.

Casual for a party does not mean shorts or sweat pants. It is relaxed elegance. Jeans with a silk shirt or cashmere sweater and heels.

When in doubt about what to where ask the host or hostess for advice.

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