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home>>beauty & fashion>>fashion fun>>formal wear

Formal Wear For Social Functions

Copyright 2001 by Diana Pemberton-Sikes

Ever received an invitation indicating a formal dress code you didn't understand? Are you starting to move in business or social circles where you're uncertain of what to wear? Ever shown up to a function assuming everyone would be dressed one way and discovered, to your horror, that you were completely underdressed?

With the winter social season in full swing and spring formal and summer weddings just around the corner, let's take a look at what's considered appropriate formal wear for different social situations.

Popular Definitions

White Tie

White Tie is the most formal of evening attire. Gentlemen wear a long black dinner jacket with tails. They also wear a white pique vest over a formal white shirt with a white pique bow tie. Spit-shined formal black shoes are a must; white gloves are optional.

When a man is dressed in White Tie, his lady should always wear a long, very formal evening gown. Hair may be swept up in a fashion that compliments the gown, and makeup should be heavier for evening. If you are fortunate enough to have precious jewelry, make sure it compliments-not competes with-your ensemble.

Hose should be ultrasheer in a color that matches the shoes, and they may include sparkles or rhinestones. Shoes can be either dressy silk pumps or delicate high heel sandals. Carry a small clutch or minaudiere (a small, metal evening bag), and wrap yourself in a fur, an evening cape, or a luscious Pashmina.

If your evening gown is sleeveless or has short or cap sleeves, you may also elect to wear long white opera gloves. You may wear them during the cocktail hour and when you're going through the receiving line (or if you're in the receiving line.), but pull them off and lay them in your lap during dinner (try not to confuse them with your napkin). If you like, you may put them on again for dancing after dinner.

Ultra-Formal is the same as White Tie.

Black Tie

Black Tie is slightly less formal than White Tie and it is what is called for when the invitation says "formal" (unless White Tie is specified). Men wear a traditional black tuxedo with a formal white shirt and black bow tie and cummerbund. Powder blue, lemon yellow, and lavender tuxedos are for backup singers, not black tie events, and clip on bow ties belong on 8th graders, not gentlemen.

A lady may wear either a short or long evening gown to a black tie event. Follow the hair, makeup, and accessory tips given in White Tie.

Want more definitions? You can find a complete list in the "Holiday Clothing Guide" issue available with your Fashion Savvy subscription.

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About The Author
Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of "Wardrobe Magic," an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at www.fashionforrealwomen.com.
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