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Decoding the dress code

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THE festive season is upon us. For some this means office parties, cocktails, dinners, weddings and lots of fun. This also means dressing up and coming up with suitable outfits for all these occasions.

-Nonto Masuku

Some of these invites come with specific dress codes. It becomes imperative to appreciate dress code etiquette so as to dress appropriately for each occasion. This article is a basic guide to making sense of the requested attire.

  •  White tie

This is the most formal of events. The dress code entails that men wear full formal attire, namely, tailcoats with a white tie, vest and shirt. Women only wear floor length elegant gowns with accessories like opera-length gloves and hair is styled and worn up. These types of events are usually charity or society balls and State dinners.

  • Black tie

Think tuxedo and black suits for men and long dresses for the women. Classy cocktail dresses that fall below the knee are now acceptable as well. Wear your hair in an elegant updo.

  • Formal

Women can be in a long dress, a short embellished dress, dressy separates, or even a tuxedo suit. For the men, a dark-coloured suit and tie are recommended.

  •  Cocktail

This is semi-formal. Men can opt for long dress pants and jacket in dark colours, with or without a tie. For the women, this means a knee-length dress or one that hits just below the knee. You can even wear a tailored pantsuit.

  • Business formal

The required attire is formal. Women please stay away from anything too revealing. You are likely to be mingling with work colleagues for events of this manner, hence do not go overboard in your choice of necklines and hemlines. A suit consisting of a jacket with a matching skirt or trousers, plus a blouse is appropriate.

  • Smart casual

Generally, smart casual is office attire with some accessories. A smart jacket and closed shoes or heels are recommended. If you opt for jeans, your denim should look dressy and sharp.

  • Festive

Think bold colours and edgier, funkier styles that you would not usually wear to a more formal event. You can also experiment with embellishments and prints. For men, this is the time to wear ties and suits in less traditional patterns and colours.

  •  Wedding attire

No matter what, do not wear white and you should avoid wearing the same colour dress as the bridal entourage (unless you have been asked to). Try to avoid anything that is too bright, skin-tight and revealing. Never look like you are trying to upstage the bride!

Remember, if you are invited to an event and still can’t figure out what to wear, don’t hesitate to clarify with your host.

Nonto Masuku is partner of a corporate image management firm.

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