Did you know that we create our first impression of a person we meet in just 30 seconds? According to research by emeritus psychology professor Albert Mehrabian, this impression is 55% of what the person is wearing, 38% of his or her self-presentation, body language and voice tone, and only 7% of what he or she says. Clothing, whether we like it or not, is therefore the most important parameter and should therefore be taken seriously. What to do when you are invited to a prom or other festive event, the invitation is rife with foreign words such as black tie or lounge suit and you want or need to make a great impression? Maybe already you know these terms, and know exactly what they are committing you to – I certainly don’t underestimate you. Nevertheless, I take the liberty of recommending that you at least glance over the following lines. I have tried to summarize a brief dress code guide for you, separately for men and for women. Perhaps you will find some valuable information in it that has been concealed so far, and from now on you will be able to achieve exactly the fantastic first impression you intended.
Create your own identity and prefer quality
It applies without a doubt for both sexes that your clothes should look as if they have been tailor made just for you, and not handed down from an older sibling. So be careful to choose the right sizes. You must always feel natural. Prefer quality pieces to those on the discount rack. Believe me, they are sure to last longer in your wardrobe. Clothing should complement you as you are. Don’t get too tied up with classic choices, take a little risk and create your own identity. When choosing clothing always consider the color, texture and character of the material, pattern and print and, importantly, a cut that fits your figure.
A single-breasted jacket always lengthens the figure. It can be worn unbuttoned, unless we’re introducing ourselves, shaking hands, and if we are not in the center of attention as a lecturer or making a speech or a toast. It can have two to four buttons, with the last one never being buttoned under any circumstances. The double-breasted jacket looks more formal, does not trim the figure overmuch and is usually worn with all the buttons buttoned. When unbuttoned, it will seem that it does not fit correctly. It can only be opened when we sit down. By no means do we take off our jacket during formal occasions. However, if we are participating in less formal events, we can take the liberty of doing so with the permission of the women at the table. Also pay attention to the pocket flaps, as they should not be inserted into the pockets.
This is worn with a single-breasted jacket, and the last button always remains unbuttoned. If you are wearing a vest, you can wear your jacket unbuttoned more frequently.
As for the shirt, the French collar is the most formal, the Italian adds a professional look, but is less formal, and a button-down collar looks more casual, but is not suitable for formal occasions. Make sure that the upper part of the collar above the jacket is half visible and that the tie is positioned perfectly in the center and goes with the jacket. The shirt collar should extend approximately one centimeter over the back of the jacket collar. The shirt sleeve should be at least a centimeter longer than the jacket sleeve and its cuff should end at the base of the thumb. Never wear short-sleeved shirts in a suit. Only wear a shirt with double cuffs and in white, at worst beige or pale blue. Never unfasten the button at the neck or loosen the tie.
Your tie should be long enough to cover your belt buckle. Tie a simple knot (e.g., four-in-hand) into a Kent collar (narrow), and for a shark (broad) collar tie a Windsor knot in the shape of an equilateral triangle. The tie clip should be placed on the tie exactly where the jacket flaps open. A classic tie can be replaced with knit necktie, decorated with a pin or brooch, such as plastron (pleated scarf), regatta or ascot (wide-necked tie).
The trousers should have a length of two fingers off the ground at the heel. The cuffs should be at most 2.5–3 cm high. The trousers of the tuxedo, tailcoat and jacket should be without cuffs. The trouser legs should crease at the knee when you bend the knee, forming a line above the center line of the shoe.
When your suit is lighter in color, complete your formal attire with a pair of oxford or derby lace-ups, black or brown. The most elegant type are oxford shoes. They are the best suited to formal occasions and formal work attire. Derby shoes have open laces and the tongue is visible under the lace, and they are suitable as casual business style and leisure shoes. Classic loafers have no lace or buckle, they are comfortable, suitable for relaxed business casual or leisure. I will also mention monk strap footwear, which does not have a shoelace and the side is closed by one or more buckles. It is a very elegant shoe that you can wear for both formal occasions and leisure.
Socks should not be seen, and you should always choose matching tones: black, dark gray, dark brown. You should avoid white socks with formal attire. Natural fibers reduce perspiration.
For belts, follow three basic rules:
- The belt and buckle must match the other accessories: shoes, bag, watch and cufflinks.
- The belt should be made of quality leather – this looks the best and lasts the longest. The only exception may be cloth belts for leisure wear.
- Have a black one and a brown one.
Formal belts are made of smooth leather and have a simple metal buckle. The ideal width of a belt is 3.5 centimeters. For more formal occasions, a black belt is more suitable. A brown one, on the other hand, can complement your business attire.
What to wear when the invitation says:
Very often required for gala evenings, special balls and formal weddings. It is only worn out of the house after 6:00 p.m.
- Fine wool tuxedo, most commonly with classic or scarf lapels coated with shiny material, silk for the more luxurious, and tapered trousers of the same fabric with stripes. The jacket may be single-breasted or double-breasted. Black or dark blue is prescribed.
- The trousers should end in a classic style, without a cuff. They are not worn with a belt, suspenders are prescribed.
- White formal shirt without breast pocket, made o of fine, smooth and starched cotton or silk with a classic collar like a regular shirt or standing and folded tips, double cuffs with cufflinks. The shirt should be fastened with hidden buttons, a flap and bib or classic visible buttons. If the buttons are accidentally visible, they must be decorative, such as pearl or silver, and match the cufflinks.
- Black “barathey” tie or silk bow tie, should be hand tied.
- A white handkerchief should be tucked into the breast pocket
- Tuxedo with single-breasted fastening can be worn with a cummerbund with pleats up instead of a vest. An evening vest is the preferred option, but is still optional.
- Evening shoes should be black lace-ups with closed laces or so-called perka. They should not have a stitched toe or decorative stitching (brogue).
- Black silk knee socks are ideal.
- A Chesterfield, covert coat or mackintosh in black or dark gray are suitable coats for colder weather.
Interestingly, the tuxedo comes from the United Kingdom. The original dinner jacket evolved from riding attire in the early Victorian period and finding its use inside the house. The men had it sewn from the same velvet as robes. It had a good ability to absorb the smell of cigarettes – hence the name smoking jacket. Later, tuxedos were made of black wool to be elegant to wear in the dining room. The social acceptability of this garment was guaranteed when it was adopted in 1860 by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the Prince of Wales.
Note: In cases of black tie optional, the same rules apply as for black tie. For creative black tie, liven up your tuxedo with a cummerbund, with a matching bowtie, or handkerchief.
Evening formal wear is often indicated as white tie. It is worn exceptionally on very formal occasions.
- Single-breasted black tailcoat with narrow, high-waisted pants made of the same black fabric, without cuffs. They may have double stripes. Do not wear a belt, only suspenders.
- White shirt with standing cotton collar with piqué or marcella bib, pearl, white, silver or white gold studs.
- White silk or piqué bow tie.
- White single or double-breasted vest made of piqué cotton. The tail coat can also be worn for very formal daily ceremonies, but with a black vest.
- Black patent leather shoes without stitching and high black socks.
- Pocket watch with chain.
- On official occasions, a white tie or tailcoat dress code is often required
- with “decorations”, i.e. even with ranks.
- A top hat or white scarf may be a suitable accessory.
Standard morning dress
A jacket with a long gray or black woolen jacket with trimmed tails (hence the name cutaway).
- Gray or ochre vest with double-breasted fastening.
- White formal shirt with stiff collar, sewn from cotton, flax or silk. It should be with double cuffs when worn with a long tie, or with simple cuffs when worn with a standard tie, such as at weddings.
- Gray-white or black-and-white striped trousers with two satin pleats running down the sides of the leg. No cuffs or belt loops, as suspenders are worn.
- Black lace-ups without stitched toe or decorative brogue, and black, crimped silk socks to the knees.
- Formal gray gloves made of leather, suede or fine chamois leather. However, they are carried rather than worn and are not mandatory.
- cuff links, preferably pearlescent.
- Gray top hat, walking stick or umbrella are suitable.
Note: This is the most formal dress code for a daytime event.
- Dark suit with single or double-breasted jacket.
- You can wear a vest with a single-breasted jacket.
- Solid-color collared shirt in subtle tones, ideally white for festive occasions, with double cuffs and cufflinks.
- Quality necktie. A bow tie is acceptable but very unusual and should not be worn in this case.
- Dark lace-up shoes with dark socks.
- Wristwatch, analog, high-quality.
- In bad weather, you can wear a coat such as a mackintosh, trench coat or Crombie coat.
Less frequently used dress codes
- Lounge suit or non-formal suit: Jacket with pants of the same material in a dark color for most evening occasions. Very dark if worn as part of a prescribed black tie optional dress code. During the day, dark colors are best suited in winter, while in summer lighter colors are preferable. Collared shirt, ideally white, with double cuffs and cufflinks. Traditional necktie. The bow tie is acceptable but very unusual and should not be worn in this case. Dark lace-up shoes with dark socks. Wristwatch, analog, high quality.
- Festive casual: Festive, but not formal, for example, a color coat complemented with light pants, a shirt and ascot tie (tie scarf).
- Summer casual: T-shirt in suit coat, light summer pants, loafers, ankle socks.
- Business formal: Formal wear for work and social occasions. Representative attire that gives a man credibility and confidence. Men’s suit, long-sleeved shirt of a single color, tie and shoes with laces. Accessories can be a wristwatch, including modern smart watches, cuff shirts a few cufflinks and possibly a handkerchief in the breast pocket of the jacket.
- Smart casual: A jacket (not of denim) matching with pants, canvas trousers or elegant fashion jeans is acceptable. A collared shirt is the best choice. A collar shirt or tennis shirt is usually acceptable. Avoid collarless T-shirts, but a monochrome t-shirt with a jacket can look elegant. A pullover sweater, or one with buttons. Black or brown shoes (slip-on shoes or loafers) or ankle boots, and dark socks. A coat if the weather requires. A hat is not usually worn. Quality wristwatches are a suitable accessory.
Do not forget the unwritten rule that if the event starts around noon and ends by six in the evening, you should choose a light suit. In the evening or evening hours, gentlemen should arrive in dark suits.
Also, if possible, try to align your clothes with your partner’s clothes, if you are invited with an escort.