On the off chance anyone’s company is still having their black-tie affair this year, we thought we’d give some advice on what to wear, and what not to wear. (Although the best advice we can give you is: ask a colleague who’s already been to the dance at least once.) Photo credit at left: the perfect martini, originally uploaded to Flickr by berbercarpet
1. First of all, ways to tell dressy formal attire is required: generally, your invitation will tell you what to wear. Secondary clues that dressy attire is necessary:
- the event is held on a Saturday, not a Friday
- significant others are invited
- the event is held in a swank place that is not necessarily well-located near the office
- your company holds two parties: one for staffers (held on a Friday night near or at the office) and one is held for the executives/lawyers (the dress code will be very different for the two events)
2. Our first piece of advice: Even if it’s not black-tie, buy a black dress — throughout the year you may be invited to be a guest at a black-tie affair and, presto, no need for a new dress. (You can always accessorize with a colorful bag or wrap if you’re really craving color.)
3. When shopping for your dress, think “classic beauty,” NOT sexy. To this end, avoid skin in unexpected places (see left — the keyhole above the empire waist is trouble). No side-boob, no under-boob, and no dresses with the low-low back (um, at right).
4. Strapless can be acceptable so long as your dress is well-anchored — no chance of things heading south.
5. Cleavage can also be acceptable — a very little amount of cleavage — if it’s controlled.
6. No trains or fishtail hems (see right). Seriously, you’re going to be mingling, trying to balance your drink, and trying to indulge in the occasional bite of sushi or pig in a blanket. You don’t want people stepping on your dress in the midst of all that…
7. In fact, a cocktail-length dress (above the knee) can be acceptable if the dress is fancy enough. You can always accessorize with a crystal or diamond brooch, sparkly shoes, a sparkly wrap, etc. If you’re unsure of how fancy the event is, you may want to go with either a fancy cocktail dress or a plain floor-length black dress. (J.Crew has some amazing sales today on plain long gowns — use code JINGLE for an additional 30% off.)
8. Don’t wear anything too outre. Even if you really know your fashion stuff, anything cutting edge can just make you look like a hack. (Remember Patsy and Edina, after all.)
9. Splurge on accessories or shoes. A sequined or beaded wrap, some jeweled shoes, or a quality clutch will all serve you well throughout your life.
10. If time and money allow, get your hair done, but definitely get a manicure. We always find that if you’re shaking hands and talking with people while holding a glass, focus tends to be on your hands and how well manicured they are. If you’re not a polish sort of girl, just get clear or pale polish. If you are a polish sort of girl, we recommend keeping it tasteful and avoiding sparkles and trendy shades like gray. Still, it’s a party — choose a color that compliments your outfit.