Reader Mail: Semi-Formal Attire

semi-formal-attireWe recently got this request in from a reader…

Hi. I have a question about semi-formal attire I was hoping you and/or your readers could answer. I have been invited to attend a law firm event (cocktails and dinner) in early April and the invitation says attire is semi-formal. I was hoping for your thoughts on what is and is not semi-formal and maybe two or three suggestions for dresses that would fit the bill. I am still in law school, so I’m looking for something I could wear to more than one occasion. I’m hoping to keep the price to around $100. Thanks!

Semi-formal: the bane of everyone’s existence. It isn’t formal, it isn’t cocktail, and no one knows what to wear. So… where does that leave you?

Our advice here is to go on the conservative side of cocktail. Your goal is Jackie Kennedy, not Marilyn Monroe (or, ahem, Romy and Michele). [Read more…]

What Not to Wear To… a Black-Tie Affair

what not to wear to a black tie affair2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on office what not to wear to a black-tie affair, and links have been updated below. Looking for general advice on what not to wear to work? Check out our latest discussion.

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.)

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) (check out this advice on what to wear to a more low-key holiday office party)

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Black ties and faux pas

Cher in 1988We’re not sure why WSJ has this story *now*, given that black tie season is over (isn’t it?) but today they have a great article on why businesswomen need to be very, very careful in choosing an evening gown.

It’s not just a matter of image; sometimes, there can be real trouble. Lisa Goldstein, an attorney and founder of consulting firm Rainmaker Trainers in Philadelphia, says that during a client dinner with spouses, a head of a law firm was propositioned by her male client and his wife. The client “suggested that they swing together,” says Ms. Goldstein, who was informally consulted on how to recover the professional-client relationship. The lawyer felt that her revealing evening dress had set the wrong tone, sending “signals that were misinterpreted,” says Ms. Goldstein.

Ye-ow. We’ve seen some truly bad outfits at various black ties, and can remember more than a few personal gaffes ourselves (after the jump)

[Read more…]