Dress codes: Office Holiday Parties

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It’s that time of year again – office holiday party season – and I’ll be appearing on The Rhode Show soon to talk about style “Dos and Don’ts” for the occasion.

Should you care to know, I’ll be wearing this little black dress that the nice people at Ann Taylor sent me.  And I must say, it is nearly perfect for just about any holiday gathering.  But I digress.

My absolute #1 “Do” for office holiday parties is to know (and follow) the dress code.  Never underestimate the importance of wardrobe, especially at work.  Unfortunately it’s not always clear what exactly one is expected to wear.  The following are the six most common options:

  • Black tie/formal:  Men should wear tuxedos, women should wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.
  • Black tie optional:  men have the option of wearing a tuxedo but may also wear a dark suit and tie.  Women typically dress in black tie attire.
  • Semi-formal/Business formal:  Men should wear a suit and women should wear a dress or dressy suit.
  • Cocktail Attire:  Men should wear a dark suit or a sports coat and slacks, while women should wear short (read: cocktail length) elegant dresses.
  • Festive Attire:  This category is subject to a lot of interpretation.  To be safe, men should wear a blazer and slacks and women should wear a dressy skirt and top.  Feel free to add a “festive” touch but use restraint and keep it professional.
  • Dressy Casual:  Men should wear khakis with a shirt and blazer.  Women should wear a dressy pants look, which may include jeans if they are an even dark wash, free of embellishments, and worn with heels.

Still not sure what to wear?  Most of the time the venue dictates the dress code, as well as the time of day – evening affairs are typically dressier than daytime events.  However, if you are still in doubt, it is perfectly acceptable to ask your hosts.

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