words Alexa Wang
Let’s face it: over the past 25 or so years, the dress code for various events have gotten more and more varied and therefore confusing. Even formerly formal occasions, such as weddings, have begun to depend on a multitude of factors – the venue, the people involved, the weather, and, most importantly, what other people are planning to wear.
In order to cut down on stress and ensure that you don’t stick out like a sore thumb, here are some general guidelines that will help you decide what to wear for any occasion.
Dressing for Religious Ceremonies
Baptisms and bar mitzvahs have become less of a common formal event and more of a rare special occasion. Paradoxically, many religions and traditions have also become less prescriptive in their dress and style. If you’re invited to a religious ceremony for a tradition you’re unfamiliar with, a bit of research won’t go amiss, but there are some general guidelines. Avoid anything short, low cut, or clingy. Sleeveless styles are borderline, so bringing a nice sweater or blazer that will pair well with your outfit can help you avoid awkward situations. Intense formality may be a faux paus, so rely on semi-formal or work-formal styles.
Weddings run the gamut of formality these days, but generally speaking being slightly overdressed is better than being slightly underdressed. Nice formal dresses are generally a safe bet, with knee or tea-length styles being the most likely to not come off as too formal or too casual. If the wedding invitation notes a particular level of formality, aim for at or just slightly above that level of formality – if the rest of the guests have chosen to go more fancy, you won’t be left as the one person in jeans. And, as always, women especially should avoid wearing white!
Holiday Parties and Festive Attire
While most family holiday events are low-key, casual affairs, you may wind up in a situation where you’ve been invited to a more formalized holiday event. Generally speaking, these kind of fun occasions are a great excuse to push the limits on color and glitz even when it takes place at a classier venue. Statement jewelry is more than welcome, and colorful dresses and jumpsuits are going to be the order of the day. Don’t be afraid to go festive with the colors – making it clear that you are having fun with the event within the limits of its particular formality will make you stand out in a good way.
Bridal and Baby Showers
When it comes to bridal and baby showers, classy-casual is the order of the day. Casual dresses and fun, flowy tops will make it clear that you understand the importance of the event while not coming off as stuffy or stuck-up. In general, florals and pastels are the way to go, while black should be used carefully to come off as chic rather than somber. At bridal showers, just like at weddings, white should be worn by no one but the bride unless she particularly states otherwise.
The general rule is to dress at a step above the formality of the position you’re interviewing for. Clean, simple styles and colors are the most appropriate, with black and navy always being appropriate. Make sure that, even if you usually wouldn’t be so dressed up, you’re in something that you can be comfortable in – the last thing you want is to be sweating buckets at your job interview. Denim and loud jewelry are a massive faux paus, even when they are appropriate for the actual job once you get it.
Funeral or Wake
The safe route for wakes and funerals is something subdued and classy – pantsuits and knee-length dresses with a cardigan or suit jacket on top. The colors are traditionally black, but this is not mandatory. Try to keep any color you choose muted and respectful – this is the place for navy and dark green, not pastels. Any jewelry should be simple and refined – stud earrings and simple necklaces or bracelets are appropriate, statement pieces are not. Loud patterns should be avoided, but more discreet patterns such as pinstripes are perfectly appropriate.