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Setting the Tone for Your Holiday Dinner Party

It is an undeniable fact that these days, we live in a casual society. All one has to do is turn on the television or flip-open a magazine to see sneakers being worn with dinner jackets, eye-wateringly short skirts, and jeans paired with absolutely everything. As a society, we have become accustomed to our casual approach to most events. So much so, that when the time comes to dress for a more traditional event, to some it may feel a bit like uncharted territory.

If you are planning a holiday dinner party with a certain aesthetic in mind, it is wise to very clearly state what you wish the dress code to be on the invitation. Even if you are confident that none of your friends or acquaintances would be confused by what appropriate attire might be for your dinner party, most people will be glad for the refresher of what exactly a black tie, white tie, or lounge suit dress code entails. Take your cue from the people at Royal Ascot. When they felt that the dress on show at their event was straying from the tradition and values of Ascot, they re-introduced the standard of dress with a bevy of videos, publicity materials, and on-site dress-code assistants that left absolutely no margin for error. While certainly there is no need to go this far for something like a dinner party, that is not to say that the specifics of the various dress codes won’t be appreciated by your guests.

What exactly are the various forms of evening dress that you might expect at an evening diner party? According to the Debrett’s guide, considered the modern authority on all matters etiquette, taste, and achievement, there are three main types of evening dress that you may want to consider for your holiday dinner party.

1. Black Tie

The most popular option for dinner parties, black tie, often referred to as the “dinner jacket” or “tuxedo”, consists of a black wool jacket with silk lapels, and a matching trouser with a silk braid or stripe, and a black bow tie. Shoes should be black, and either polished or patent. For women, an evening or cocktail dress of an appropriate length is standard.

2. White Tie

White tie is not as prevalent as black tie for a dinner party, largely because it is the most formal of the dress codes and often reserved for galas and ceremonial events. Often referred to as “full evening dress”, white tie refers to a single-breasted jacket with tails, worn with a white waistcoat and white bow tie. Shoes should be black patent. For women, a long evening gown is compulsory.

3. Lounge Suit

This is the least formal option for your dinner party. A lounge suit refers to a normal business suit for a man, worn with a shirt and tie. For women, there is a little more wiggle-room, and anything from a cocktail dress to a trouser suit or evening gown may be appropriate, depending on the nature of your gathering.