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Attire: What Do I Wear to the Party?

You just received an invitation to a party, and the attire says: Shabby Chic; Razzle Dazzle; Cowboy Couture.


Word to hostesses: when listing the attire on the invitation for a party, make it clear. We do not want our guests to solve a riddle to understand what is expected of them. There is a phrase I like to quote, “To be unclear is to be unkind.” When we are unclear, this only serves to add stress on those we have invited. An invitation to a party should be a joyful experience from beginning to end. I grew up with a grandfather that was a cattleman. If I received an invitation that said “cowboy” in it, I would don my favorite pair of jeans, polish my boots, and head out the door. The word “couture” might give me a clue that I should elevate my choice of attire, but why leave your guests wondering?

Here is a guide that will help clear up any confusion you might have.


Let me clarify up front. Casual does not mean athletic gear or cutoff shorts. Save this for the gym or yard work.

Women: If your invitation says casual, the best choice is a pair of jeans and a cute top. A comfortable pair of crop pants and flats always works, too.

Men: A nice pair of jeans and a collared shirt. This can be a golf shirt or a button down with the sleeves rolled up. *

*Casual Chic

Women: Step up your game a little in the casual department. Add heals with your jeans and throw on a blazer.

Men: If you mix jeans with a sports jacket, you will fit right in.

Business Casual or Business:

Women: Skirt or slacks with a sweater and flats for a casual look. A blouse, blazer, and heels for business.

Men: Slacks, a collared shirt, and a sports coat for a casual look. Maybe add a fun tie. For business go with a traditional suit and tie. You may switch up the color of your shirts but stick with traditional colors.


Women: A short, black dress is usually a great “go-to” outfit. Anything ankle length is also nice. Throw on some jewelry, heels, and a great handbag, and you are set.

Men: Dark suit, white shirt, and a tie.

Black Tie Optional

I find this dress code more difficult, because it leaves people wondering which way they should go. Let me clear this up. When the hostess of an event says “optional” what they are trying to say is, “If you do not own a tux, or do not feel like renting one, we do not want this to keep you from attending our event, so come on anyway.” The hostess is saying she wants you in a tuxedo, but your presence is more important to her than your attire. So, when my husband and I receive a Black-Tie Optional invitation, we always err on the dressier side and go Black Tie! If you do not wish to do this here is the best choice.

Women: A longer dress (does not need to be floor length), heels, great jewelry, and an evening handbag.

Men: Very dark suit, white shirt, and very dark tie. Preferably a solid black or dark navy. This can be a regular tie or a bow tie.

Black Tie/Formal

This is the easiest to decipher because we all know what to expect.

Women: Floor length gown, heels, elegant drop earrings and an evening handbag.

Men: Tuxedo. In all things know your audience and your hostess. A Hollywood gala or political black-tie event might be dressier than a friend’s 7p.m. wedding. Use your judgement and feel free to ask the hostess what she is wearing. This is sometimes the best route!

Together with you,

Lisa Lou

*A comment about men and shorts. In our casual culture, it is more common and acceptable to see grown men wearing shorts. A word of caution, though. Here is a quick recap on the history of shorts and when they should and should not be worn.


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