October 4, 2013

Dressing for the Occasion: Cocktail Attire


Last year I did a Style Etiquette post on Cocktail Attire and it has consistently been both the most popular post and the one that I get the most questions about. Navigating the ambiguity of cocktail attire can definitely be tough, so I thought a Dressing for the Occasion post was in order to give you some examples and help get your sartorial gears turning.

1. Patterned Suit


As I have said many times before, a suit is always appropriate. The nice thing about cocktail attire is that you can break out a suit that might not be appropriate for everything. 


My go-to is this charcoal windowpane check suit (though I’ve been looking for a good excuse to buy a light-grey Glen Plaid three-piece).


What I like about wearing a darker suit is that you can easily balance it with brighter, more saturated colors. In addition to the usual accessories, your socks are a great way to wear some color in a more subtle way.

Suit by PS by Paul Smith; Shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt;
Shoes by Allen Edmonds; Tie by Robert Godley; Tie bar by Link Up;
Pocket square and socks by Psycho Bunny; Belt by Ted Baker

2. Chinos + Jacket


In my opinion, chinos with a jacket and tie is the most casual option that is acceptable if the occasion calls for cocktail attire (unless the situation is dire and you have limited options, in which case go with the best, well-fitting outfit you have).


The more casual the soirée, the more leeway you have with pattern, color, and accessories. Black satin and blue denim make this jacket the perfect balance for a cocktail party. Details like a vintage handkerchief as a pocket square and colored brogues are not only stylish, but great conversation fodder.

Jacket by C'N'C Costume National; Chinos by Gant Rugger;
Shirt by Uniqlo; Shoes by Ted Baker; Tie by Ben Sherman;
Tie bar by Link Up; Vintage ladies' handkerchief as pocket square;
Socks by Corgi; Belt by Brooks Brothers

3. Trousers + Jacket


If you are really unsure about what to wear to an event, but you know that a suit is not required, it’s hard to go wrong with trousers and a jacket. This pairing gives you the most options to express your style, though as a guest, it’s important to not stray too far outside the box.


A solid tie doesn’t have to be boring. Linen, cotton, and wool can all add a texture to keep even the most basic pieces interesting. Let your patterns, colors, and textures work together and play off each other for a polished, put-together look.

Jacket and shoes by Ted Baker; Trousers and pocket
square by Burberry; Shirt by Barneys New York;
Tie by Uniqlo; Tie bar by Link Up; Belt by Lacoste

Cocktail attire has become such a catch-all term that if you are wearing a shirt, tie, and trousers (that all fit you properly) you will probably be dressed better than at least a couple other people. That is all well and good, but why not strive for more? Wear a jacket (or even better, a suit), add some fun accessories, tie on an interesting pair of shoes, and most of all, wherever you are going, enjoy yourself!

Stay stylish,
- JJ