What shall I wear?


“What shall I wear?” Take a bow if you’ve never asked that question before!

Whatever the occasion, whether it’s a wedding, an opening of an art exhibition or a party, people commonly get worked up about what to wear. Sometimes it really is quite confusing, especially when the hosts decide to get creative with regards to the party’s theme and start putting clothing guidelines on the invites.

In all honesty, isn’t it just horrific being at some kind of social event and feeling that you are dressed inadequately? You basically just want to leave as soon as possible…

As a way of helping, here are our dress code explanations.

  • Casual Dressy

For lunch with friends, shopping trips, product launches, baptisms, children’s parties, informal meetings, cinema, coffee etc.

Women – Dresses, skirts, tailored trousers, jeans, suits, jackets, shirts, t-shirts, knitwear. Opt for cotton, linen & light wool / knitwear. Accessories should not be too shiny. Bags can be big and footwear can be without heels, espadrilles, sandals, boots, ballerina flats etc. Make-up should be low-key.

Men – You can’t go wrong with jeans, twill, cotton shirts, polo necks and t-shirts. Suit jackets and ties are out of the question. Blazers and leather jackets only if they are justified by the temperature. Footwear can be sporty moccasins, smart trainers or suede boots.

  • Informal attire, tenue de ville

For those occasions which become more formal as the light dims. Tenue de Ville means ‘clothes for the town’. Important lunches, professional events, theatres, evening parties, cocktails and exhibition openings.

Women – Effort is required. Go for pantalones, tailleur or suits. For daytime meetings, dresses; at night, tunics. Materials such as cotton, linen, wool, jerseys, microfibers and silk are the best options. Nothing too shiny as far as accessories are concerned, but plenty of elegance, with jewellery and fine bijou. As for footwear, high(ish) and refined heels. Bags should be, at most, medium sized, but purses can be big.

Men – Up until around 6pm, sporty trousers and blazer combos, dark blazers (with or without a tie) or light suits with a tie (at weddings, for example) are fine. If you happen to live somewhere hot, you can go for a light linen or twill suit. Avoid brown suits once the sun goes down. Opt for navy blue or medium to dark grey. If the invite specifies tenue de ville, ties are recommended, irrespective of the time of day.


  • Cocktail

Weddings, dinners, cocktails, operas, parties and significant events such as graduation ceremonies.

Women – Should wear crepe outfits, silk tailleurs and muslin dresses. Pay special attention to fabrics like lace and silk, with light use of sparkles and stones, and tasteful, discreet cleavage. Dresses can be short, but not too short, and if in doubt long is good. Combine with coats and sophisticated cardigans and shawls, making use of the noble fabrics. Thin strap sandals and heels, of refined materials and fabrics, or metallised / fine patent leather. Handbags and purses ought to be delicate and elegant.

Men – Dark patterned suits. A chalk stripe model is a good option. Shoes should have laces and be heavier. Shirts must have collars (without buttons) and cuffs adequate for cufflinks. Smart, silk ties, naturally! Watches: preferably traditional brands. Gold and platinum are not over the top.

  • Black Tie

Important parties: Balls (like that at the Copacabana Palace or Vogue’s, for example); gala nights, when nothing less than full on glamour is called for.

Women – Dresses should be glamourous, with fabrics like silk taffeta, shantung brocades, georgettes, muslins, lace and dresses embroidered with precious stones and bugle beads are what to go for. Long dresses are not absolutely obligatory, but short or long, sophistication is the key. Shoes or sandals lined with fabrics or finished with metallised leather, with sparkles and stones. High heels (very high, if you dare). Dainty handbags and fabric or metal purses, embroidered with sparkles and stones. Jewellery should be classy and stylish. For the trip home – coats with embroidery and big shawls made from noble fabrics.

Men – Tux. Is there anything more stylish than a man in a tux? Watches: preferably the more traditional brands, and as for before, gold and platinum are in their element. Patent leather shoes.

  • After work drinks / dinner

Most execs spend more time at the office than they do at home, and it is rarely much different with their subordinates, especially when the company demands a lot from its employees. So it’s only natural that people need to let their hair down a bit after work, and talk about their day.

Women – Take your make-up bag, make sure its stocked up: dark lipstick, perfume and accessories (more prominent than those you use in the office). For example: earrings, necklaces and (if you can fit them in!) a pair of super high heels.

Men – Take what you consider to be essential, maybe you’ll need to re-do your beard, apply some after shave or deodorant. If you work somewhere with a relaxed dress code, don’t forget a blazer if you’re planning on going somewhere more formal after work.


About Author

Reference in the image consulting area, she is a professor Specialist in Postgraduate Course in Image and Style Consulting in Fine Arts of São Paulo and Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP).