Posts Tagged: dress code

Reader request: What’s the best way to add formal wear to my wardrobe?

By IN Find Clothes You'll Love

how to add formal wear to your wardrobe

A reader asks:

“I have travel and I have a few dressy work functions, both unusual events for me. I am excited about these and want to buy special things to wear, but then I wonder whether these purchases will end up just sitting unused in my closet because they are too specialized apart from my daily wear. How do I enjoy my special events without ending up donating my barely used things to charity 2-3 years from now?”

There are a few different ways to approach incorporating special event wear into your wardrobe. Choose the option that resonates most with you (and works best with your budget and lifestyle).

How to incorporate formal wear into your wardrobe

Long term. This is probably the most traditional approach. Buy one really amazing investment piece, whether that’s a formal gown or the ubiquitous LBD, and keep it for as long as possible.

By design, such garments will sit unused in your closet for long periods of time, but that’s OK; they’ll be waiting for you when you need them. If you attend one such event a year for several years, your investment will have paid off.

Short term. With this approach, you are less concerned with how long you will own your special purchase or how many times you will wear it. Instead, you’re planning for the immediate set of events you know you need the clothing for. When those are over, you can decide whether you’ll need your purchase any time soon.

If you don’t? Take a page from Marie Kondo, thank your garments for their service to you at these special events in your life, and let them go: to a friend or to a consignment store or to charity. (Many cities have prom dress drives that accept gently used formal wear; this is also a good option if you have a bridesmaid dress hanging in the back of your closet.)

Temporary. Forget about buying anything—rent! You’ll spend less overall, and you’ll have access to labels far above your budget ceiling (for most of us, anyway). Rent the Runway is the most well-known, but other options include Lending Luxury in the U.S. and Girl Meets Dress and Dream Wardrobe in the U.K. Or do a search on “women’s formal wear rental” or “women’s formal wear hire.”

And then there’s a slightly unusual hybrid approach: buy just one really great dress for multiple events in a short time span. Sound impossible? This writer was a wedding guest at 10 weddings in one year, in one dress. The secret, of course, is accessories.

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Capsule wardrobe: Casual Fridays

By IN Advice, Create Outfits, Find Your Style, Personal Style

capsule wardrobe: Casual Fridays

In its original form, Casual Friday was the chance for workers in offices with formal dress codes to wear slightly more relaxed outfits. Be-suited professionals were allowed the freedom of separates and a thousand polo shirts and khakis were sold.

In some offices, meanwhile, Casual Friday is the standard dress code. And Actual Fridays are a sartorial free-for-all.

So maybe it helps to think of Casual Friday the concept as a level of dressing that’s the least dressy and most casual you can be at work while still looking like you’re dressed for an office.

Casual Friday pieces tend to split the difference between casual and formal in color, fabric or shape; if it’s a dressier shape, like a pencil skirt, the fabric is more casual, like denim. Create the same pencil skirt in crepe wool with a silk lining and now it’s ready for a client meeting.

10 pieces to wear on Casual Fridays

This Casual Friday capsule wardrobe, then, contains a few basic pieces that are dressier than weekend wear (whether casual or chic), but less dressy than you’d wear to meet with a big client or customer.

And if the dressier pieces are still more “formal” than you typically see in your workplace, well, who says you can’t be the best dressed one in the office?

You can combine them to make outfits that are the farthest toward the casual end (denim + T-shirt) or closest to being Proper Office Attire (blouse + skirt + blazer).

In warmer months, trade the corduroys for a lightweight cotton trouser, either ankle length or capri cut, and swap the longer-sleeved bright blouse for one with short sleeves or even sleeveless.

I’ll keep the blazer and cardigan, though; my commute is toasty, but my office can be Arctic. Layers to the rescue!

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What to wear to a bat or bar mitzvah

By IN Create Outfits, Find Your Style

What to wear to a bar or bat mitzvah

Earlier this month I traveled to North Carolina for the bat mitzvah of my college roommate’s daughter.

This required two things: accepting the fact that I am old enough to have a friend with a 13-year-old, and figuring out what to wear since I’d never been to either a bat or bar mitzvah before.

Facebook to the rescue! I solicited advice from my Jewish lady friends and this is what they suggested.

What to wear to a bat mitzvah

First, understand that there may be several events over the course of a weekend, with the bat mitzvah itself typically taking place on a Saturday and held at the family’s synagogue. There is usually a reception event the same day, and there may also be a shabbat dinner Friday night. Dress for each event can vary depending on where the event is held.

  • For the bat mitzvah service: Dress nicely; think of what you might wear to a wedding or to another house of worship, like church. Keep on the conservative side: cover your shoulders and avoid flashy or bright clothes.
  • For the reception: Start with your invitation; it may have dress suggestions. Or ask the mother of the honoree. In many cases, this will be the dressiest event of the weekend, especially if it’s held in a venue like a ballroom. Some are dinner dances where a cocktail dress would be appropriate and my friend Hallie attended at least one that was black tie optional! Bring your dancing shoes: this is a festive occasion.
  • For other events: If you are invited to a dinner after services on Friday night before the day of the bat mitzvah ceremony, the dress code is the same as the ceremony. Because it’s in the evening, you could choose a party dress, but you could also opt for the same outfit you’re planning to wear to the service.

Since I was traveling to this event, I played it safe by bringing more options than I strictly needed, just in case I got there and found out the other guests were dressing up a lot more (or a lot less) than I was. I kept everything in the same color family so I could bring a limited set of shoes and accessories.

Beyond the dress code, I found these articles helpful for understanding the etiquette of being a first-time guest at a bat mitzvah.

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