Holiday Party Dress Codes
The most wonderful time of the year has its challenges, but choosing what to wear to an upcoming holiday party doesn’t have to be one of them. While vague terms like “dress casual,” “cocktail attire,”—and yes, even “ugly sweater”—may seem mysterious at first, you can fulfill any of them with a few pieces of tailored clothing and a little creativity.
Though its name evokes leisure, the broadness of dress casual may make it the toughest nut to crack. After all, the meaning could encompass everything from jeans and a button-down to chinos and a sportcoat. We like to err on the side of being overdressed rather than underdressed, so reach for the sportcoat—but go ahead and have fun by wearing a piece with a little extra pattern or color, like a brown herringbone with a blue check. If you’re still worried about looking too dressy, balance it out by wearing cords instead of chinos (bonus points for holiday colors like green or red).
Semi-Formal, or “Cocktail Attire”
An always-safe approach to semi-formal dictates wearing a suit with a button-up shirt but no tie. If you’d like to make things a little more interesting—and a lot more cozy—opt for a a turtleneck instead. The neutrality of a solid turtleneck makes it a great choice for patterned suits like a flannel tartan, which may prove more challenging to pair with a shirt and tie.
Formal, or Black Tie
The highest end of the dress code spectrum is also the least ambiguous. If the invitation says formal or black tie, you’re wearing a tux, with a bow tie. Remember: nothing else looks quite as good next to a glass of champagne.
So you’ve been invited to an ugly sweater party. However, the invitation didn’t say that anything else about your getup had to be ugly. Stand aside from the rest of the ironic crowd by layering something casual like a grey herringbone sportcoat over your sweater of ill repute. The high-low contrast may add a little humor, and give you an out should the party spill over to a bar full of non-ugly sweaters.