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Written by Paula Jones Last updated: June 6, 2006
What are the must‐dos and what are the no‐nos? Even if there is no dress code, or the invitation says “informal”, most special occasions require that you make a bit of extra effort in what you wear.
Fashion dos and don’ts
Even if there is no dress code, or the invitation says informal, most special occasions require that you make a bit of extra effort in what you wear. Taking that little bit more care shows the host that you appreciate the effort they have made and how important the celebration is for them, and will always be appreciated.
Tradition dictates that no one except the bride should wear white or cream, although it’s fine to wear these with other colours. It’s also considered impolite to wear all black to a wedding, although this is a rule that’s more frequently broken. In the US, for example, there is a fashion for the brides attendants to dress in black. If you’re absolutely devoted to black, it’s fine to wear it with other colours.
Even if no dress code is specified, you should pay attention to where the celebration is being held when you choose your outfit. I didn’t specify a dress code for my wedding reception, because I didn’t want people to feel they had to buy new outfits says Charlotte. But it was held in a good hotel in the evening, so I was a bit amazed when one of the guests turned up in an old pair of jeans. I just thought she was really rude. I mean, how much effort it would have taken for her to put on something a bit smarter
Dress codes are there because that’s what the host wants you to wear. Although dress codes are generally more flexible for women than they are for men, you should stay within their limits or risk offending the host and looking out of place.
Can I wear the same dress to more than one party is a question that’s particularly likely to arise if you’ve got a run of weddings or special occasions. The answer, according to etiquette experts Debretts, is that you can get away with it, provided the guests are not an identical set of people. Another way to solve the dilemma is to mix separates to make the outfit look different.
However attached you are to your trainers; they are not suitable for special occasions. Keep them for casual wear or the gym. For a dressy feel, go for height ‐‐ heels, even low ones, are always that bit smarter and more elegant than flats.
If you’ve accepted an invitation to a fancy dress or themed party, do dress up. If you don’t, not only will you be thoroughly failing to enter into the party spirit, you’ll also feel daft in your cocktail dress when everyone else is in their Mickey Mouse/tarts and vicars outfits!
Dressing up doesn’t have to mean a dress ‐‐ its fine for women to wear trousers to formal events, according to Debretts, provided they are suitably dressy and well cut. However, if you’re attending a very formal function with a dress code such as black tie, you might want to play it safe and traditional and wear a dress.