Great Ideas for Festive Formalwear

How dressy is too dressy at a cocktail party?                                                                            iStock photo courtesy of STYLEdge®

By Patty Soltis, Guest Columnist

The season of festivities has arrived, and so many are figuring out what to wear. A sponsorship agreement is reached, and an invitation is accepted, then the looming question must be answered: What is the appropriate attire?

Like many types of attire, today’s formalwear has taken on a new meaning, leaving the festive attendees often confused on what to wear.

To break it down, there are four types of evening events:

1. Dinner Engagements – From attending the annual Westshore Alliance Dinner or an evening with clients or networking, there are minor tweaks to your image to make. For men, add a pocket square with color that complements your outfit. For a woman, the quickest way to make the transition is with a swipe of red lipstick, which is available in multiple shades and formulas that are right for you. Then add some sparkle by adding a piece of jewelry or accent piece and make sure your dinner bag can tuck in the small of your back when seated.

2. Cocktail Events – Attending a cocktail party always brings up the question of how dressy is too dressy? The Feeding Tampa Bay event is the perfect example of an evening cocktail event — office attire combined with the festive atmosphere of a cocktail event. Adding more sparkle and shimmer is undoubtedly appropriate — this is a time to shine! Women can think about adding metallic, sequin accents and satin to their look. Men need to wear a suit, and once again, the pocket square can add panache by complementing the dress shirt and necktie.

3. Galas – There are many galas for the season, from the themed Tampa General Hospital, Lowry Park Zoo Karamu and the always interesting (and best meet & greet) DeBartolo Family Foundation gala. In menswear, this is the time for a black suit or tuxedo with the bowtie optional. Shiny black shoes, cuff links, and a pocket square elevate the look. For women, the skirt or dress length can be to the knee or slightly below with the other option of going all the way to the floor. Pants are another option in either small sequins or a shiny satin silk fabric. Top your separates with a complementary blouse, sweater or jacket with hints of sparkle. A gala is a time to make sure that your hair is stylishly done and makeup applied by a professional.

4. Black Tie – Finally, we have arrived at black tie events such as the Magnolia Ball and Heart Ball. For the gentleman, it is time to bring out your tuxedo with a bow tie – your choice of the color. Much like James Bond, you can never go wrong with a “real” black tie; just make sure that it is one that you have tied and is not prefabricated. For women, there are a plethora of options of gowns, skirts and even pants that go to the floor, skimming the top of your shoe. Look for proper fit with the proper undergarments and shoes when you are selecting your ensemble. Separates can be a great way to go as this gives you more use for the items in your wardrobe; alternate from previous years and bring stylish items back with slight alterations or change of accessories. It is essential to have your hair done and makeup applied by a professional and it’s a time for both male and females to have a manicure (and pedicure for sandals worn by the ladies).

To further add ease to this process, here is my checklist:

Try on your look at least two months in advance to check for fit and any updates needed.

Start shopping at least two months in advance to allow time for delivery and alterations. Pinterest is an excellent resource and easy to use.

A single handbag for women can suffice for all of these events. Black is always an excellent color choice, but a metallic or bold color can also serve as an accent piece. Make sure that your mobile phone can fit in your bag.

A collection of pocket squares on hand can easily be added to your look to change it quickly.

Shoes need to be shined with maintenance completed including the soles and taps. Make sure that they fit and do not pinch your feet or toes.

Manicure and pedicure are accomplished on the day of the event; schedule the appointment two weeks in advance.

For women, hair appointments should allow adequate time in the makeup chair. Remember to schedule this visit with a professional, and you may want to do a dry run — the idea is to have a different look than you are accustomed.

For both men and women, do not have your hair cut on the day of the event, but at least one week in advance.

For men, schedule a shave for the day of the event; this is very relaxing and will soothe your skin.

Patty Soltis/Photo courtesy of  STYLEdge®

Patty Soltis is the CEO/Founder of STYLEdge®,  an image consulting business that specializes with alpha business leaders to establish credibility to their audience without saying a word.  A first impression is made far too quickly and has lasting effect.  STYLEdge® ensures that this impression is one of power, competence and confidence.

Patty’s background in retail management for over 20 years, mostly as a vice president/general Manager for companies such as Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor and Marshall Fields developed her experience in business, retail and fashion.  The training and education that she received has led to her success as an image consultant; this combines her business acumen with her lengthy knowledge of fashion, style and attire needed for success.

For the past three years, she has worked with business leaders and their organizations to understand image and how it reflects on their brand.  The STYLEdge® clients will tell you with energy, enthusiasm and excitement how this has improved their performance and results.



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