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Discussion Forums

The Etiquette Queen Parties

Questions of Attire
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Ask your questions of the Etiquette Queen now.
You may even see your question and answer posted in the space below.

Meegin asked:

I'm having a deck party to celebrate my birthday. I'm wanting to dress up, but I'm afraid that I'm going to over do it and look like the prom queen in a casual setting. Any suggestions on how I can look real special with out over doing it?

The Etiquette Queen says:

It is much more uncomfortable to be overdressed than underdressed so tone it down. Sometimes the most special is a simple outfit with a great piece of jewelry.

Karen asked:

My son has been invited to a 9:00 am bar mitzvah service and then a 6:30 p.m. dinner. An RSVP was sent in a lovely, embossed invitation. Should my son wear a dark suit to both events? I'm treating this as a formal event, similar to a wedding. Am I correct?

The Etiquette Queen says:

You probably are but check with the boy's mom about dress for the party just to be sure. You're right about the services.

Teri asked:

I have a business dinner auction to attend. They state dress "Summertime Cocktail Attire". What does this mean???

The Etiquette Queen says:

Nice dress, regular length, not floor. After 5PM appropriate but light and fun. Or, dress slacks with camisole or good top.

Diana Looney asked:

I have a wedding in Beverly Hills at 5:00pm, mid-September. The reception is in the bride's parents' back yard immediately following the reception. The invitation says Black Tie Required. I planned to wear a long black ball gown skirt with a black silk sweater, but now am worried that may be too much for a backyard. I also feel I will be out of place in a ball gown at church, but there's no time to change between ceremony and reception. Is it too warm in LA to wear the new pashmina shawls everyone is toting in NY? I thought it would add a bit of color to my otherwise all black outfit.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Don't worry about being overdressed at the church. Black tie means dressy. I would only worry about the weather and being too hot. I love those shawls but can't see the need for one in S. Calif. in September. Find a great piece of interesting jewelry to give the outfit color.

Jodi asked:

I'm going to my 10-year high school reunion this weekend. I haven't seen most of my classmates since high school and now live in another city. Dress for the main event (starting 7 pm at a hotel) has been specified as semi-formal - they told me men should wear sport coats or suits and women should dress "like they would for church". I have a clingy ankle-length cream georgette dress with flowers on it (very summery) and some nice pantsuits and the like that I wear to work. I want to look great! Help! What is right to wear? Some people have told me that I shouldn't wear the cream dress because it's an evening event. Is this true? I have to pack for this, so a fast reply would be appreciated!

The Etiquette Queen says:

the cream dress is fine before Labor Day. Wear something that will knock their eyes out and make you look great. No pants suits, too boring.

Stephanie asked:

My niece is getting married at the end of September. The wedding will be outdoors in Northern California in the afternoon. The invitations stated dress was "festive casual". What do I wear?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I would wear a street length dress or outfit. Make it a bright color (the "festive" part). since it is Northern California, take a wrap of some sort. Shawls and wraps are very "in" right now and make a very plain outfit look special.

Sherri asked:

I am going on a cruise for my honeymoon. On one of the nights I will be wearing very formal attire with long gloves. When is the proper time to remove them and exactly how and when do I do this?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Long gloves are really considered "out" these days. You don't even see them at debutante parties. But if you insist on wearing them, remove them as soon as you are seated at the table. Just pull the fingers and then pull the glove. Never shake hands with them on either.

betty asked:

If for a wedding invitation it states - black tie optional, should the man wear a tux or not? Is this the same as formal? A bit confusing

The Etiquette Queen says:

It's his choice when the word optional is on the invitation. Whichever he is more comfortable wearing is the best choice.

Emily asked:

I'm at a loss as to the appropriate attire for my brother's wedding. It's Saturday evening (end of October). The bridesmaids are wearing long black dresses and the groomsmen are going to be wearing "Texas formal" (jeans and black hats with tux jackets). To me, part of this says formal and the other part not really. Of course, my brother is no help.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Men are never any help. Since the bride is going to be your sister-in-law, ask her. What better way to get close. If she comes up dry, a good looking black Saturday night dress (street length) is never wrong.

Marvelous asked:

I am hosting a benefit party and I would like each guest to wear, for the event, a white top / piece of clothing. What is the best way to word such a request in the invitation ?  Thank you.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Just say it - Being straight forward is always the best idea. Also put a phone number for any questions.

Catherine asked:

What should I wear to a new years eve party I'm throwing and what should I ask everyone else to wear?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Once you pick a theme for the party, dress accordingly. There are no rules. Could be dressy, casual, costume, period, anything you want. Just make it fun!

Travis asked:

I know that it is somewhat outdated, but isn't there a custom that certain clothes are not worn after Labor Day? White jackets perhaps? What is/was the rule on this? Thanks in advance, Travis.

The Etiquette Queen says:

There used to be an unofficial fashion rule. No white clothes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. But then came winter white and the rules, such as they were, were out. Today, most don't wear white shoes except in summer but white can be worn all year, depending upon the fabric.

edwin louise asked:

Is it okay to go braless at a summer pool theme party. I am fairly large breasted.

The Etiquette Queen says:

If you are a girl named Edwin or a guy who is large breasted, I don't think that a bra is your biggest problem. Just do what you would do anywhere.

HP asked:

I was wondering if it is acceptable for my mother to wear a long dress to a cocktail for parents and young people, considering that she may be uncomfortable in a short dress and she is a matron.

The Etiquette Queen says:

In a word, yes!

Bran asked:

I have been invited to a High Tea on a Sunday afternoon at 1 pm. This is also a bridal shower. Since we are in Texas in August, I would normally wear a nice sundress to a shower, but the family throwing this is rather well-off, and I am concerned they may want everyone to dress more formally, like a jacket with a dress. Any suggestions?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Check with some of the other guests and see what they are wearing. High Tea is usually at 4PM so it can be confusing.

Lee asked:

My boss is having a birthday party at his home. What is the proper attire for such an event? If casual is casual is too casual? Please help ASAP...thanks.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Check with your hostess and other attendees. There are a lot of possibilities and not knowing the details, I can't advise you specifically.

Drea asked:

my in laws are celebrating their 50th anniversary in sept. I have more or less taken on the party planning. It is at 4:30 pm and the decorations are very fancy. My father in-law bought a very nice suit, however my mother in law went shopping with her sister who is 80 years old and bought a jr misses plain black with a few floral prints on it for my mom to wear for the party. It is short plain and not at all what you would see on a women her age. I am heart broken I wanted this to be the perfect party which she would never forget. I love her dearly she is after all my mom. She does not know how I feel but she loves the dress. Should I let her know I am disappointed and wanted something a little more fancy or should I just let her enjoy the dress they picked out and let her enjoy the nite? I am extremely confused need help!!!!

The Etiquette Queen says:

Your mother loves the dress. Let her wear it. Help her pick accessories for it, get her hair done, get her a manicure, pedicure, whatever and relax and enjoy it. There's no way to change it unless she asks you to.

b. boley asked:

I am invited (with my husband) to a company dinner party at the horse track. The attire is business casual. The party begins at 6 p.m. Is it appropriate to wear a hat to such an event?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Who wants to wear a hat, you or your husband? Seriously, why would you want to? You'll stick out like a sore thumb. You wouldn't wear it in the office so not here either.

Gary asked:

What is the difference between formal, semi-formal, and black tie in men's attire?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Formal and black have come to mean pretty much the same thing - tuxedos. In New York and California, black tie always means tuxedo but formal might mean tux with black shirt and no tie. Trendy dressing. Semi-formal could pretty much mean anything so you need to check with the host/hostess.

Jeannine asked:

When is it OK to wear white shoes. I am of the school it is after Memorial Day and my friends all say it is after Easter.

The Etiquette Queen says:

The rules are gone today but up to a few years ago, it was after Memorial Day and before Labor Day.

Patricia asked:

My boyfriend and I are attending a friend's wedding June 5. The wedding is at 1 pm. I am wearing a midcalf "retro" looking dress in a "spring" print with flats. I think my boyfriend would look fine in slacks and a nice shirt (probably one of the "collarless" shirts) but he thinks he needs to wear a suit and tie. He is also considering a black shirt. Is black appropriate for weddings, especially before 5 pm? And would slacks and a nice shirt be ok for him to wear? I want him to be comfortable but I don't want him to look overdressed or to make me look underdressed. Please help! Thanks!

The Etiquette Queen says:

He should wear a sports jacket with the slacks and shirt but doesn't need to wear a suit or a tie. Black is OK for the shirt.

Mihye Yoon asked:

Help! My cousin's wedding is next week. They did something quite out of the ordinary in planning their wedding. There is no reception to be held afterwards, but a cocktail party because they are tight on money. Their wedding begins at 6. The wedding and cocktail party will be held at a boathouse, so am I correct in presuming that is a casual kind of thing? what is appropriate attire for a young lady? I don't want to change for the wedding and the cocktail party. Can I wear a casual white dress with a straw hat? If it's a cocktail party, can I wear a long black dress with a backdrop? Should I dress for the wedding ceremony or the cocktail party? Thanks!

The Etiquette Queen says:

My assumption is that the cocktail party comes right after the ceremony. Don't confuse the word cocktail and dressy. If it were me, I would wear something springy, light-weight and comfortable. That includes shoes. A boathouse is bound to be hot and humid. The white dress and hat sound fine.

Linda Harvan asked:

My twelve year old daughter is invited to a birthday party for a friend. It will be a dance and the invitation specifies semi-formal dress. She has a nice sleeveless black dress, but I didn't know if that was dressy enough. What other choices would be appropriate for her age? Thank you for you help.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Personally, I don't think semi-formal is necessary at that age but since that is what the hostess wants, you have no choice. A black dress is always appropriate. Check with the other moms to see just how far they are going to go. Think about a pretty necklace, earrings, etc.

Lisa asked:

My husband and I are invited to a 5:00 Protestant church wedding with dinner and dancing afterwards at another location. What do I wear? Also, what are the general rules for wedding guest attire related to the time of day? Are the rules as rigid as they were in the past?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Unless it states that it is formal, your husband should wear a suit and you a street length dress that would be appropriate for a regular dinner dance. Most people seem to prefer a classic black dress with some good looking jewelry and their hair and makeup a little special. Dress for the party afterwards, not the ceremony. There are really no rules, but good taste never goes out of style

Anton Sigdal asked:

I am attending a formal dinner (and will be wearing a tuxedo). But the hostess has asked for a few of the guests to meet beforehand for a reception for the guest of honor, at 5:00. Should I wear the tux to both, or something less formal for the reception, and change before dinner? (I asked the hostess, and she said "Oh, whatever is fine" which doesn't help). What's the normal practice here?  Thanks!

The Etiquette Queen says:

No normal practice, just common sense. If you don't want the hassle of changing in a hurry between the events, wear the tux (I would). Others probably will.

Valerie asked:

My daughter's senior prom is in 2 weeks and she will be beautifully attired in steel blue satin. My question is: What should her date wear? He is a guest, not a graduate. My understanding was only the graduates were to be formal (long gown/tux) and the guests were not obligated to do the same. Is a dark (dressy) sports coat and flannels inappropriate or should he buy a suit? They are not a couple, but best friends. HELP!

The Etiquette Queen says:

He should try to match her style of dress. If all the guys are wearing formal attire (a tux) he could rent one for the party. Or he could wear a dark suit. What would make him feel more comfortable. (Most guys wear a tux)

G asked:

What is the proper attire for a 10:00am tea party?

The Etiquette Queen says:

If you are a woman, a suit or daytime dress would do. If you're a guy, good luck. Check with the host or hostess.

J&S Begel asked:

I am invited to an "black tie" evening wedding at a fancy Miami Beach hotel. Can I wear a red, mid-calf fancy cocktail dress, or should it be black or a muted color?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Black tie means the men wear a tux. You can wear any color you want.

Gloria Beard asked:

What is the proper dress etiquette for a cocktail party given in the host's home?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Whatever the host decides. Ask!

Kyle asked:

I am going to my senior prom and a bunch of my friends and I are wearing tails and top hats. I was wondering what the proper etiquette was for wearing a top hat. what do you in a building or at dinner. You could help us immensely. Thanks again

The Etiquette Queen says:

The usual etiquette would be to remove the hat indoors. But this is special. Goof around with them inside and take plenty of pictures. No one will be offended and you'll have great memories.

Tamara asked:

What do I wear to an 11 a.m. wedding? Short or long? The wedding is May 1st! Help!

The Etiquette Queen says:


June asked:

I'm attending a nice southern wedding May 8th at 5PM. I know it will be a nice affair so I'd like to dress appropriately. I recently bought a short yellow silk dress that I'm wearing for a 4PM wedding April 17th but my Mother told me I might need something a little dressier for the 5PM wedding since the reception will continue throughout the night. I have this elegant short black dress that I'd love to wear. It's comfortable and classic but it's black. Is it O.K. to wear black to a wedding? Should I stick with the cheerful yellow silk with some dressier jewelry?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I think that you could wear either one. Why not ask others who are attending what they are wearing and take your clue from them. About jewelry, remember, the KISS theory, keep it simple but make it important.

Holly asked:

We have a wedding to attend April 10th. What is proper attire for both men and women at an 11:00 am Catholic wedding ?? Also, I have heard that the women should not wear white or off-white dresses ... is this still true ?? My only nice dress is an off white ... everything else I have is business attire. Do I need to purchase something new ?? We don't do this very often.

The Etiquette Queen says:

I agree that only the bride should wear white but for a morning services, business attire is appropriate. If there is a party or reception later, change into what you want.

Kelly asked:

Bell bottoms with some sort of tie-die top or one that ties above your waist. Or a mini dress with short white boots. Go for bright colors, the brighter the better. Teased up hair and lots of eye shadow. Have fun

The Etiquette Queen says:

I'm invited to attend a Disco Party at a fraternity house and I have no idea what to wear. Please help!! The party is only 2 days away.

George asked:

I have t attend a weeding at the Kennedy center in D.C. It says "Black Tie Invited" What do wear. (will dark suit do? or do I need tuxedo)

The Etiquette Queen says:

Black tie usually means tuxedo. You should rent one or, if that is not possible, because of budget-- a dark suit will do...but you may feel out of place.

Jo asked:

Do all Escorts at a Debutante Ball have to wear the same color Tie and Cummerbund? Please? Help?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I have never heard of that. Maybe the same style tux, but not the same color accessories. But, in case I'm wrong, ask at your local tux shop. For sure they will know.

Joanne asked:

Hi I'm making my Debut at my Debutante Ball in April Do all the escorts have to wear tuxes and Full tails? or a dinner suit and should it be Black tie for all! They want all escorts in the same tie and cummerbund TOO@ HELP PLEASE

The Etiquette Queen says:

Black tie is usual for Debutante Balls. Whether it is a standard tuxedo or "tails"--this would be up to the young man who is wearing it. A dinner suit won't make it.

Bonnie asked:

What do you wear to a "garden party" vs. a "tea party"?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Truth is, Bonnie, there isn't much difference. High teas tend to be a bit dressy, but then again, a garden party can be as well.

Anita asked:

Wearing long white kid gloves... I shall marry next June and it has been decided I shall wear and old fashioned long silk gown, ivory and purple, made by a stylist in my city. It leaves arms and shoulders nude. The stylist has designed the gown to be worn with very long white kid gloves. Since the gloves will be fitted to my hand, the stylist order them. I have never worn such gloves: maybe anybody here has experienced them? I suppose my 2 bride maids have to wear the same gloves? (Their long gowns are provided by the same stylist). Are such gloves comfortable and easy to wear? What is the use of the 3 buttons under the wrist? Can you tell me about the etiquette during reception and ball? May I shake hands? Is hand kiss convenient? I suppose I must be ungloved during meal. Thanks to you.

The Etiquette Queen says:

You would remove your gloves to eat dinner and place them on your lap. The three buttons are undone to assist in removing the gloves (or putting them on). The gloves, especially when fitted, are comfortable and, yes, easy to wear. And they are quite elegant. I do not think your bridesmaids need them; that is truly up to you.

Jossy asked:

Please define semi-formal attire for men and women. Thanks

The Etiquette Queen says:

Some hosts label this "dressy casual." What this means is cocktail attire: short elegant dresses, dark suits for men-- versus formal attire (possibly a formal gown and a tuxedo).

Hans asked:

Can you tell me what I'm supposed to wear at a party where the dress code is :"evening dress code is dressy party wear (not formal black tie/tuxedo)" regards, Hans

The Etiquette Queen says:

You can wear a cocktail dress, a dressy suit, something glitzy. Basically, what they are telling you is to not wear something to the floor if you are a woman or a tux if you are a man. On the other hand, make a statement but most of all, be comfortable!

Sue asked:

This data was submitted on: Friday, January 1, 1999 at 14:14:44 What should a woman wear to a 6pm wedding at a hotel? Do I wear formal or dressy casual?

The Etiquette Queen says:

If it isn't designated formal on the invitation, dressy would be my choice. Dressy casual may be too informal. On the other hand, if they didn't bother to give you instructions, I vote for comfortable! Happy New Year.

Meagan asked:

You did so well answering my previous questions, I just thought I'd ask one more. The party I'm giving is going to be semi-formal, but I think everyone will be on the dressy side. I just didn't want the guys to feel like they had to wear a tux. I have an ankle-length, silver dress with funky silver straps and a slit up the side. Is that too formal for "semiformal"? Thanks!

The Etiquette Queen says:

If the funky straps are truly funky, I think you can get away with it. Frankly, today you can get away with anything. Merry Christmas.

Esther asked:

I want to give my daughter a sweet sixteen party. She wants to keep it very low key. We are renting the clubhouse and getting a DJ but she doesn't want it to be a dress up affair. How do I word the invitation so that the kids come dressed nicely but no jeans? I have heard of dressy casual but that is confusing. How about smart casual? Also what is a good theme for decorations?

The Etiquette Queen says:

When we are listing attire on an invitation, we say "dressy casual, no jeans!" Or if you want to have fun with it, "glitzy casual" works--but that still doesn't guarantee no jeans. If you write back and let me know what your daughter's interests are, it's easy to come up with a theme. Did you check out our themes pages? Movies, shopping, her favorite TV show--of course, the theme should dictate how people dress! Let me know.

Keith asked:

There seems to be some confusion in our company over what different definitions of dress mean. Could you provide me a listing of everything from Formal to Grungy, for both women and men?

The Etiquette Queen says:

That's an interesting request. Of course, formal is black tie (or black tie is considered formal--people use both of those phrases on invitations. Formal/black tie is a tuxedo for men; a gown or very elegant cocktail dress for women. "Dressy" means a dark suit for men, a cocktail dress for women. Dressy casual is usually a sports jacket for men and a dress for women. Casual is a sweater for men; dress or pants for women. Very casual is usually jeans and whatever no matter what your gender.

T. Strong asked:

What would the attire be for a cocktail party?

The Etiquette Queen says:

A cocktail dress. Usually this is knee length; some women wear strapless or spaghetti straps. However, you can get away with a dressy mid-length dress with no problem. If you go to a local department store or fancy dress store (wedding stores also have cocktail dresses) and tell them the occasion, they will be happy to help and show you what they have available. If you can't or don't want to pay for something new, as long as you "dress up" you can get away with it. Happy Holiday.

Stacey asked:

I am attending a wedding at 4:30pm in a VERY NICE hotel in downtown Chicago this week-end... with the reception (PARTY) immediately afterward, (in the hotel) I have a "floor length, black velvet, spaghetti strap dress with a small band of diamond look alikes across the top. Is that appropriate attire?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Stacey...sorry I was out of town. However, sounds pretty dressy unless, of course, the wedding invitation said, "formal." Hope you had fun.

Jack asked:

What type of clothing is considered to be cocktail attire for both men and women?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Suit and tie for men; cocktail dresses for women. Simple enough. A cocktail dress would be anything short and dressy, spaghetti straps, glitzy-ish...depends on the crowd. You could probably wear a black silk collar band shirt under a "cool" black suit/sports jacket and easily get away it...'cause cool is always "cool."

Patsy asked:

I have been invited to a benefit where the dress is labeled as dressy casual? Any suggestions on what that means? Its an oxymoron to me!

The Etiquette Queen says:

It is an oxymoron! We commonly use that phrase in the party business. It means dress casually but not so casually that you think it is okay to come in blue jeans and your shirt untucked! The fact that it is a benefit tells me this: they don't want you coming in black tie. Leave it at that. Wear something comfortable. And, by all means, have a great time! How much were the tickets??

christine asked:

can I wear a long dress in an afternoon formal wedding or a short dress?

The Etiquette Queen says:

well, Christine, normally short dresses are worn in the afternoon. but, you know what, be an individual--and, if you are comfortable, wear whatever you want. as long as you don't "out dress" the bride or her're okay! Have a good time.

JoAnn asked:

Is it appropriate to wear black to a morning Bat mitzvah?

The Etiquette Queen says:

JoAnn, Black is in! You can wear black to a baby naming (and that's more exciting than a Bat Mitzvah! Go for it. Just don't outdress the Bat Mitzvah girl or her mom! Is that good advice or what? The Etiquette Queen

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