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Discussion Forums

The Etiquette Queen Parties

Questions of Attire
See Other Categories

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

rebecca asked:

What do I wear to an evening holiday party. The invitation says banquet attire. Would a nice skirt suit or a satin cocktail dress v neck in front and back with be more appropriate

The Etiquette Queen says:

Either one would work. You'll see everything. I love elegant and simple clothes with one great piece of jewelry.

Shannon asked:

I'm going to my boyfriend's corporate x-mas dinner party (it's his first time to this party) and I've been told a couple of different things about attire a) semi-formal b) cocktail dress c) nice little black dress......I'd like to wear a long black velvet dress that I have, but I'm afraid of being overdressed, would my dress be inappropriate, or should I go for it?

The Etiquette Queen says:

When in doubt, leave it out. You are better off underdressed a little than overdressed. Long black velvet is too formal. Wear a good looking dress with one important piece of jewelry or a great shawl, and, by all means, comfortable shoes. Cocktails usually mean lots of standing.

Debbie asked:

I have been invited to party requiring "cocktail attire" which would be appropriate, my long black beaded dress or my calf length black velvet suit or black party pants and glitzy top? My husband will be wearing a navy suit.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Not the long beaded, it's too formal. Wear one of the others, whichever you are more comfortable wearing, especially the shoes. Cocktail usually means a lot of standing.

Beverly asked:

I'm going to a holiday cocktail party. One of my friends told me that I shouldn't/can't wear leather pumps in the evening. Is this true. She said they had to be suede or satin, anything but leather.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Unless you are wearing a formal or semi-formal dress, of course you can wear leather pumps. You might want to dress them up with a clip but it's not necessary.

Jon asked:

What is cocktail attire for a man?(office Christmas party)

The Etiquette Queen says:

A business suit and tie.

Julie asked:

Hi I have been asked to both a formal xmas party and a semi-formal Xmas party. What really is the difference? Can I wear the same dress to each?

The Etiquette Queen says:

If the dress is dressy enough, sure. Doesn't have to be floor length. You can use jewelry to change the look.

Lori asked:

I'm going to be attending a Christmas party next week with a "smart-casual" attire. What exactly do I wear? I was wanting to be semi-dressy. What do you think?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I think that you need to rethink. Nothing worse than being overdressed. Wear some good dress pants or a skirt and one of those good looking twin sweater sets or camisole with a great jacket or wrap.

jerry asked:

Hi. I'm attending the Opera Hansel and Greet here in Tampa on Saturday. The opera is at 8pm, and there are just two performances, one Saturday and one Sunday. Should I wear a tuxedo to this event? And my date what kind of dress should she wear. She mentioned a pants suit, but I don't think that appropriate. Your advice please.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Unless called for black tie is not necessary. Just wear a good suit and tie. As for your date, a good after five dress (not cocktail) is just fine.

Marcy asked:

When wearing evening gloves to a formal dinner, is it proper to eat with them on?

The Etiquette Queen says:

No, remove them before you eat. You may remove the right one during cocktails for ease of eating hors d' oeuvres and beverages.

Jo asked:

Tell me again the difference between black tie and formal, for men and women.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Formal can mean black tie optional but you need to check with the hostess to be sure. Black tie, means a tux.

marie asked:

1. I'm wearing a slim black velvet gown to a holiday party. My beau will pick me up in his Mercedes two-seater (low to the ground). How in the world do I get into it gracefully? One foot at a time, knees together? Or sit down first then pull legs in (I'm afraid I'll fall, the seat is so low).  2. What is the current thought about reapplying lipstick (discreetly as possible) after a meal in a restaurant at the table?  3. What do you think about a black crepe bolero (possibly with black sequined trim) with my black velvet strapless gown (floor-length) with black sequined trim over bodice curves?  4. If you put WRAP=VIRTUAL in your TEXT AREA of this FORM, the words will wrap automatically and without line-breaks (much nicer for the user).  Thank-you.

The Etiquette Queen says:

1. Sit down sideways with you body facing the door and then swing your legs in. Reverse this when getting out. Have him hold your hand for both moves. 2. I always think that should e done in the lasied room. I personally don't like the way it looks at the table and there's no way to be discreet. 3. I would think a shawl would be better. Don't get too fussy. Remember clothes should be kept simple and not be wearing you. 4. I'll tell the site master - thanx

Amy asked:

Are hats appropriate for evening wear? If so, what type of hat? Would a wool, satin, or suede hat be ok to wear to a holiday party?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I personally look awful in a hat and it makes me very warm. Remember you keep your body hat in by covering your head and it gives you hat hair. Maybe a little beret with a pin but don't make it too standoutish (is that a word?)

SHIRLEY asked:


The Etiquette Queen says:

If black is not good for you, choose a color that is. But make sure that's suits the occasion. White, beige, cream are good, red sometimes, no pastels in winter. Remember it's not just the color but the style

Lauren asked:

What exactly is "semi-formal"? I'm going to a Winter dance at my high-school and so many people take semi-formal differently. Also, I want something different from everybody else. Any ideas that would get me a second glance from people??

The Etiquette Queen says:

First of all, whatever you pick, be sure you wear it and it doesn't wear you. You never want people to see the clothes before they see you. First decide the color (black is always my favorite, it's very forgiving). Then decide dress or great pants and great sweater. Follow the KISS theory, keep it simple s..... Use a great piece of jewelry or a shawl or some show stopper to add. Remember just one show stopper.

Lauren asked:

I am having a Millennium party for around 50 people, including drop-ins. Do I suggest something to wear, such as PJ's or dance clothes, or do I say "just be comfy"? Thanks a lot.

The Etiquette Queen says:

If it's a drop-in for some, I would tell people to be comfortable and casual. That way no costumes needed and those coming from other parties will feel in place.

Linda asked:

Please define "Holiday Dress". I have received invitations to Christmas parties that say this and I am not sure how my husband or I should dress.

The Etiquette Queen says:

If the party is in the evening, I would say you wear dress pants and good sweater or sweater set or a good knee length dress. Your husband should wear a tie. Why not check with your hostess to be sure.

Denese asked:

What should be worn to a recital and is it proper to bring the person flowers?

The Etiquette Queen says:

If it is during the day, regular daytime clothing such as a skirt and blouse or sweater is just fine. If it is in the evening, perhaps a dress or a skirt and good sweater set.

Heather asked:

I'm having a New Years Eve party for 13-14 year olds I want them to dress nice for a party but not t-shirt and jeans how should I word this?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Say so on your invitation. Add the words, dress-up attire.

Monique asked:

My husband's company is having a holiday/Christmas party and dress is semi-formal; black tie is optional. The party is at 7:30pm. What is appropriate dress for a woman? Would a long burgundy satin dress be too much? It is very simple and elegant in design.

The Etiquette Queen says:

If the invite is black tie optional, a long dress is certainly appropriate.

Karen asked:

We want people to dress in nice dresses or pant suits for women, shirt and tie for men, at our company holiday party. What is the correct way to phrase this?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Under the category of Attire - put After 5 wear.

Howard asked:

I'm a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy, and will be attending my first company holiday party next month. The invitation says "cocktail attire". What exactly constitutes cocktail attire? I'm obviously going to have to go out and buy some new clothes (I just don't think the flannel or button down shirts will do), I just want to make sure I get the right stuff.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Buy a dark suit, maybe a pin stripe. Take someone with you who knows clothes. Get a dress shirt and a great tie.

Karen asked:

My best friend's daughter is getting married in February. The mother of the bride is wondering about appropriate dress for herself, including colors. The bridesmaids will be wearing royal blue gowns. Thanks.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Usually the mother of the bride stays in the same color family as the other members of the party but not necessarily the same shade. There are many bridal shops that feature mother-of-the-bride clothes or a good department store or specialty shop. Just don't buy something that she is unsure of or she will be uncomfortable all night.

Alan asked:

We are having a Christmas party and need to send out notices with attire on them. What is the official terminology for Dockers and a dress shirt (optional sport jackets)? Wives will be coming to.

The Etiquette Queen says:

They usually call that "dress-down" as in dress-down Fridays. The men don't wear jeans but casual pants and shirts.

monica asked:

What is "street length" for a dress? What are the differences between semi-formal, formal, and black tie for men and women?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Street length is the length of skirt worn during the day, either just above or below the knee. Semi-formal for men mean suit and tie and for women, dressy dress. Formal would mean either suite and tie or tux for man (also called black tie optional) and very dressy dress, even floor length for women. Formal and black tie are the same

Marilyn asked:

We are sending out invitations to Holiday Office Party which will be at very nice restaurant and then a play. We wanted to put something on invitation about attire. What does cocktail, formal, semiformal mean. Thanks

The Etiquette Queen says:

I would put "after 5" attire. Formal would be too dressy, meaning very dressy dresses and even tuxes. Semi-formal is also very dressy and not particularly comfortable to sit in a play wearing. After 5 means dressy but suitable for the evening.

deb asked:

I am attending a 200 anniv dinner for a historic military org. in Phila. The man I am going with tells me it is "White Glove". Does this mean women also? If so, do gloves have to be white? Short or long? My gown is pale gray sleeveless with short jacket. I will probably not be taking the jacket off.

The Etiquette Queen says:

The white glove part is for the military dress for the men, not the women. You don't need to worry about it.

Krista asked:

The person I am dating invited me to a cocktail party at his Ex sister-in-law's house. His ex-wife will be there along with many other couples he knew while married. Nonetheless, I want to dress to impress. I have an ankle length black dress with a burnout velvet pattern that is flared. What would you recommend? Also, it is appropriate to wear hose with open-toed shoes? Thanks.

The Etiquette Queen says:

You are very brave to go to this party. I can't figure out why he wants to go. Dress sounds great, you may want to add a great shawl. Hose are always appropriate, get demi-toe.

Susie asked:

Is it etiquette to wear white sandals in Dec. in the Caribbean

The Etiquette Queen says:

Well, the tourists will wear white ones and the people who live and work there probably will not.

Jim asked:

I have a company cocktail/dinner party to attend, and the dress is semiformal. My date would like me to wear a pair of black leather pants I have, with a thin leather tie, and a black cloth jacket. Is this even remotely appropriate?!

The Etiquette Queen says:

No, no, no. This calls for a suit and not a motorcycle look. Save the leather for another time.

TY asked:

I am attending my boyfriend's company party. He says the "official dress" is semi-formal. He is planning on wearing slacks and a jacket. The party is at 6:00pm in Iowa. What is appropriate dress for a woman?

The Etiquette Queen says:

When in doubt, go with a street length, black dress (not strapless or anything like that) that you can dress up with a great piece of jewelry. Or a dress and jacket. No suit, too formal and keep the glitz down.

Loretta asked:

I am attending a church wedding in November at 10:30 am, followed by a country club reception. I have a sleeveless black one-piece pantsuit with black beads on the vest that I was thinking of wearing. Is that appropriate, or should I wear a dress or suit instead? Black may be too much for the morning? Thanks!

The Etiquette Queen says:

I think that it would not be comfortable for you to wear that in the morning. Choose a street length dress or suit and accessorize it with a great piece of jewelry.

Betty asked:

I am having a New year's party with a Hollywood theme. I want people to feel free to come in cocktail, semi-formal or even formal attire (yet I don't want to call it a costume party) How do I state the attire on the invitation? Help - I'm stuck! Thanks!

The Etiquette Queen says:

Just use the old-fashioned cocktail party theme with a well dressed couple on the outer cover and after the details of time, place, etc. put dress. When the guests rsvp, you can explain further.

Julie asked:

What is proper business attire and what are the colors suitable for business attire?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Is this for a male or female? What are the others wearing (the ones you would be working with)? Write back with info and I'll help you.

Margaret asked:

Could you please give me your advise as to what Semi Formal would be. Thanks

The Etiquette Queen says:

For women it could mean any dressy dress (long or short) that would only be worn after 5PM. It could be strapless or not. It should be too dressy to wear to a restaurant.

Robin asked:

We are having a 40th anniversary party for my parents on Dec. 10 [Friday night] from 7pm-11pm. It will be held at a hall. It's a beautiful place. I am not sure about attire, do you base it on the place where it is held, time of day, I don't know what to tell people if they ask. Are there any guides to follow and is there any other attire besides casual, semi-casual, formal, semi-formal and black-tie?

The Etiquette Queen says:

You can choose any style of dress from the most casual to the most formal. It depends upon what you are doing by way of a theme, food service and most of all budget. Most people are the most comfortable in casual clothes, especially at that time of year when there are so many dressy parties.

Sicily asked:

I just received an invitation to an art exhibition and dinner party in November The gallery is in a local beach community. My idea I something artsy yet conservative. Any ideas on what would be appropriate attire, besides the "little black dress"? And what kind of jacket???

The Etiquette Queen says:

the newest thing that trendy and practical is a great shawl. they're a great fashion and art statement and quite practical.

Richard, G.L. asked:

We are invited to a cocktail party for a couple that has recently been married for the second time given by the brides mother (a doctor's wife). The invitation is engraved white and silver. I have purchased a black cocktail dress (strapless) my husband plans on wearing a basic black suit. Does this fit the profile?

The Etiquette Queen says:

You should really check with your hostess as to style of dress. There is nothing worse than being over-dressed at a party. The style of the invitation doesn't necessarily indicate the type of dress.

Jann asked:

For an evening, December in Arizona, country club wedding reception, would it be appropriate to wear a fancy, red silk dress? the invitation says, "Black Tie Optional" and my husband will wear a dark suit. Thanks.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Of course, perfect for the season. Be sure to take a wrap in case it's chilly.

Addie asked:

I have a wedding to attend on October 16 at 3:00. What is proper attire at this time of day.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Street length dress or suit. If there is going to be a reception afterwards, check with some of the others as to what they're doing.

Cynthia asked:

"Gala" invitation reads "jacket required", "heavy buffet", and "open bar". What is appropriate dress for a female? It is in October and I am considering a black velvet, just above knee stretch dress with cut-away sleeves and mock turtleneck. I have also thought about wearing a plaid jacket with velvet trim to make it look a bit less like a cocktail dress.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Good idea to wear the jacket in case the other women are not too dressy. You can always take it off.

Patricia asked:

I am attending a wedding in Maine this November. The invitation asked for semi formal dress. The ceremony is in the morning followed by a brunch. My question is: what would be appropriate semi formal attire? My husband will be wearing a suit and tie. Thank you for the help.

The Etiquette Queen says:

A street length dress or suit with a piece of good jewelry would be perfect.

Kristi asked:

What is appropriate attire ( in particular colors) to wear to an afternoon wedding?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Street-length dress. No particular color is the rule, just don't be too fancy.

susie asked:

My 14 year old son who is in ninth grade is planning to attend the school homecoming dance. A few of his friends, other ninth graders, tell him that they will be wearing a tux. I'm not really knowledgeable about such things, but that seems like a bit much for his age and this event. Is there a trend in this area that I am not aware of? What should we do?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Why not call the school or other mothers for the answer. Kids aren't always reliable about this type of info.

Nicole asked:

My sister-in-law is getting married at noon on October 2, in Minnesota. It is only immediate family, and a small lunch afterward. Surprisingly, the groom specified that my mother-in-law should wear a floor length dress in a "fall color". I've heard it isn't appropriate to wear a black dress to a wedding. I live in LA and everything in the stores is sleeveless and black or gray colors. I don't want to freeze - but I want to look good! What do I wear? Where do I get it? Thanks so much...

The Etiquette Queen says:

Black is just fine in the more urban-thinking cities. But I would bet that in Minnesota you would be the only one. Choose a dress with that in mind. As for where to find one, if you can't find something with sleeves or in color in one of the great stores in LA, honey you just don't know how to shop.

Gail asked:

Received wedding initiation - Black tie/Adults Only. My husband will be wearing his Tux. Can I wear either a cocktail dress or is a floor length dress require?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Either way, you won't be wrong. I believe that everyone should dress not only appropriately but to their own comfort level. Have fun.

Melodie asked:

My husband's cousin is getting Married in December at a church at 11:00am in the morning. There will be a brunch reception that will follow at one of the convention centers in southern California. I was wonder what attire should my husband and I wear? I was planning on a nice suit for my husband and a crepe pantsuit for myself. What do you suggest? My husband's family is pretty well off so I do not want embarrass them by under dressing or overdressing for both the wedding and the brunch reception.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Want to endear yourself? Ask your mother-in-law what she is wearing and take a cue from that.

Melissa asked:


The Etiquette Queen says:

People wear what they want to these days. Personally, I almost always wear black and accessorize it with great jewelry and something like a shawl.

Linda asked:

I will be attending the wedding of a co-worker and the reception is at 6:30pm. It is your typical evening wedding where the groom & groomsmen are wearing tuxes and the bride & bridesmaids wearing long gowns. What is the assumption as far as guest attire, is it automatically considered formal or semi-formal? Would it be proper to wear a dress that is to the floor? What about beaded dresses? My husband will be wearing a suit.

The Etiquette Queen says:

It is always better to under dress than overdress. If it was formal, it would say Black tie on the invitation or black tie optional. Barring that, wear a street length dress.

Susan asked:

If a wedding invitation states "black tie" is it MANDATORY to wear a tux, or will a suit be sufficient?

The Etiquette Queen says:

You really should wear a tux but today, not everyone follows the rules. Wear a good black suit and you'll be just fine.

Carol asked:

I am attending a wedding in late Sept, venue eastern Long Island. The wedding is at 3:30 (Catholic church), the reception at 7 pm (black tie optional). what I proper attire for woman t wear to wedding/reception? for male?

The Etiquette Queen says:

If it is black-tie optional, wear an evening dress but it doesn't have to be floor length, street length is just fine. Something simple, black and understated is usually just fine, accented with some great jewelry.

ginny asked:

I am an honoree at my company's employee recognition annual gala. The invitation states black tie. Would it be appropriate to wear a taupe colored...just below the knee length dressy dress. The dress has pearl beading on the sleeves. Very nice for semi-formal but not sure if it could be considered formal. Help please. The event is in October in Dallas Texas. Thanks PS I liked you photo

The Etiquette Queen says:

I would say that if you weren't the honoree, it would be perfect, but you set the tone. Have there been other dinners like this? What was worn then? If it was always floor length, don't fight tradition.

PJ asked:

My husband and I are invited to a "black tie optional" 70th birthday party the end of Sept. Cocktails begin at 7:00 pm, followed by dinner. It will be held indoors in Southern California. What is the appropriate attire for a mid-50s year old women to wear? Style? Color? Length? My husband would like to wear his tuxedo. Thanks.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Street length, great looking black dresses are always good. My favorite when I'm not sure is a black coat dress that's street length with some great jewelry. Can't go wrong.

See more Etiquette Queen Questions of Attire

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