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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.

Claire asked:

This may seem like a really stupid question but I have asked a number of people and got a mixed response!  We have been invited to a Fancy Dress 40th Birthday Party with a "tramps and tarts" theme. My query is do the men dress and tarts and the women as tramps or vice versa?  THANK YOU

The Etiquette Queen says:

First of all, there are no stupid question, some stupid answers though. I assume this is a costume party. Better check so that you are not the only ones in funny clothes. Tramps are usually men and tarts are always women. If you want to be funny, you can dress as the tramp and your husband or date can cross dress as the tart. Or you both can go as the same thing.

Claire asked:

Last night my husband and I went to a birthday party. The invitation stated dress for men was "Black tie optional" and for women it said "Let 'er rip!" My husband wore a dark suit and I thought I would be slightly underdressed in my ankle length, navy colored high cut spaghetti strapped dress, which I wore with comfortable, closed toe--no heel shoes. I wore necklace and earrings to dress it up I was so sure I was not going to be dressy enough. Turns out, some women wore pants--khakis no less! Other women wore very casual dresses and skirts. I didn't take my coat off all evening I was so embarrassed. Although most men wore suits, some of the men didn't even wear suit shirt and tie! NO ONE wore a tux! Please tell me I wasn't crazy to wear this outfit. I need some encouragement! I was completely baffled.

The Etiquette Queen says:

You did the right thing. When an invitation says "Black Tie optional" you were right to expect dressy attire. The hostess didn't describe it right on the invitation. My only question is, how did the other women all decide together not to dress up?

Ron asked:

I have been invited to two parties, one indicated dress was after 5, the other semi-formal. What exactly are these, and where can I find the definitions covering all the possible attire codes?

The Etiquette Queen says:

After 5 usually means good dress or pants with great blouse, sweater set, etc. Pearls or one good piece of jewelry. Semi-formal is dressier. I usually think black on those occasions. Great jewelry and fab strappy shoes.

alisa asked:

I will be attending a party on a boat with my husband's office. The invitation specifies cocktail attire. I work in the medical field and know nothing else but scrubs! What is proper cocktail attire?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Are you friendly with any of the women at the office you could consult with? If it was me, I would wear black silk pants, a colorful camisole and a great looking black jacket. Or a black camisole and a great jacket. One good piece of jewelry.

susan asked:

What exactly does a 'black tie' invitation mean? tux? does the woman have to wear black- short or long dress?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Tux for sure. You don't have to wear black, any color will do. Most women wear long but if it's dressy enough, you can wear short.

Charles asked:

I am attending a charity event reenacting the Kennedy's Mt. Vernon Dinner for the Pakistani President held in 1961. At the event, which was held in July, most of the male guests wore white dinner jackets. Would it be appropriate to ware a white dinner jacket to a March event?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Wear black!!!!

Diana asked:

I'm having a sweet sixteen party in January. I have a floor length "ball gown type" skirt and a lavender tank and 3/4 sleeve shirt. Is this too dressy? The party is from 1-5 in the afternoon.

The Etiquette Queen says:

In a word, yes. Ball gown floor length are for the evening. Substitute another skirt or pants.

Wondering asked:

My family and I attended a wedding in early fall. The wedding began at 6 with a reception immediately following. All of this occurred in the backyard of a friend. There were no attendants, just the bride and groom. This wedding was very unconventional. No specific dress was mentioned on the invitations. Nearly all of the guests were dressed in a similar fashion -- sports coats or just shirt and tie for the men; the women were wearing nice street length dresses. Everyone except the bride's mother and sister. They were dressed in formal ball gowns. They were angry that other guests were not "dressed as nice as they should be." Did we miss something important? Was there a way we should have known this?

The Etiquette Queen says:

You would have no way of knowing unless you were told and you weren't. They should have thought of that before sending the invitations. How did the bride feel? That's the person you should be concerned with. I have been to weddings where the family was "dressed" and the guests were more casual.

Charles asked:

I am attending a charity "gala" recreating the Kennedy Dinner at Mt. Vernon. At the original dinner most of the men wore dinner jackets, but it was a summer event. Would it be proper to wear a white dinner jacket in March?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Check and see what others will be wearing. Black is always correct but I haven't seen white ones in a while (plus they show spots).

Elizabeth asked:

I just attended a black tie party. All the women wore full length dresses. I wore a short black velvet dress with pearls. I felt out of place. Was I not dressed appropriately?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I'm sure you were just fine. I prefer street length because one of my strengths is my legs. As long as it was a dressy dress, fine. And pearls are perfect for anything.

TOM asked:

When invited to a black tie dinner party should one wear a cummerbund, vest or neither?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Traditionally, when wearing a tux you can wear either. Today some of the designers are showing no ties, black shirts, etc. Depends upon how forward you want to go.

Chrysta asked:

I've heard you shouldn't wear white after Labor Day... Why is that?

The Etiquette Queen says:

It used to be that anyone wearing white before memorial day and after labor day had no taste. The clothes police of long ago decided that fashion dictated that well dress women followed the rules. Today, that is not quite the case. We now have "winter" white and that is acceptable any time. White shoes are still summer wear.

Sherry asked:

I am going to a new years eve event( the symphony and party after). My question is what to wear to the event. The men going are wearing suits not tuxes and one of the women who is going is wearing a black velvet top and long elegant velvet skirt. I have purchased a short black velvet dress to wear, is this too formal? I don't want to be uncomfortable and not fit in. My date by the way is wearing a black suit so I don't think I will be overdressed compared to him.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Do you look good in this dress? Is it comfortable enough to wear for an entire evening, including sitting for a few hours? If the answer to these questions is yes, wear it. Anyone who follows my advice knows that I am a great believer in the "black dress".

Laurie asked:

When wearing long gloves, are they removed when shaking hands? Is jewelry worn over the gloves or under?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Long gloves are cumbersome. Remove the right glove to shake hands. I think wearing jewelry over gloves is pretentious. Put the jewelry on after removing the gloves. It's better form.

Jennie asked:

My boyfriend's brother is getting married in February and my boyfriend and I are going to the wedding. I live in a resort ski town in the Rocky mountains where jeans and a tee-shirt are top of the fashion world. The wedding is in New York City, it is a formal affair. I would like to make a good impression on his family, but not go overboard. Any words of wisdom? I simply have no idea what I should wear.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Forget the jeans and t-shirt. This is a horse of a different color as they say in Oz. Get a great looking dress. Go to a good specialty shop or one of the salons in a good department store. Ask them for help so that you pick the appropriate dress for your own looks and the occasion. Remember to keep it simple and elegant. I love wearing black with one important piece of jewelry. This winter red is also very fashionable. You could get a great black dress with a little red jacket and pin a black rose on it with strappy black shoes. Get help on this.

Michele asked:

What color pantyhose should I wear with a dark navy blue dress? Is black or nude ok?

The Etiquette Queen says:


ir asked:

Hi! My husband and I are attending a formal, high society ball in Paris. Men are wearing tux. I have a floor length black dress with a little bit of bidding. Do you think it is a good idea to wear open toe black shoes? Should I wear panty hose?

The Etiquette Queen says:

If the shoes are very "strappy" you can. And do wear panty hose, with demi toe and heel in a light, sheer black.

Jennifer asked:

My gorgeous [high school-but-looks-older-than-she-is] friend and I are both outgoing and always fight for the "spotlight" at parties. This New Year's (for a 'casual' college party with my friends) she's wearing tight black pants, a zebra-print tank top with a matching purse. How will I match that outfit?? I want to be classy yet cute and sexy.

The Etiquette Queen says:

That outfit is not classy. Put something together with black and red. Red is "the" color for now. Remember that less is more and you should wear the clothes, not the other way around. A pair of black slacks with a red camisole or blouse and a black jacket. Find a large fabric rose to pin on the lapel or shoulder and maybe red shoes.

Erin asked:

Can I wear open-toed shoes in the winter?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I they are very "strappy" and dressy.

Gabrielle asked:

I'm 13 and have been invited to a semi-formal sweet sixteen party. I would like to know what I should wear for this occasion.

The Etiquette Queen says:

It depends on what the theme and type of party. Ask your hostess about this.

Christa asked:

Would a floor length lavender dress be appropriate to wear to a black tie/silver tie New Years Eve benefit?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Of course. Usually anything floor length is just fine.

Michele asked:

My husband and I are attending a New Years Eve party. The invitation says "elegant attire." Should my husband wear a tux? If he wears a tux, then I will wear a long dark dress (I consider it formal). Is elegant attire formal? Please respond as quickly as possible since New Year's Eve is coming up really quickly. Thanks so much.

The Etiquette Queen says:

I would call my host/hostess and see if others are wearing a tux or not. Tis better to ask than be uncomfortable.

stephanie asked:

Hello I am 25 and on a very low income. Tonight I was suppose to go to my father's office holiday party. He said it was cocktail attire . Well I had no dresses but I did have a velvet shirt and Long skirt. I was also wearing a nice black hat. I felt really cute. When I arrived at my dad's to leave for the party I saw my sister in a full length velvet black dress and my father in a tuxedo. He told me I was not dressed appropriately ran out and cried . I did not want to embarrass him or feel out of place. Ok my ??? I

The Etiquette Queen says:

I see nothing wrong in what you were wearing. If you look at pictures of all the stars at awards shows this year, they are all wearing long skirts with tops. Your father should not have said that and made you feel badly. Let it go.

DE asked:


The Etiquette Queen says:

As long as it's winter white and you don't wear white shoes, it's fine.

Suz asked:

Please, please, please help me! I am attending a very formal, high society new year's charity event and party. I have been shopping for days and have purchased two different dresses. The first is a long black satin dress, it's sleeveless with thick criss-cross cut out in the back with a little bit of beading. I love the dress but hate my arms! So, my second dress is a two piece with a black long sleeved lycra velvet off the shoulder top and silver ball skirt. I am more comfortable with the top and ball gown, I am seeing this style in all the stores, and I think it is more flattering than the long dress. I am small around the rib cage, decent bust line with a slim waist and flat stomach-just flappy arms! My dilemma, I tried them both on for my fiancÚ and he thinks the long dress is more sexy. Which is my best choice?

The Etiquette Queen says:

First you have to decide 1) do you want to please your fiancÚ or yourself and, 2) which dress will you feel more comfortable in for the evening. If it's not the long one, explain it to your fiancÚ and if he loves you, he will understand. There's nothing worse than wearing something you really don't love and you don't feel is flattering.

Kay asked:

I'm singing for the Christmas eve service at our church and would like to have a suggestion of what to wear. Anything you suggest?

The Etiquette Queen says:

If they do not have a robe for you to wear, then I would choose a daytime dress.

Amina asked:

What is the proper dress for me and my husband to go to the opera, but a matinee. There is only one catch- on New Years Day?

The Etiquette Queen says:

First of all, wear something comfortable. After all the holiday partying and New Year's Eve, I bet a lot of clothes in the closet won't fit as well as they usually do. Happens to all of us. You can wear anything, slacks and sweater, skirt and blouse and your husband can wear slacks and a nice sweater. It is a matinee.

Susan asked:

Can I wear a spaghetti strap black sheath long dress to a law firm Christmas party?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I wouldn't. It sounds too dressy. Law firms tend to be on the conservative side so it would be better to err on that side.

Laura asked:

Does "cocktail attire" mean that you MUST wear a short BLACK dress? What are some other options? It seems a bit dull for ALL the women at a party to wear the same (non) color.

The Etiquette Queen says:

It does not necessarily mean a short black dress. It could mean any color or even great pants and a top. It just means dressy. I love black with a color accent.

Megan asked:

What is the appropriate attire to wear on an airplane?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Something clean and comfortable. I usually travel in a t shirt and jeans with a blazer or sweater. Socks and athletic shoes. Don't wear binding clothes and if you wear contact lenses and the trip is over 3 hours, plan on taking them out. Drink lots of water. Air travel is drying.

Willie asked:

How does one dress for an semi-formal occasion?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I assume you are male. A dark suit and tie with a dress shirt is just fine.

Glenn asked:

My wife and I are going on a January cruise. Several nights will be formal and semi-formal. What is appropriate dress for each of us at these functions?

The Etiquette Queen says:

In the olden days, very formal was the dress, tux and full length dress. I believe that suits and ties for gentlemen and dressy dresses for women are the appropriate dress. There are also theme nights where you dress up and they have all that stuff. You don't have to dress if not eating in the formal dining room

Manna asked:

Hi! I'm having a "dress-up" Christmas party for my friends just before Christmas. Is it ok to wear a white dress at such an occasion? (It will be in the evening.)

The Etiquette Queen says:

There's white and there's winter white. Winter white is just fine. It is not as snowy in color and the fabric should be appropriate.

Kayla asked:

I'm turning 17 in less than a month, and am planning my party. I'd like to know what I should wear. It's a bunch of teenagers and it's going to be DJed. I want to look cute and not old or something like that. Got any good ideas?? It'd help me a bunch! Thanks!

The Etiquette Queen says:

Why not have an old fashioned sock hop. Everyone wears jeans and a cute top and finds crazy socks to go with it. You could even have everyone donate a pair of socks to a local charity.

david asked:

When is a white/cream color dinner jacket acceptable instead of a traditional tuxedo? what slacks would you wear with it. and what tie (I am partial to bowties but flexible)? should the tie match the slacks?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I am not a fan of that jacket, looks like prom or a bad wedding but it can be worn at a formal affair. Go to your nearest tux shop and get ideas for the rest of the outfit.

Melinda asked:

What is the proper etiquette for a female wearing white gloves to a formal occasion with a small buffet? When do the gloves come off?

The Etiquette Queen says:

The gloves come off before eating.

Melissa asked:

I work at a new company that is celebrating it's first company Christmas party. The party is to be held at a nice hotel (in Albany, NY. It is an evening party that includes dinner, dancing, and some employee recognitions. The problem is that the event is being planned by a man. When asked what the attire is for the event, he responded "guys wear suits or sport jackets, and women wear whatever goes with the guys clothing". Obviously not much help. All of the women in the office are stumped. I was thinking of wearing my full length spaghetti strap gown, plain black, only detailing is lacing up the back. Too formal? What might be appropriate? Thanks.

The Etiquette Queen says:

I think that is too formal for "guys" in suits or sports jackets. Tone it down. Wear street length good dresses. Next year, have more than one planner.

Karen asked:

I am going to a family-black tie affair ( a week before Christmas). Is it appropriate to wear a silk, wine colored, knee-length dress that has spaghetti straps, or should I wear a black silk knee length dress. also, is it ok to wear sandal like shoes in the winter time?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Either dress is appropriate and strappy shoes are fine during the holidays as long as they are silk or like fabric.

Ada asked:

I'm wearing long dress gloves at a black tie event, is it proper to eat with the gloves on or off (I was planning to were rings over the gloves)?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Remove the gloves before eating and you'll probably have to wear them over the gloves or take them in your purse and put them on after you take off the gloves. I would do the latter.

Susan asked:

I am wearing a long, black dress to my company party this weekend (it is semi-formal). I am also wearing strappy, open-toed shoes. I was wondering if it would be okay to go without pantyhose? I just got back from Hawaii last week, so my feet and legs are tan and I will also give myself a pedicure. Would it be better to wear sheer black hose. I just want to be able to show off my shoes!

The Etiquette Queen says:

Etiquette really says that you should wear pantyhose in sheer black with demi toe and heel. I know how you feel about the tan but fashion makes us all slaves. LOL

marty asked:

When written on a wedding invitation, for a Saturday night wedding, does "formal" mean that guests are required to wear a tuxedo, or a suit and tie?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Formal could mean either. Usually, if it's a tux they want, they write black tie. But check with the hostess to be sure.

Wildh20gal asked:

I was told by the person who was organizing our office xmas party at a glitzy hotel that she was wearing a long dress. As I recall last year some people wore long dresses, some did not and I felt underdressed in a simple black dress. So this year I went out and bought a long dress, but now the invite has arrived and it says Cocktail/Business Attire. Should I find a cocktail dress?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Return the long dress. Too dressy. Find a neat black cocktail dress you can wear again and make it special with an important piece of jewelry or a shawl and great shoes.

Jenny asked:

I've been invited to a Christmas party. I've found a lovely black dress and managed to get most of my accessories together, but I'm not sure what jewelry would be best. I'm tall, slim and blonde and I have the choice between a pearl necklace and earrings to match, or a gold necklace with earrings to match. Please can you advise me which would be best as this is my first big party for a long time.

The Etiquette Queen says:

I happen to be a big fan of pearls. But try them both on with the dress. See how the neckline looks with both and then choose. Both would be appropriate.

Gerald asked:

My Home Owners Assoc is having a Christmas party and the invitation states that dress is "Holiday Formal". What would be the appropriate dress for my wife and I?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I would say a suit and tie for you and a street length dressy dress for your wife. Why not check with some neighbors to see what they are wearing.

Tracie H. asked:

Hello Etiquette Queen! Thanks for responding to my question about whether to wear open toe or closed toe shoes with my x-mas party dress. I, however, forgot to ask what color of hose I should wear? black or nude? Thanks so much!

The Etiquette Queen says:

I like very sheer black, so much more dressy and flattering for the leg. Less of a broken color line.

quiet stream asked:

If 'formal' and 'black tie' are the same, what is 'black tie optional?' Does the man literally wear a black tie?

The Etiquette Queen says:

It means that the man has an option of wearing a tux or a dark suit. The woman can wear a very formal dress or one that is less formal. Attendees choice.

Tracie H. asked:

I will be attending firm x-mas party at a local country club. My dress is black, slim, with simple straps at the top and it is tea length with a very sheer shawl. Should I wear the new open toe shoes or closed toe? I don't know whether to wear panty hose if I chose to wear open toe shoes.

The Etiquette Queen says:

You can wear either pair but I like the open toe with the look of the dress. Find pantyhose that have a demi-toe (one that has no different weave at the toe. Hanes and other good brands make them.

D. asked:

I'm attending a company holiday party. The invitation requested "festive holiday attire". I've heard that most people dress to the nines at this party; some women in formal ball gowns and men in tuxedos. Regardless, I think a suit is more appropriate. What do you think? And, is a very dark blue suit with barely visible pinstripes okay? Thanks so much.

The Etiquette Queen says:

I think that since it does not say formal or black tie, your suit would just be fine.

Ike asked:

On a holiday cocktail party invitation, I need a pithy way to let the guest know the dress expected, which basically more dressed-up than jean, but not rising to the level of coat and tie.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Use the expression "Friday casual".

Sherri asked:

I am having a New Years party at home but we have white carpet through our home. I don't want to ask quest to remove their shoes. How do you state on the invitation to guest to bring shoes for in doors. Also, we want the party to be dressy, not semi formal, but nice. How do you state this.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Why not make it fun and get those disposable scuffs for everyone to wear. You could even give everyone a box of crayons to decorate them, maybe glue and beads, etc.

Carol asked:

I remember that patent leather is not to be worn at certain times.....when is it appropriate?

The Etiquette Queen says:

From spring (Aprilish) to Labor Day

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