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What Do Dress Codes Mean?

Aug 18, 2007
Your mail falls through the letterbox with a thud. People still like you. People are still paying you. People who couldn't care less about you are sending you bills (they're pretty smart, they know other people are paying you). You, of course put them to one side to open later because amoungst the mail sits a rather intreguing invitation to somewhere swanky. You're not only liked. You're positively courted.

And then you look a bit closer and you notice, where you would usually expect to see the words black tie, that it says Hollywood Black Tie. Now what?

As writer and marketer in the fashion industry, it's quite possibly the question, I'm asked the most by other men (well, after the unprintable stuff about models anyway). They want to know how to interpret different dress codes. So i've pulled together a brief guide.

Black Tie - I think most everybody knows this, it essentially means a tuxedo and bow tie. I can't stress this enough, learn to tie a real one because the clip bow ties are naff. Also don't wear a paisley/patterned tie. If you don't know why then stop reading because I cannot help you.

White Tie - It always means white tie and tails. Black tailcoat to be precise and a white waistcoat. Rent your gear, because frankly if you need to wear this more than a couple of times in your life, i'll eat your top hat.

Lounge Suit - Contrary to popular opinion, this does not mean turning up like an extra from Miami Vice (that's a fancy dress party which is a whole other type of event). It also doesn't mean wearing your office suit and a flash tie. A lounge suit event means wearing a smart two piece suit. Preferably in dark blue or dark charcoal or black. Get a good one, it sort of means the hosts aren't going to get too sniffy if you don't dress up, but that they'd sort of like you to.

Hollywood Black Tie - It used to mean a black suit along with a black tie rather than a bow tie, but in reality it means pretty much anything you want. Open necked shirt is ok. Feather Boa, muscle vest and lycra is also ok (although pretty much only if you are Hulk Hogan).

Smart Casual - If your party invitation says smart casual, this almost certainly means that you shouldn't attend.
About the Author
Mark Errington is Marketing Director at English fashion design house Queen Of Suburbia, specialising in Women's Fashion T-shirts. Further examples of his commentary on fashion, celebrity and trends can be found on their fashion blog.
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