Ask dapperQ: What Is Cocktail Attire?

My work husband from a previous job recently called me asking for style advice, and the conversation went something like this:

Hubby: Grrrrrl, I got invited to attend a post-conference cocktail party. But, someone told me that the business suit that I’m wearing to the daytime workshops would not appropriate for the evening event. Like, do not rock the suit that I’m wearing in my LinkedIn profile pic to the party!

Me: Well, it is “appropriate” to wear whatever your heart desires. But, child, I know you want to be fashion-forward. So, no, do not wear your regular business attire to the party if you want to make a splash. Think “business with a twist.”

Hubby: Uh, I don’t know what that means. A shopping kiki is in order before I leave.

Me: Done!

Oooooh, the never ending masculine/”menswear” cocktail attire conundrum. How does one even begin to crack the cocktail attire dress code, especially if you do not have the go-to “little black dress” to fall back on? Even GQ states, “Cocktail dress code is one of those annoying dress codes that are rather vague…” This vagueness of which GQ speaks is partially due to the fact that cocktail parties are thrown for a variety of occasions with a diverse range of formality: weddings, anniversaries, graduations, holidays, birthdays, work events, fundraisers, art openings, etc. So, unless you actually know how formal the event will be (e.g., a cocktail party for a formal evening wedding vs. an exhibit opening at a small gallery), “cocktail attire” says very little about the dress code…very little except, in my opinion, get creative! While you may have to decipher the level of formality, this is certainly not a time to be boring. Now is the chance to let your style really shine, particularly if your daily work restricts you from taking bolder risks.

In my friend’s case, he is attending a conference for young POC MSM professionals, and the cocktail event is a relaxed, post-conference gathering being held to foster networking and community building. It’s a fun, youthful event; So, when I say “business with a twist,” I meant that he should consider adding some color, patterns, and texture, or even going sans socks, to avoid looking like he just came from work.

8/15/13 Dapper QPhoto by Leslie Van Stelten via dapperQ

Of course, cocktail parties are thrown for celebrations of both higher and lower levels of formality. Here is some additional inspiration from which to draw once you ascertain how formal the event will be:

8/15/13 Dapper QPhoto by Leslie Van Stelten via dapperQ

Menswear_Cocktail_Dress_CodePhoto by Troxell via dapperQ

Menswear_Cocktail_Attire_GQPhoto by Maria Tomanova via dapperQ 

Menswear_Cocktail_EnsemblePhoto by Jazzie Bernabe via dapperQ

Mens_Cocktail_Attire_Dress_CodePhoto by Tina Vanden via dapperQ

Menswear_Cocktail_Ensemble_GQPhoto by Lindsey Rickert via dapperQ


Photo courtesy Spice NYC Events

GQ_Mens_Cocktail_AttireImage via Popsugar


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