A long, lace dress in a dark color is a safe and chic option for formal events.

Etiquette for Formal Wear Attire

by Sara Cantu

Formal events are an exciting change of pace, as the opportunity to get dolled up and decked out in your finest attire isn't an every day occurrence. While the act of dressing for a formal should be fun, it can be less so when grappling with what to wear. There are plenty of appropriate clothing options for formal events but also plenty of styles you should stay away from. Read the invitation for the event closely in order to decide what's appropriate, and follow these do's and don'ts to make it through your next formal event with impeccable style and chic sophistication.

Long Dresses

When dressing for a formal event, the number one thing to avoid is looking too casual for the occasion. For a safe bet, ladies should dress in floor length dresses to fully embrace the formal dress code. While embellished dresses are a wonderful way to dress for the occasion, silk or lace dresses -- with the addition of glamorous accessories -- automatically ups the ante and will take your outfit to fancy territory in no time. Avoid items that are extremely revealing, and if attending a wedding, stay away from a white dress at all costs unless the invitation specifies that black and white attire is encouraged.


Formal attire etiquette dictates that men wear suits during formal occasions. Whether the best suit for an event is a simple suit or a tuxedo depends on the circumstances of the event, such as the time, location and invitation specifications of black or white tie. A good rule of thumb is to follow the formality of the invitation. So long as men wear dark hued, neat suits with a tie, there should be no question about the appropriateness of the clothing.


Many styles of footwear are appropriate for a formal event, but there are certain types that just won't do. For instance, you should completely avoid sandals. They are too casual for a formal event and will look sloppy. Women should wear a nice pair of heels that complement their dress. Embellished heels are popular for formal attire, so choose something with a bit of shine to really make a statement. For women who are unable to wear heels, an embellished, closed toe flat shoe will be best. For men, black or dark brown leather dress shoes are the absolute best way to go.


Accessories can often make or break an ensemble, so choose additions that will take the chicness of your outfit to a new level. Men would do well to top a suit off with a pair of polished dress shoes, shiny cufflinks and a timeless wrist watch -- the perfect accessories to match the formal vibe of the occasion. Women can complete their look by pairing a simple, elegant dress with accessories, like a show-stopping pair of heels, a statement clutch and/or large chandelier earrings. To avoid a look that's overdone, opt for simple accessories if your dress contains eye catching embellishments. A chic and stylish updo hairstyle is a lovely way to top off this formal style of dress.

About the Author

Sara Cantu has been writing fashion and lifestyle articles since 2009. As a fashion stylist, writer and blogger, she has been published in “Lady Couture” magazine and “RGV” magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from The University of Texas - Pan American.

Photo Credits

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