What does “festive attire” mean? Does “black tie” require a tuxedo? Is “business attire” the same as “smart casual”?
Attire can have just as many definitions and translations as dresses in all the shops on Broadway. But to attire, the verb, means to dress, to adorn, or to clothe with elegant or splendid garments. That starting point suggests something a little extra.
The ultimate special event is “white tie,” requiring men in full dress with white ties, shirts and vests, and women in long, formal gowns. Once upon a time, the Saratoga social scene may have called for this, but not in 2013.
Does “black tie” simply change the color around a man’s neck? No. Formal attire, or black tie, still requires a tuxedo, but with different accents. A gentleman could wear a bowtie and cummerbund, or a traditional necktie and vest, in a variety of colors and patterns. Ladies can choose a long dress, a cocktail dress or even sparkling separates.
“Creative black tie” typically foreshadows a fun evening ahead. It’s a trendy option allowing men modern twists like a black shirt and no tie. Women have the same long or short choice to make, but can add beads and dazzle to complement the event theme. For instance, cowgirl boots under a gown, a splashy boa, or animal print handbag and heels.
More and more parties have moved to “semi-formal,” “black tie optional,” or “cocktail” attire. Tuxedos are no longer mandated, but men should still lean toward a dark suit in black, navy or charcoal. Elegant dresses in shorter lengths will work for her. This is an ideal occasion for the famed little black dress.
“Business formal” means the same thing for men, but implies that ladies avoid slinky satin numbers, heavily sequined dresses, and plunging necklines or low-cut backs.
“Festive attire” opens this level of dress up to colorful selections for ladies and gentlemen. Pull from the fun cocktail wardrobe, donning a themed tie for him and brightly beaded pieces for her.
“Resort formal” is often seen on invitations for beachside weddings, but it has also cropped up in Saratoga event lingo. It allows women to opt for maxi - or sundresses, while men can choose khakis and a sport coat, or the quintessential seersucker suit, with a shirt open at the neck. This also fits the bill for “dressy” or “smart” casual. It’s the perfect attire for afternoon tea parties and any of the season’s luncheon events. During the day, ladies can top it off with a fabulous fascinator or hat.
“Business casual” takes off the jacket. Men can trade a button-down for their favorite golf shirt. Women are safe with a casual dress, or a tee and skirt. Capris are also acceptable for the ladies, and either can sport Bermudas.
It’s important to note that “business attire” does not jump to “business casual” even if that’s the dress code in most offices. Traditional business attire still requires men to wear a tie and jacket, with women in dresses or suits.
“Casual” means that (almost) anything goes! Cut-off shorts and midriff tops should still be saved for housework and gardening.
Jeans work for casual events, and for the handful of Western-themed functions in town. If an event calls for denim, wear it!
Most of the season’s soirees fall between cocktail attire and resort formal dress. This is a fail-safe range even when event planners get creative, requesting “white attire” or “garden party chic.” And when in doubt, it is better to be overdressed than too casual.
Finally, keep in mind that supporting the many benefits and worthwhile causes here doesn’t require a designer wardrobe and spacious closet. Things can be worn twice, even three times, in the same summer. Just change them up with accessories, a different tie and shirt on him, jewelry and shoes on her. Most people don’t notice repeat appearances unless it’s a truly unique outfit.
Remember though, when socializing, you are apt to end up on social media. Space out the reruns to avoid showing up on Facebook decked in the same dress three posts in a row.
Of course, if the closet fails you, there’s nothing wrong with ‘needing’ something new. No matter the reason or occasion, one of Saratoga’s varied boutiques will have what you want. A walk down Broadway is sure to end with an outfit fit for your RSVP.