'Tis the season when holiday celebrations are underway, yielding invitations for everything from formal dinners to office gatherings.

Just as we benefit from carefully choosing the clothing we wear to work, dressing appropriately for a celebration can make all the difference in your confidence level and the image you put forward.

With the variety of holiday formats, it can be difficult to know what to wear. To eliminate the confusion and set the record straight once and for all, refer to this Holiday Attire Guide as you prepare for the upcoming festivities.

White Tie is reserved for the most formal of occasions.

Women's White Tie

  • Floor length evening gown
  • Long gloves
  • Dressy heel
  • A wrap for cold winter evenings


  • Tasteful jewelry
  • Decorative clutch

Men's White Tie

  • Black tailcoat (a man's formal evening coat - slit at the back to form the illusion of a tail - shorter in front)
  • Same colored slacks with a single satin stripe (US), or double stripe (United Kingdom)
  • White piqué wing-collared shirt
  • White vest and white bow tie
  • Braces (suspenders)
  • White gloves (gray alternate)
  • Black patent shoes - no leather loafers
  • Matching colored (black) dress socks

Black Tie requires formal wear.

Men's Black Tie

  • Black tuxedo
  • Black bow-tie and cummerbund
  • White pique shirt, cufflinks and studs
  • Suspenders (braces) optional
  • Black dress socks
  • Black patent shoes

Women's Black Tie

  • Floor-length gown
  • Cocktail length dress
  • Dressy heels


  • Tasteful jewelry
  • Decorative clutch

Black Tie Optional

Men's Black Tie Optional

  • Tuxedo or a dark suit
  • White dress shirt
  • Classic tie
  • Leather dress shoes

Women's Black Tie Optional

  • Floor length gown
  • Cocktail dress
  • Silk wide leg pants and beaded top

Creative Black Tie allows room for unique personalization. Both women and men can embellish with accents such as imaginative jewelry, lively bow-ties, socks and theme related accessories.

Cocktail fashion requires a dark suit and tie for men and a cocktail dress for women. When the festivities are in a tropical climate, the weight of the clothing should be adjusted for the temperature.

Festive attire still means "dress to impress." While a suit is in order, men can have a little fun with color and fabric. Women have room to let their personal style shine through.

Business Casual or Dressy Casual is often confused with jeans and a tee. In fact, it is a sport coat, dress slacks, open-collar shirt and leather dress shoes for men; women choose from dresses, pant suits or a skirt-suit. Depending on the situation, Dressy Casual may also open the door for a pair of nice jeans and a colorful sweater or blazer. Your look should always say, "I put some effort into pulling this outfit together."

Casual is what you would wear when enjoying a relaxed evening with friends. Jeans and a comfortable shirt for men and a pair of stylish slim jeans, sweater and riding boots for women would be a good, cold weather option for taking in a movie and dinner.

Certain fashion rules apply to every occasion.
Clothing should be in good repair with shoes polished to perfection. Go easy on the jewelry and stick to fabrics that are suitable for the season (hello worsted wool; see you next summer, linen). Ladies, avoid anything too low-cut, short, clingy or otherwise overly revealing at an office get together.

If the expected dress isn't clear, glean clues from the invitation.
For example, a ballroom venue will likely be a dressier affair than an event at a restaurant. Evening gatherings are generally more formal than daytime affairs. When in doubt, don't hesitate to reach out to the host and request clarification.

Bottom line when it comes to dress attire, it's always better to be overdressed than underdressed.