When it comes to dressing etiquette, a common mistake people make has nothing to do with over or under-dressing. Instead, it’s confusing trends with style. Style is about representing yourself and who you are visually, and as Tom Ford has fondly said “dressing well is a form of good manners.” Just as you would want to speak appropriately, you should strive to dress appropriately, too.
Some things to consider: Where are you going? What is the venue? These are cues about the formality of the event. More often than not, the place of the event is chosen because of its feel, which will lead into the other elements, such as food, music and, of course, attire. A good host will be mindful when communicating to their guests what the dress code should be. If they want to add an interesting twist to the dress code, it’s thoughtful to make a suggestion so that the guests are not put under any additional pressure.
Several years ago, I was invited to a summer event where the dress code was “Evening Garden Cocktail with Flair”. “Evening” Garden Cocktail? With “Flair”? What does that mean? This invitation was for a business event, from a colleague of my husband’s (who was not yet my husband at that time!), so some of the added pressure was that this would be the first time I was going to meet the hosts.
The initial step I took was to stop over-thinking. What I ended up choosing was a 3/4 length floral, high-neck halter dress. The floral appliqués were beaded and made it feel more “evening”, along with the neutral colour palette, which was navy, grey and white. It had a low back and I added flair to my lovely look with an appropriate chosen hat. This look was very me and I truly felt like I was telling my story.
Dressing well is a form of good manners. – Tom Ford
The key to standing out in a polite and beautiful way is to keep your personal style but also challenge yourself. Dare your look with elements and pieces that aren’t familiar. Choose statement pieces or a silhouette that represent who you are, your brand – with a wink!
It might sound funny to think about your “brand” at a gathering, but this face-to-face experience is the truest form of who you are. And if you’re networking, you’ll want to present yourself as approachable and likeable with an elevated sense of style with grace. So, things like logos and motifs (even at a casual event) should align with who you are and the audience’s sensibilities. Business leaders, politicians and even celebrities with the most solid reputations have their brands compromised by the impact of not dressing appropriately.
Here are some questions to ask yourself while you are putting your look together:
- What kind of “first impression” am I making in this outfit?
- What is my role? Is it my occasion to stand out the most?
- What will the temperature/weather be?
- Does this look make me feel good? Will I fidget wearing this?
- Am I wearing this outfit, or is it wearing me?
- If you choose to wear logos or graphic with impact, do these represent my brand?
- And finally, when you step out the door, are you putting your best foot forward to the world about who you are?
Communicating confidence is always the best style goal!