Here at Style Savvy, I have been asked to find clothing for all purposes. At one point or another, I have shopped for beach, beach casual, business, business casual, cocktail and formal clothes. More often than not, a personal shopping client will ask for some of these pieces because of an invitation, but really don’t know exactly what the terms mean. Of course, most people can understand that you don’t wear a business suit to a pool party, but beyond that, they’re just not sure. So, want a few tips? Read on!
Ok, you know that a “beach” invitation means a swimsuit. What ever else it means depends on whether you’re going to be at a beach or pool, but you’re going to need a coverup and appropriate shoes wherever you land. But beach casual? Isn’t that like saying “casual casual “? But it’s actually a fairly specific term for clothes worn at a beach party. What type is determined by time of day; an afternoon party needs a romper-style coverup or my fave, a white cotton button down of your husband ‘s with the sleeves rolled up and the buttons undone.
Evening parties are dressier. Think floaty, sheer caftans, linen-gauze wide-legged pants, strapless midi or maxi sundresses. In both situations, jewelry looks great; maybe an ankle chain and/or toe rings? Daytime needs no-sock kicks, flat sandals or other comfortable ideas, evening needs a kitten heel to a high heeled sandal or of-the-moment flats (a heel, however, makes your legs look longer and slimmer and your butt look AWESOME!). Feel the difference between beach and beach casual? I knew you would!
Business attire gets more complicated and this is where “then” versus “now” rules have changed the most. The lines are a bit blurrier ( is that a word or did I make it up?).
“Then” business meant suit and tie for men and knee length dresses with sleeves or skirt suits for the women. To make it business casual, men removed either the tie or the jacket and could wear patterned shirts and brighter ties. Women went sleeveless, wore a higher heel and were less conservative with jewelry, necklines and hem lengths. But “now” - drumroll please - things are just a wee bit changed. Business attire for men runs the gamut from business suit and tie ( usually in a city ) to casual slacks or jeans and a polo shirt-and everything in between. Ladies now wear sleeveless, even spaghetti strap tops, pants, and skirts or dresses of all lengths.
Because of the changed dress code for business, business casual (outside a major city) is now a very loose term. For men, depending on the venue and occasion, business casual “now” can include polo shirts, jeans and relaxed pants with short sleeved shirts. If an actual invitation ( as opposed to an office party) says “Business Casual” , the dress code is casual slacks or NICE jeans and a button down, or perhaps a Tommy Bahama patterned shirt. Upping your game would mean nice slacks, a button down with the top two buttons open, and a blazer or suit jacket. Of course, everything depends on the host’s attire and the venue, but hole-y jeans, T shirts and sneakers? No, not if you want to look professional.
Women’s business casual has evolved. Oh boy, has it! I’ve seen women who wore strapless dresses, miniskirts ( the size of placemats! )and flip flops. Ladies, this personal stylist says NO! How we dress is a measure of self respect and respect for others. Even if other women are wearing low cut Ts and flip flops, it doesn’t mean you have to. NICE jeans ( dark wash, no holes ), good slacks, a blouse, sweater or a NICE T with a jacket over it-wearing appropriate clothes shows professionalism and standards. And always, in a business setting of any sort, if you must err, err on the side of caution!
Cocktail and formal attire has also evolved. Some of you may remember the days when “cocktail” meant dressy and “formal” meant long gown. For women, things are radically different. Men should wear a dark suit and tie to a cocktail party, NOT the jacket off, sleeves rolled up getups I see in many places. Of course, a party at someone’s home is more casual than an outside location, but still! Come on, guys! Now ladies are wearing super short, strapless and glitzy dresses and sky high heels to both cocktail and formal events. And many can’t even walk in 5 or 6 inch heels. They totter and slip and generally show their discomfort. If you can’t or won’t show up in that kind of ensemble, cocktail means a shift-type dress, maybe midi or knee length, that has some sparkle and pizzazz. Sequins and beads are definitely on the menu! Satins or velvets and iridescence? Go for it!
“Formal” still means a tuxedo. Sorry, guys, but it does. Especially in a major city. I see men at formal nights on a cruise wearing a tie with their short sleeve shirt! Unacceptable-to this stylist. Ladies? “Formal” and a guy wearing a tux add up to you in a long dress. Not a skirt and not a summery maxi dress-a real gown. Spark it with some jewelry and don’t forget the shoes ( my favorite part ) 👠! You’ll look amazing and FEEL amazing because we don’t wear these clothes often and it’s really fun when we do!
So......dress responsibly! Take pride in yourself and in knowing that you are dressed correctly for any occasion. And remember, “trend” is today, but “style” is forever!