Bad news for all the slackers: While some of the contemporary style guides allow some leeway in their definition of cocktail attire, the benchmarks out there leave no doubt: Cocktail attire always includes a tie. Well, unless you are in rural California.
Post published her book over 20 years before the expression “cocktail dress” was coined. Today, a standard definition for this dress code is still missing. Nevertheless, the established best practice for cocktail attire is somewhere close to semi-formal, which always includes a dark suit. In special cases – depending on the time and location of the event – a sport coat and slacks can be a viable alternative to the full suit. A cruise or an afternoon picnic may be such events.
Cocktail attire is an evening dress, so it is at least somewhat festive. Especially at the holidays, many invitations go out announcing a “holiday party” or “holiday cocktail”. This does not mean that your host also invited Santa Clause (though if they did, we all know there is only one). This means “suit and tie” is right for the occasion. Which tie?
This may be that time you feel bold enough to take out the bow tie. By all means. Reds for the season, perhaps a sprig of mistletoe for your prop, and whatever else comes to mind you can put a story to. Above all, however, you should be considerate of this: dressing nicely is a tribute to your host and the event at hand.
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