Dress (Appropriately) for the Occasion
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Dress (Appropriately) for the Occasion

Dress (Appropriately) for the Occasion

As those holiday party invitations start to roll in, let’s plan the perfect look to party in style.

When you receive an invitation that has a specific dress request, it can be a bit intimidating. I am going to break it down for you. Let’s take a look at black tie, cocktail, business casual and festive. Keep in mind the following are guidelines. Use your personal judgment. It is acceptable to ask your host for clarification on attire. Recently I have been asked what it means when the host ask for “beach formal” or “aspen chic”. The answer is I Do Not Know! Those are very abstract! So in an instance where you do not understand, just ask! Also keep in mind that these will vary by region. Here in Florida due to the weather and [not sure the word] we tend to be a bit more laid back on the official attire. Especially since holiday parties may still be held outdoors even in the winter months 

Black tie

Black tie is the most formal of all. This can include a ball gown, evening gown or suit. The difference between a ball gown and an evening gown is that a ball gown is a floor-length full skirt while an evening gown is floor-length but not a full skirt. 

A suit that is appropriate for formal can include pants or a skirt suit.


If the invitation requests cocktail attire, this should be above or below the knee, however not floor length. 

Business casual

Business casual is flexible as you will fit right in with a dress, slacks and blouse with a blazer, or skirt and blouse separates. Separates references two pieces that were not sold as a suit


Festive is really fun and just as it sounds! In recent years, ugly sweater parties have become popular. While there are mass produced “ugly sweaters” sold online and in fast fashion outlets, super fun “ugly sweaters” are best found at thrift stores.

Etiquette tips 

  1. RSVP for all occasions. 
  2. Follow the dress request indicated on the invitation as closely as possible.
    It’s polite to honor your host’s vision for their party.
  3. If you’re new to Florida or move to a different region of the country, research the local style. EverythingBrevard Magazine Managing Editor Lee Nessel said she noticed a distinct difference in what guests wear to weddings in Florida vs. her native New Jersey. “The overall feel of weddings felt more ‘formal’ in the Northeast,” she said. ”I’ve been to weddings in Florida, my own included, where there was quite a mix of styles among the guests.”
  4. Arrive promptly. And also understand when the party is “over.” Do not linger past the times stated on the invitation. If the invitation did not state an end time, take cues from the host when it is time to go.
  5. Always offer to bring something. If your host declines, honor it. They may have a set menu or theme for the menu. It’s always appropriate to bring something for your host to enjoy later. 
  6. Pets should only be brought along if you have spoken to your host in advance. If you require a certified service animal, notify your host when you RSVP.
  7. No tag alongs! Your host invited you! Not your friends! 


Maggie Hickson has mixed her love of fashion and travel for the past 20 years as she's adventured across the skies as a flight attendant. She fiercely believes in celebrating all ages and body types when it comes to fashion. She's a member of the American Business Women’s Association, a volunteer guardian ad litem and lover of thrift stores, estate sales and consignment shops.


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