Grown fella can’t dress himself
September 12, 2019 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Please hope me figure out what to wear to dinner tomorrow night...

The missus and I have been invited to dinner out with her boss and her husband. Yea! But...Dinner will be at a very high-end seafood restaurant. Checking the website, they state “business casual attire.”

I always find that phrase utterly unhelpful, as the offices I worked at were cool with jeans and polos, and I’m pretty sure that’s not the case with this place. But, what does that mean in a high-dollar place like this? Complicating my problem is that, for reasons of weight loss and budget, my closet is devoid of anything that might pass for khakis, or any other such “business casual” thing. Right now, the only “better” pants I have are a sort-of-dressy pair of jeans and a pair of cords (it’s gonna be 90 tomorrow. I dunno if cords would be a good choice.) I have a pair of tan chinos, but they are a bit loose and long, so they puddle at my feet. I also have the pants from a suit. They’re black.

Shirts are in better shape, so I think I’m good there.’s between a pair of brown slip-ons, black dress wingtips, or a pair of olive green canvas high-tops.

Gah! I hate these situations. I’m going to be mentally beating myself up for looking like a bum, no matter what I wear, but I need to look like I at least made an effort.
posted by Thorzdad to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total)
wear a blazer if you have one
posted by brujita at 12:42 PM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Dress code is the lower bound, not the upper limit or a strict 'it must be so' guideline, so:

Wear the whole suit, leave off the tie unless you think the boss will be wearing one (does he wear one to work?) Then you look dressed to impress at an event where your wife will want to be impressive.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:46 PM on September 12, 2019 [11 favorites]

The dressy jeans and any nicer button down shirt and a belt and the brown slip ons. You'll be fine, I promise. They just don't want people in there in basketball shorts.
posted by ftm at 12:47 PM on September 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

If this is in Indiana, you will be fine in dressy (dark? hopefully they are a very dark blue with no worn spots) jeans and a blazer. But if your missus nixes the jeans, I agree just wear a suit with no tie.
posted by muddgirl at 12:58 PM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Business casual" is indeed poorly defined, and all of the suggestions above are correct.

Plus this: any dinner like this should be primarily about good food and good company. The key to being good company is to relax as best you can. Enjoy yourself and your dining partners. Having a good time while exhibiting quiet confidence and good manners is a wonderful way to support your wife.

posted by conscious matter at 1:01 PM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Suit pants, dress shirt, black shoes. I don't think you need the jacket but agreeing with the above that it's always better to be overdressed in this situation than underdressed, and nobody is going to make fun of you if you wear the jacket.
posted by something something at 1:05 PM on September 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Wear the suit, take off the tie.

There will ALWAYS be people who tell you to be laid-back, but if you care enough to ask the question then insouciance is not your watchword. Granted, these things can differ by geography, but if you don't know her boss well, why risk being seen as disrespectful by the boss? Be classy and you won't have to second-guess yourself.

On a Friday night, if you're wearing a suit, people may assume you just got off work and came straight to the restaurant without returning home to change, but they won't assume anything else about you; if you wear jeans, people may wonder "Does he not own grownup* clothes? Does he not KNOW to wear grownup clothes when meeting his spouse's boss? Does he not CARE about showing respect?"

*Yes, my opinions may come off as classist. But if you don't know if the boss has classist tendencies, do you want to risk it?
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 1:07 PM on September 12, 2019 [7 favorites]

Dressy jeans with a button-down and a blazer (no tie) or dressy jeans with a nice button-down tucked in with a belt.

Brown slip-ons either way.
posted by sallybrown at 1:13 PM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Outside major cities, it's rare to find that a suit would be the right call for a "business casual" restaurant.

Even IN most major cities, it's unusual. Contrary to jacquilynne above, you don't want to be too far ABOVE the line, either, especially if it's outside your normal mode of dress.

If your jeans are nice and they fit, and your shirt is nice and it fits, and your leather slip-ons are in good shape, you're going to be fine in just that. Don't add a blazer or jacket in the heat unless you're absolutely certain you need it for this particular restaurant (and, again, I'd bet folding money you DO NOT).

Do not wear black shoes unless you're wearing the full suit. It's kind of tacky.
posted by uberchet at 1:18 PM on September 12, 2019 [10 favorites]

I dress "business casual" (for some definition of that) most days for work. I have on occasion worn suit pants instead of my usual chino-type pants, if I go longer than usual between laundry days. I doubt anyone has noticed. Button-down shirt, brown or black shoes.

A blazer or jacket would be a bit more than "business casual," and even though it's OK to overdress to some extent if you want to, I would hate to wear one in 90+ weather, even if I was only outside for a few minutes.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:40 PM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Business casual basically just means a button-down shirt, non-jeans*, and leather shoes. The asterisk is because jeans are becoming acceptable, but not fully yet. It'll depend on your boss and the place. If your boss tends to the formal side of things, go out and buy a pair of khakis or gray pants. If your boss is casual, nice jeans should be ok. Wear the brown slip-ons. Don't overthink it; it doesn't really matter. The comment above about basketball shorts is spot-on.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:41 PM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

In my workplace, which is a casual dress place, we occasionally have events where we are asked to dress in Business Casual. This means don't wear jeans. Period.

You are going to a "very high-end" restaurant. Jeans are inappropriate. Wear your suit, sans tie.
posted by Dolley at 1:45 PM on September 12, 2019

One thing you can do is use Yelp to look at photos of people dining inside the restaurant. I'm not sure anyone who's from a different area can answer this authoritatively.
posted by wintersweet at 1:53 PM on September 12, 2019 [21 favorites]

Suit and dress shoes, no tie OR chinos and blazer. Can you get the chinos hemmed at lunch?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:54 PM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

I mean, sounds like you need a new pair of chinos anyway. It's not like they're some formal attire that you only wear once a year. With a white shirt. Does the nearest department store have a personal shopper? Ask them to pull a few pairs for you to try on.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:57 PM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

If the suit pants fit, just wear them. Brown shoes/belt is fine unless they look weird with the slacks.

If you'd feel uncomfortable in the suit pants, and you have an hour or two but a slim budget, you can try a discount store - Marshalls, Ross, etc. They'll have a million pairs of cotton chinos for super cheap. When you lose weight or they fall apart, no problem. You only paid $20 for them.

In CA, jeans and a blazer will take you almost anywhere, but for dinner with the boss, my spouse would want me to take it up a notch.
posted by troyer at 2:07 PM on September 12, 2019

Call the restaurant and ask, "What sort of clothes do your guests typically wear? This will be my first time there, dining with my wife's boss, and I'd like to dress appropriately." This is likely a very common question, and part of the service a "high-end" restaurant provides is making their guests feel welcome and comfortable.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:19 PM on September 12, 2019 [14 favorites]

It's not about the restaurant, it's about what kind of dinner this is.

Hanging out with somebody's boss can be very relaxed or there could be more at stake, so it's best to clarify what this dinner is all about since it's your wife's boss and she may work in a more conservative industry. Don't put the burden on her to tell you how to dress, but you can ask what she's planning to wear and use that to help calibrate.

Regardless, anyplace where business-casual is the norm, wearing a suit and nice shoes without a tie a would be fine and you won't have to have any anxiety about how you look.

If it's the case that this is a very laid-back dinner with a chill boss, why not go out and buy some new trousers that fit and wear a nice button-down shirt, because that would also be totally acceptable at a high-end seafood restaurant in Indiana in 90° weather.
posted by theory at 2:20 PM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Chinos (get a pair if you don’t have one), a button-down shirt, and a blazer.
posted by vitout at 2:24 PM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

How much do your wife and boss dress up for work? I would take your cue from that. I agree it's better to be slightly overdressed. If you know they'll be dressed super casually, that's one thing but... you probably can't go wrong with suit pants, a button up shirt, and dress shoes.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:28 PM on September 12, 2019

Thanks all. Just to jump in and provide a little more background. This will definitely be a chill evening. My wife and her boss work side-by-side daily in somewhat relaxed conditions. They’re more like friends at this point. Wife is more-or-less her #1. This is more like a “we need to get together and go out” thing, not a “your job depends on this” thing. Very chill. They just like nice, expensive places.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:58 PM on September 12, 2019

Don’t overthink it too much. Approach this as more of a What Not To Wear thing. Don’t wear sneakers, t-shirt, or a polo. Jeans are 100% acceptable if you’re wearing brown shoes with them and a button-up shirt. Making it look like you made an effort to dress like a grown-up but are comfortable in what you’re wearing should suffice.
posted by fso at 4:32 PM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

if you current chinos don't fit, don't wear them. if the jeans are pretty nice, go ahead with those or get a new pair of chinos (gray or blue). the black suit pants are going to be a bit of a pain to get right given your shoe options.

i think the black wingtips would work if they are derbies (not oxfords), but its a much safer bet with the brown slipons if they aren't sandals or otherwise very informal.

enjoy your meal!
posted by lescour at 6:20 PM on September 12, 2019

restaurants that require coat and tie for men will say so on their website
posted by brujita at 7:14 PM on September 12, 2019

I would say jeans (if, as posters above have said, they are dark blue), canvas high tops, and a jacket.
posted by hepta at 5:36 AM on September 13, 2019

Thanks again, all! Great feedback.

A miracle happened this morning and the boss woke-up sick. So, dinner has been put-off to a future date. Yea! This will give me time to hopefully pull something together, even if it means having to find the coins to buy a decent pair of pants. And, maybe a shirt.

Mark this one not so much "resolved" as "postponed."
posted by Thorzdad at 6:45 AM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

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