Wedding with "Brooklyn formal" attire... what do I wear?
September 23, 2019 12:01 PM   Subscribe

We're invited to a wedding with "Brooklyn formal" attire and despite searching, I still can't quite figure out what would be appropriate to wear that wouldn't require buying an entirely new outfit.

I'm in my mid-40s, don't go to many events that require a jacket and tie (don't like wearing them, don't like the way I look in them). My suit is probably 15-20 years old and my sport jacket was last updated probably about the same time. In my day-to-day life, I wear a t-shirt and jeans, occasionally swapping out the t-shirt for a button-down. Not a fan of khakis, though I own a pair.

I've googled "Brooklyn formal" and read several results and am still kind of flummoxed about what would be appropriate. Because I'm a fashion dummy.

Any ideas for an easy route to take?
posted by laze to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For something as cryptic as that, I'd reach out to the wedding party planners themselves and just ask. There's language in invitations most people can decipher ("black tie," "beach wear," "garden party") and then there's cutsey-clever language like this that's just plain confusing. I'd bet you won't be the first invitee puzzled by this.
posted by xingcat at 12:03 PM on September 23, 2019 [22 favorites]

I think this is just a really irritating way of saying "cocktail attire" which is what most people would stipulate in this case- you'll get a lot of ideas googling that. You should wear a jacket but you could probably skip the tie if you absolutely don't want to wear one.
posted by cakelite at 12:06 PM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

How old are the people who used this description? is the wedding in Brooklyn?

Agreeing that if your sufficiently confused you should seek clarification, the whole point of that note is so that you will have a confident idea of what to wear.

As to why i asked how old the wedding couple was: my dad's family are from brooklyn and when my parents brought me here from california for a wedding in the 80s my great aunt was scandalized that i (a toddler) didnt already own a suit. 30 something years later, i live here and if my friends said that they were having a brooklyn formal wedding id assume it meant dressed up but not in a businessy way, so more prints and less strict formality, even though you are expecting people to put some effort into getting dressed up.

Kind of sounds like you could use to buy an outfit for this event no matter what theyre expecting you to wear . . . all the more reason to get clarification.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:07 PM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Googling reveals several articles explaining it basically as what you'd expect: a sort of hipster twee, "quirky" and less formal than formal, more formal than casual, usually some sort of retro or "retro" angle. E.g. 10 stupid dress code names, "quirky dress code", etc. Definitely not cocktail.

I'd buy a thrift store pair of suspenders, pop them on over your buttondown and khakis and call it a day. Maybe a period-incorrect hat, to complete the package. If you cared much about this look and culture, you wouldn't need to ask, and imo asking guests for poorly defined "quirky" attire is pretty much permission to phone it in, ymmv.
posted by SaltySalticid at 12:10 PM on September 23, 2019 [14 favorites]

If, for whatever reason, you don't want to ask the wedding planners:

A 20-year-old suit is almost vintage. Wear your suit, with, like, a bowtie, a pocket square, and loud socks. For formal events, I think it's better to be over-dressed than under- (and, if you're wrong, you'll at least be in the general area).
posted by box at 12:13 PM on September 23, 2019

To me, this would mean more or less:

* nice jeans OK if paired w/ button down and tie and nice shoes

* sneakers ok only if tastefully paired w/ suit (also probably only if chucks)

* fancy accessories not frowned on - suspenders, hats, pocket squares, pocket watches

* jacket not required

Weddings I've been to recently seem to be veering away from capital F formal and somewhere on the Eccentric Lawyer -> Dr Who spectrum.

Your best bet is still asking for clarification, though.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:13 PM on September 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

When the dress code is creative you can be, too. Wear what you think makes you look best. Are you due for a new pair of jeans? Now's the time, maybe a new shirt. Wear nice shoes, polished if they can be. Add your sports jacket and excellent grooming, and have a good time.
posted by theora55 at 12:16 PM on September 23, 2019

The suggestion from GQ is to wear a "black jean jacket worn over a white button-up shirt... wear it with black suede Chelsea boots, which are the perfect balance of sophistication and badass."

I'd interpret this as kind of hipster or industrial formal, minimalist and dark colors--whatever the male version of a woman's black jumpsuit would be. I think if you wear a dark colored jacket (no tie) and pants and boots with a neutral button-down shirt (tucked in) you'll be fine?
posted by stellaluna at 12:16 PM on September 23, 2019

Best answer: According to this, it means "cocktail attire, with an optional quirky or vintage twist." (I don't know why everyone thinks people in Brooklyn go to fancy events in suspenders and bowties- this is more what someone who doesn't know fashion very well would think is "hipster" rather than how actual hipsters dress.) My original advice stands, and you can wear a bowtie if you want, though you definitely don't have to. It doesn't sound like you especially relish getting dressed up, so don't feel like you have to come up with some quirky outfit unless that's fun for you.
posted by cakelite at 12:17 PM on September 23, 2019 [10 favorites]

It sounds like it wouldn't be the worst idea for you to do some shopping and use this event as motivation to do so, but I also think that whimsical dress codes like this are some of the stupidest moves a wedding planner can make and you'd be entirely right to be confused and reach out for clarification.

From what I have gleaned, it sounds like a 20 year old suit would fit in pretty well - assuming it still fits you nicely. I italicize that because there's almost no way you're still the same body shape at you were 20 years ago, and a well fitting old fashioned suit is much lovelier than an ill fitting new suit. Take it to be tailored to who you are now, pair it with a colored or patterned shirt, no tie, casual shoes. A bright pocket square (if ya nasty).

If you don't want to wear a suit, go shopping for a vest - the kind intended to be worn without a jacket, and a button down shirt with some texture, color or pattern, and a pair of slacks that go with the vest. Grey is a wonderful all purpose suiting color that goes with a range of shoes, seasons and skin tones so stick with that unless you are suddenly inspired.
posted by Mizu at 12:21 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is hilariously cruel. I think (as someone who lives in too-hip-for-itself Portland rather than too-hip-for-itself Brooklyn) that this means, "We want you to look hip and stylish, like you have an interesting sense of fashion and put some effort in, and we will be bored by your boring formal wear and mildly offended if you are dressed casually in a boring way."

Do you have dress pants that aren't khakis? I'd wear those with a button down or your best jeans (if you have some in good shape) with a button down. If you wear the dress pants, maybe pair them with hip sneakers?
posted by bluedaisy at 12:23 PM on September 23, 2019 [17 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all! I've got some good ideas here to work with and was able to get a little more clarification on the matter. :)
posted by laze at 12:30 PM on September 23, 2019

I hope you'll come back and tell us what you wore and (in a general way) how the other guests did "Brooklyn Formal". I admit that I am relentlessly curious about this.
posted by Frowner at 12:53 PM on September 23, 2019 [29 favorites]

My thoughts would be somewhere in the line of "dressy, precious, hipster". I loathe cutesy stuff like this. Dress codes are supposed to make your life easier, not harder.
posted by gaspode at 1:18 PM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

FWIW I am a Brooklynite myself and having been to Brooklyn weddings.

I'd point you to The Cut which has a wedding column and A LOT of them are in Brooklyn. Here are links to a few Brooklyn (and one LIC) based examples. These are fairly style-forward as a reference point and most of these look like what I picture as Brooklyn formal.
posted by rdnnyc at 1:28 PM on September 23, 2019

brand name velour tracksuit with adidas slides over white athletic socks
posted by poffin boffin at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2019 [26 favorites]

I would have assumed this meant fancy jeans and a sports coat for men. No ties required or, really, admired. The whole Brooklyn hipster thing is vastly overblown; those people you see working in coffee shops with waxed moustaches are not representative of anything more than a cultural niche.
posted by wnissen at 2:56 PM on September 23, 2019

Ehhhhh, I think they might be trying to ham-handedly help you out with what’s kind of a “geographical norm” problem.

I’ve been to weddings in LA that asked for formal, and we show up in floor length gowns and tuxes, when everyone is in cocktail dresses and regular sport coats. We slapped our foreheads like, “oh right LA is less formal than NYC.”

Brooklyn IS, in general, a little less formal than manhattan but a little more formal than LA, so maybe that’s what they’re trying to convey... albeit unhelpfully?

On the other hand, I was also invited to a Palm Springs wedding that directed us toward “desert formal,” and went as far as to give us a lookbook. WHITE HOT RAGE at the audacity!!

Regardless, pls don’t try to turn yourself into an out of date mustachioed suspenders hipster cuz you think that’s what they want.
posted by functionequalsform at 4:01 PM on September 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

What time is the wedding, on what day of the week? This is actually the most salient detail for what is officially appropriate to wear to a wedding. The premise has not changed from the heyday of classic etiquette books, even if the actual garments have shifted slightly in a nod to current fashions.
posted by desuetude at 5:54 PM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

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