Oh, what to wear!
April 18, 2006 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Invitation to a ball. Which dress option would you choose?

The invitation specifies "Formal Attire / National Dress / Suit". I'm unclear about "Formal Attire" first of all - does that mean tuxedo / dinner jacket? It's at this place, which looks swanky but I don't know it. I'm Irish, so a convincing national dress seems out of the question. If I go for a suit, is a light colour inappropriate for an evening ball?

Can any of our more sartorially aware colleagues help me?
[I'm male, if I didn't make that clear]
posted by ciaron to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total)
Formal attire means a tuxedo or dinner jacket, yes. If 'suit' is an option along with formal attire, they generally mean black. You might get away with navy or charcoal, as well, but a light colour will probably stand out and make you look underdressed.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:33 PM on April 18, 2006

A tuxedo or good dark suit will be fine.
posted by Nelson at 2:36 PM on April 18, 2006

A chateau? Go with a tux or dinner jacket for sure. For a stunning entrance, check this AskMe thread.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:51 PM on April 18, 2006

Formal means dinner jacket/tuxedo. The inclusion of suit implies that a black, navy, or dark grey suit won't be too out of place. Do not go any lighter, because you will look too casual.
posted by jlkr at 2:53 PM on April 18, 2006

I've always read formal as "Tuxedo", but it depends if the ball is being held for charity or *specifically* for fancy dress…
posted by alan at 3:09 PM on April 18, 2006

At a minimum, I'd go for a dark-coloured suit. (Dark charcoal, perhaps)

Don't wear a black suit unless the occasion is a funeral.
posted by I Love Tacos at 3:29 PM on April 18, 2006

A tux is more fun to wear than a suit anyhow. Go all the way. Buy if you can! And tie your own bowtie over a point collar.

I agree with avoiding a black suit -- a nice gray or navy chalkstripe suit looks like you decided to wear a suit, but a black suit looks like you're hoping people will think it's a tux.
posted by mendel at 4:05 PM on April 18, 2006

when doing tux, do notched lapels on an all-season wool. dinner jackets with shawl collars in satin look great in photography but ridiculously attention-starved in person. in the rear, double vents smooth out any junk in the trunk. single vent with slight taper to the line of the coat makes your waist thinner. buy a beautiful set of cufflinks. and, for christ's sake, wear a real tie.

if you're buying and want something that'll last forever, calvin klein does a great classic tux for not much cash.
posted by patricking at 4:37 PM on April 18, 2006

I read "formal attire" as a dark suit, perhaps a 3-piece. Cuff links instead of buttons etc. If they wanted a tux, they would have said "black tie" - or at least that's my experience with formal events.
posted by meerkatty at 5:20 PM on April 18, 2006

I looked at the photos - definitely a tuxedo.
posted by junesix at 6:33 PM on April 18, 2006

Do you have reason to believe that no one else (or at most a few others) will be wearing a tux? If not, I would absolutely go with a tuxedo.

In fact, go with the nicest tuxedo you can afford. Really go all out. Go to several tuxedo rental shops and ask them to help you select a good look. (But consider buying one if you think you'll be invited to such balls a few more times.) Make sure you try on whatever they suggest. If they don't have whatever they are recommending ask to try on something similar. Take a picture of yourself (with a cell phone or digital camera). Then go home and have your date (if you are taking one) or a friend with great taste help you select which you like the best.

Better yet, get a friend (likely a young woman) with great taste and treat her to lunch in exchange for spending the day going to a couple of shops and trying stuff on. You'll end up loving the results of the time invested.
posted by oddman at 6:53 PM on April 18, 2006

Nationl Attire means a kilt or other ethnic dress. Wear whatever you might wear to a wedding if you were in the wedding party and you won't go wrong.
posted by fshgrl at 8:25 PM on April 18, 2006

Men look great in tuxedos. Irish national dress for men is a kilt. As good as a man looks in a tux, a kilt is even better. You can't lose either way.
posted by theora55 at 8:35 PM on April 18, 2006

A tux is overkill. If you were supposed to wear a tux, the invite would have said "Black Tie." I just attended a "Formal" event a month ago, and all of the men wore dark suits.
posted by gatorae at 8:38 PM on April 18, 2006

When in doubt dress up, not down.
posted by ChasFile at 10:03 PM on April 18, 2006

"Black Tie" is just a form of "Formal" meaning you have to wear a tux, whereas with just "formal" you can get away with a dark suit, if you want to or must. Here are some definitions of party dress terms.

My husband I used to go to loads of charity balls, and he wore dark suits at first until he got his own tux. I agree with Chasfile that when in doubt dress up. You're guaranteed not to look out of place in a tux, and if you don't get the chance to really dress up often and can afford it, I'd say go for a nice tuxedo. It'll fun, and you'll look dashing. :)
posted by Orb at 3:15 AM on April 19, 2006

Thanks for all the pointers. I'm tending towards a buying a good dark suit rather than a tux which I would probably rarely wear, although I will explore the tux rental option too.
posted by ciaron at 5:08 AM on April 19, 2006

I'll join th chorus. When in doubt, dress up.
posted by oddman at 9:32 AM on April 19, 2006

Gatorae: maybe so, but that was probably in the US. Europe is (in general) more formal than the US. The inclusion of suit on the invite indicates that a dark suit is appropriate. Otherwise, wearing a dark suit would probably be underdressing for the occasion.
posted by jlkr at 9:08 AM on April 20, 2006

« Older Is it libel?   |   Take it off! It burns us, it does! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.