From the sari to the perfect tux, much importance is given to being well turned out at a social gathering, and not without good reason
Recently, I got an invitation to an afternoon a�?brunch partya��. The dress code said, a�?formal.a�� I was confused. Formal, for an afternoon brunch? Then I figured that the hosts simply didna��t want guests turning up in jeans, slippers, shorts or sundresses. Writing a�?formala�� was her way to keep invitees on the straight and narrow and well turned out. Otherwise, formal occasions are those when dressing up is the norm. Ita��s usually these instances, such as gala sit down dinners and wedding receptions where you have to mind your sartorial Ps & Qs. Those might be rare, especially in India, but ita��s worth comprehending the meaning of different dress-related terms to understand fully what is being implied. And for those with a stuffed social schedule, therea��s plenty of opportunity for embarrassing sartorial faux pas. Why chance showing up for a sit down dinner in jeans and sandals only to find everyone else in black tie?
So I chatted with etiquette professional and teacher Saloni Duggal who raised some interesting points. a�?Ita��s better to be right than rude,a�? she pointed out, a�?But dona��t let clothes override your confidence. Even if you go in the wrong attire, be confident. And if you have doubts about the dress code, dona��t be afraid to call the host to check.a�?
While genres of business dressing are divided into business casual, semi-formal and formal, the word a�?casuala�� often throws people off, and they end up over-or under-dressing. a�?Business casual can cover blazer, chinos, button-down Oxford shirts, in cotton or linen and even smart jeans. No sneakers. Matching shoes, belt and socks. Always think one step down from a higher level, not more. For women, a sari covers everything from casual soirA�es to black tie events, and if ita��s Western wear, a short or long dress would work.a�? The difference lies in the fabric and colours, she adds. a�?In the daytime, if women want to dress up a look, they can pick pale or light linens, chiffons or crisp cottons in icy colours which reflect the heat. And no diamonds before 5pm is the classic rule, barring tiny studs. A linen number with good sunglasses works right. A handbag and some perfume finish the look.a�? Brighter colours work well at night.
As for a�?business formalsa��, men often think that a suit requires no prior planning, but thata��s not true, says Duggal. a�?Suit, tie and shirt must always be in perfect colour protocol.a�? And just a�?formala�� means black or white tie a�� tuxedo jacket with the requisite white shirt and black bow tie, dark shoes and socks, perhaps with cummerbund or dressy braces. a�?In the Indian context, bandgalas with leather shoes look smart. If you dona��t want a tie, a cravat with a matching pocket square works well. And if youa��re a woman invited to a formal sit down, remember, longer is better when it comes to dress length. And the sari is perfect.a�?
Finally, while dress norms are changing, therea��s something faultless about respecting tradition and dressing right, says Duggal. As the ever wise Euripedes (who never wore a business suit) said some aeons ago, a�?Know first who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.a�?