Classic Wedding

How to Dress for Weddings and Parties, According to Style Experts

WHAT EXACTLY is cocktail attire for men? While dress codes and formalities seem particularly foreign following a global pandemic, cocktail attire is generally about being respectful and thoughtful to both your host and the occasion. While cocktail attire is not as formal as black tie dress codes, it certainly requires a high level of polish and style.

“Cocktail attire straddles business and formal,” says Tom Broecker, the costume designer behind the leading looks in Bros. “As ‘business casual’ becomes more prevalent, it makes cocktail attire confusing.” But let’s be clear: nothing about your cocktail look should read casually.

A suit is your best bet. What type of suit, the shirt you choose, shoes, accessories, and how you style are all key components of the equation of what the full look amounts to. “When you enter a room your clothing speaks before you do,” says celebrity stylist Donté McGuine, who has dressed stars like Evan Mock and Vic Mensa for the red carpet. “It’s up to you to figure out what you would like to say!”

If you truly have no idea what to wear (or how to wear it), the old standby navy, gray, or black suit with a white dress shirt and dress shoes is a no-brainer. Should your personal style be more inventive, separates of similar colors, patterns, or textures are appropriate if they look well thought out and put together. “Monochromatic and tonal looks are subtle yet bold statements,” says McGenuine. “Wearing the hues of one base color says, ‘I’m informed, fun, and distinguished.’”

Context is key. You can always check in with the host (but please, in advance) to ensure you’re aware of any requirements or faux pas. “Know your audience. Know your location. And know the time of day,” says Broecker. “All of those things will help inform your look.” You would not, for example, wear the same look to a family member’s daytime beach wedding as your company’s holiday party, despite both having “cocktail attire” dress codes.

Read more: How to Dress for Beach Weddings

For warmer weather cocktail events like summer weddings, a raise in temperature means lighter colors and fabrics, and often less formalities. Espadrilles may replace oxfords, and a knit polo or patterned shirt may be encouraged over a starchy button up. As the temperature drops, you can try layering fabrics and textures like velvets, knits, and brocades.

“Always err on the side of classic leading style,” says Broecker. “It will never let you down.”

Cocktail Attire Jackets

A well-tailored suit jacket or blazer is the foundation for all occasion dressing. (No pressure.) As Broecker suggests, “You will never feel out of place in a jacket.” While you can always opt for your old standby, this is also a space to lean into seasonal colors and fabrics.

Soft Wool Oxford Suit Jacket
Polo Ralph Lauren Soft Wool Oxford Suit Jacket
Slim Fit Wool Suit Blazer
Mango Slim Fit Wool Suit Blazer
Bedford Charcoal Prince of Wales Alpaca Blend Jacket
Proper Cloth Bedford Charcoal Prince of Wales Alpaca Blend Jacket
Italian Navy Fine Corduroy Sutton Suit Jacket
Todd Snyder Italian Navy Fine Corduroy Sutton Suit Jacket

Cocktail Attire Pants

Gone are the days where all dress pants look the same. When in doubt, choose a shape that flatters your body type and make sure to get them tailored. While Ryan Gosling sticks to a tapered leg, we’re seeing more straight and relaxed cuts for a flattering profile. “The silhouette must have balance and be functional,” suggests McGuine. “Lately the wider leg silhouette on a men’s trouser is the way to go. Brands such as Gucci, Egonlab, and Celine are advocates for this trend.”

Wide Leg Flat Front Trousers
ASOS DESIGN Wide Leg Flat Front Trousers
High-Ridge Cord Carry-On Ford Standard Pant
Buck Mason High-Ridge Cord Carry-On Ford Standard Pant
Bennett Straight Leg Pleated Dress Pants
Zanella Bennett Straight Leg Pleated Dress Pants
Seeing Stripes Cardigan
Bogey Boys Seeing Stripes Cardigan

Cocktail Attire Shirts

When selecting a cocktail appropriate shirt, you really can’t go wrong with a timeless, crisp button-down. Avoid the rookie mistake of not ironing or steaming any wrinkles before you head out! In cooler months, a handsome knit may replace a traditional dress shirt. “When completing a suit I always say go for the turtleneck,” states McGenuine. “It gives a more sophisticated look.”

Bowery Winkle-Free Stretch Cotton Shirt with Spread Collar
J.Crew Bowery Winkle-Free Stretch Cotton Shirt with Spread Collar
Diamond Cotton-Silk Full-Placket Sweater Polo
Todd Snyder Diamond Cotton-Silk Full-Placket Sweater Polo
Extra Fine Merino Turtleneck Long-Sleeve Sweater
UNIQLO Extra Fine Merino Turtleneck Long-Sleeve Sweater
Irregular Wave Printed Organic Cotton Shirt
MR P. Irregular Wave Printed Organic Cotton Shirt

Cocktail Attire Shoes

Stylish dress shoes set the tone for your look. Investing in a pair of trusty loafers or lace-up oxfords that you’ll have for years are always a good idea. A good suit can also look modern when paired with sleek Chelsea boots.

Men's Eastside Plain Toe Oxfords
BOSS Men’s Eastside Plain Toe Oxfords
Welsh Loafers
Aldo Welsh Loafers

Now 29% Off

Harley Suede Boots
AllSaints Harley Suede Boots
Joe Classic Leather Loafers
Sebago Joe Classic Leather Loafers

Cocktail Attire Accessories

Think of accessories as your look’s finishing touches. Where is the event? What vibe do you want to give? Face flattering eyewear, a cool watch, personalized socks, and a belt that ties the look together are all details that won’t go unnoticed. According to McGuine, “Personal style is a reflection of who you are or who you want to become.”

Big City Tortoise Sunglasses
Akila Big City Tortoise Sunglasses
Men's Leather Belt
Bloomingdale’s Men’s Leather Belt
GSHOCK GMWB5000D-1
Casio GSHOCK GMWB5000D-1

Now 11% Off

Personal Edition Luxe Ribbed Socks
Nice Laundry Personal Edition Luxe Ribbed Socks

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