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File photo shows President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Black-tie events usually have a guest hierarchy, beginning with the hosts and any honourees, VVIPs and VIPs, and the rest.

Durban - Are you a repeat offender when it comes to dress code? Get it right this festive season, with a little help from The Style Bible by Simon Rademan (Random House Struik)


Informal (casual)

An informal event has no prescribed rules, and usually not even a formal invitation. Basically a get-together with friends or family; you can dress as you prefer in whatever makes you comfortable. But please remember that being comfortable does not necessarily mean that you look great.

Pyjamas are comfortable, but you wouldn’t want others to see you in them.Your gardening clothes may also be comfortable, but you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing your dirty dungarees and Crocs to the mall to meet your girlfriends. Informal attire these days could mean jeans and a T-shirt (though day shirts or tops – separates, are preferable), and therefore special attention must be given to hygiene and general neatness. What you wear should still be something that works well for your figure type – as should everything you wear to any event.


Copy of nm style bible

The Style Bible by Simon Rademan


Respectable (smart-casual)

This may be the most popular look today and probably the one you depend on whenever you step out in public. Appropriate for almost any get-together, smart-casual is much like a day suit, except that it relies on accessories. Having a second pair of shoes at the ready in the boot of your car, different pairs of earrings in your handbag or an elastic band in your pocket are simple yet effective ways to dress up or dress down your outfit before or at an event.

It can be as easy as wearing your hair up or down – if you find you require a smarter look, gather your hair in a stylish up-do or, if a more casual atmosphere prevails, tie it back in a ponytail or loosely comb it out. Swopping out accessories, smart-casual can take you from the office to after-work drinks with minimal fuss.


Day suit (smart)

This is probably the equivalent of our grandmother’s Sunday best. It is worn to more relaxed, informal daytime functions, such as those in the brunch, lunch and morning or afternoon tea hours. You will find that food is not the main focus at these events, with sweet and/or savoury snack platters, soft drinks, champagne, coffee and tea the norm.

Nothing should be too matchy-matchy, and dark colours must be avoided. Fabrics are lighter and styles more flowy, reflecting comfort, but with class. Trousers/pants styles on some figure types are permissible, but nothing says “woman” like a dress. Men are required to wear a jacket, but no tie, and may remove the jacket during the event.


Jackets required (semi-formal)

Celebrations like birthdays, engagements and product launches require semi-formal wear. Women are allowed to show some leg, so tea, ballerina or knee-length dresses are acceptable, as is the LBD. Men should wear dark coloured suits with a tie if necessary.


Cocktail (elegant)

Cocktail parties are classy affairs, lukewarm functions that are often held at sunset. Although variable, cocktail parties should not last longer than two hours. They are designed to be held after work and should leave guests free to attend some other function afterwards. Canapés are usually served on platters to guests standing around.

The cocktail party was made famous by the 1920s flappers and is still favoured. For women, the higher the shoe, the shorter the dress may become. There is much room to play with different dress styles; only ball gowns and gowns with trains are a no-go, as the excess fabric gets in the way of mingling guests. Men may also experiment with their look. What they wear may be influenced by the dress code of the next event they are going to.


Black tie (formal)

Women must wear full-length gowns, but accessories such as gloves and tiaras are optional. Men – tuxedos with black (pre-tied) bow ties and either minor-waist covering or none at all. Suit jackets may have silk or shiny lapels and the pants may have a stripe running down the sides. Black-tie events usually have a guest hierarchy, beginning with the hosts and any honourees, VVIPs and VIPs, and the rest. Whenever royalty gather for a more informal function, they wear black tie. A sit-down three-course meal is often served and strict etiquette is observed.


White tie (elite)

This is the most formal dress code, reserved for events involving royalty, heads of state and the military. Almost without exception, they take place after 6pm. Men and women with titles – royals, presidents and prime ministers – wear official uniform, complete with a sash and medals. Women are to wear fully lined full-length gowns with gloves, very tiny handbags and crowns or tiaras. Men must wear white bow ties, tails and some form of waist covering. Very specific protocol is observed at these events.


Traditional (culture perfect)

The most interesting dress code is traditional. Often expected to be more formal, this is where people get to celebrate their own cultures and heritages. You may recognise the Dalai Lama’s orange robe, Nelson Mandela’s African “Madiba” shirt, the turban of the Arab sheiks, Indian saris, Zulu leopard print and feathers, and regalia worn by Pope Francis. If you are to be a cultural ambassador, remember that you are there to represent an entire nation. Do not mock or impersonate different cultures. Respectfully showcase your own. - The Mercury

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