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How Do I Choose the Best Formal Attire?

Alex Tree
Alex Tree

You can choose the best formal attire by taking into consideration the occasion and location of the event. These aspects of a party are usually the determining factors regarding what guests are expected to wear. For women, the best formal attire generally consists of a conservative dress or gown on par with the formality of what the male attendees are wearing. When in doubt on what to wear, reread your invitation, ask a friend who also plans to attend, or contact the host of the event. As a rule, the best attire fits your body shape well, but to achieve this you may need to have one or more pieces of the outfit altered.

The best formal attire depends largely on the occasion. Events often have a dress code that could make some forms of attire inappropriate, even if it is relatively formal. If you received a wedding or dinner invitation, read the invite in full for any mention of what kind of attire is expected. For example, two common kinds of formal wear are black tie and white tie, which are simple terms for a suit and black tie and a tuxedo with a white tie, respectively.

Formal attire for men.
Formal attire for men.

Women’s formal attire is usually much different from men’s attire. Even in countries where the garment is essentially the same, it is often more socially acceptable for women to don more colorful patterns. A general rule of formal women’s attire is to avoid showing too much shoulder and cleavage. Less conservative pieces may be more acceptable at casual to semi-formal events but, in general, formal events are fairly conservative.

An evening gown, formal attire for women.
An evening gown, formal attire for women.

Choosing the best formal attire to wear also depends on the location of the event. Formal wear in the United States and the United Kingdom can be much different from what is commonly worn in other countries. For instance, at a very formal event in Japan, a person may be expected to wear a kimono.

Most clothing is cut to fit the ideal consumer, but few consumers have the exact measurements required for a perfect fit. Magazine models and mannequins alike are usually covered in pins or clips to gather up loose fabric and make the clothing fit perfectly. To get this kind of fit permanently, you will need to take your formal attire to a tailor. If possible, speak to a tailor about your desired look before purchasing a formal outfit, in case he or she has tips on what to buy.

Discussion Comments


@bythewell - There are definitely degrees of formal dress wear and not all of them are going to cost the earth. For one thing, it's perfectly possible to get a some really nice formal dresses from a second hand store. Whenever I've needed something for, say, formal wedding attire, I've hit the thrift stores and almost always found something suitable.

And even if you're buying new, there are plenty of off the rack dresses that would look good and not cost too much. It's the same as anything, there are always going to be the very high end pieces, for people who go to Hollywood red carpet events, and then there are the dresses you can find in an average department store for a few hundred dollars or even less.

Personally, I think people put a little bit too much emphasis on labels, but I do have to admit that often the high end dresses look more like art than clothing and maybe that justifies the price tag.


I love looking at formal evening attire, although I've never had the chance to wear any of it. It seems quite alien to me to buy a really fancy dress that is probably only going to be worn a few times. I know that handbags can cost tens of thousands of dollars, so I can only imagine what a really upscale formal dress might cost.


If you want something beautiful but can't afford a normal tailor, you might want to have a look online. If you're willing to settle for sending your measurements by email (which won't be as good as if you were there in person, but will probably still be better than something off the rack) you can pick up something for quite a reasonable cost, and it will still be fairly unique and well made.

Most people who are going to the kinds of events that require formal wear attire will be able to afford a local tailor as well, but for one-off events like a prom, it might be worth doing this.

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    • Formal attire for men.
      By: caimacanul
      Formal attire for men.
    • An evening gown, formal attire for women.
      An evening gown, formal attire for women.
    • People typically dress up for formal dinners.
      By: kiptutku
      People typically dress up for formal dinners.
    • Men sometimes wear a boutonniere with formal attire.
      By: Eric Limon
      Men sometimes wear a boutonniere with formal attire.
    • Formal attire may include a black tie.
      By: photographmd
      Formal attire may include a black tie.
    • The traditional kimono is still worn in Japan, but is mostly saved for special occasions such as weddings.
      By: miya227
      The traditional kimono is still worn in Japan, but is mostly saved for special occasions such as weddings.