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What Is Informal Attire?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 21, 2024
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Informal attire is a mode of dress that is meant to be less formal than a tuxedo, while still providing more formal clothing than casual dress. For men, this type of clothing usually consists of a two piece suit. For women, it often consists of a similar outfit, with a woman’s suit jacket matched with a skirt and blouse, or a dress. Since the name for this style can be misconstrued and confused with casual wear, it is often called business attire or western business.

The most common way in which a man can dress in informal attire is by wearing a two-piece suit. This suit consists of a jacket and pants that are made to match, typically in a dark color such as black, dark gray, or navy blue. A vest can be worn with this as part of a three-piece suit, though it is not required; the belt should match the pants and dark socks and shoes are usually worn with such clothing. This type of attire is usually finished with a long-sleeve shirt, usually a contrasting color such as a white shirt with a dark suit, and a tie that complements the complete outfit.

Informal attire for a woman can provide a wider range of options, though women can wear similar garments. A woman’s suit is often worn in settings in which men are expected to wear a suit, which typically consists of a jacket and a matching skirt or slacks. Women often have more choices for the style of blouse they wear, though it should complement the suit in much the same way as a man’s shirt and tie. A woman can also wear a dress as part of informal attire, though it should be fashionable and stylish in a way that is professional in appearance.

The name “informal attire” can be misleading for some people, though it is meant to indicate less formality than other styles. Very formal clothing usually refers to “white tie” outfits that include a white bow tie over a white shirt, with a jacket that includes long tails. Formal wear often consists of “black tie” attire that is similar but has a black bow tie and a dinner jacket without tails; women often wear evening gowns for both levels of formality. Casual clothing is “below” informal attire in this type of categorization, and often consists of jeans, shorts, and t-shirts.

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Discussion Comments
By anon356257 — On Nov 23, 2013

I've personally always seen a very strong line between "informal" and "casual" wear, though the line between "informal" and "dressy casual" is blurred, at best.

Perhaps the biggest errors I've seen are from men and women who wear jeans to informal events, or women who wear the flashiest cocktail outfits. When it doubt, dress more conservatively. Suits are always a safe bet. Men could possibly do a nice sweater with professional slacks, though this is bordering into more "dressy casual" wear. I've seen men wear a Polo shirt with Dockers, though again, this would be bordering into "dressy casual."

By Ana1234 — On Aug 11, 2013

@indigomoth - I think it depends on where you live as well. Informal attire is going to be different in different places. I can't imagine the latest software and internet millionaires dressing up in suits in order to have a business meeting.

But then, I guess they would call that kind of dress code something different. I'm not sure how that works.

By indigomoth — On Aug 11, 2013

@bythewell - It's actually really fascinating how the rules have changed over the years, particularly in regard to what women can wear in these situations. I think informal attire has changed the most for them, because once you get to the more formal wear, they still basically wear long dresses, no matter what the occasion, but with informal attire they can wear either a cocktail dress or a suit, the same as the men can.

I can definitely see why they would want to move into wearing suits, because this is the kind of clothing that people wear to business meetings. Even the name "cocktail dress" screams "not to be taken seriously", while a person in a suit is all about seriousness.

It was relatively recently that women started wearing suits though. Sometimes we forget how far we've come in a short time.

By bythewell — On Aug 10, 2013

I always thought informal attire basically meant the same as casual, so it's a good thing that I've never had to wear it anywhere! I find it really bizarre that there are still so many strictures around this kind of dressing up. It seems like there are so many rules to follow, you almost have to have a university degree in clothing styles to follow it and still stay trendy and modern.

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