What To Wear To A Formal Dinner – 3 Basic Rules 2018

Last Updated: December 3, 2017

Let’s face it… most of us aren’t clothes horses like Don Draper or Harvey Specter, who could probably wear casuals to a formal dinner and get away with it! But considering what to wear to a formal dinner is not rocket science. Here is our three-step guide to the process.

what to wear to a formal dinner

The question of what to wear to a formal dinner is sufficient to strike terror even into the hearts of people who are accustomed to a strict office dress code. As with most things in fashion, the rules are actually quite simple, and a formal dinner code is even simpler again.

The simplicity of the best rules to follow around formal well is somewhat masked by the sheer choice of items available. You could opt for a classic black tuxedo from Calvin Klein, for example, or, if you feeling adventurous, a white formal dinner jacket > (although be careful; this only works for a few people), and there is a huge range of accessories available such as pocket squares and other items to add a dash of personality to your outfit.

It boils down to three basic rules: knowing the dress code; choosing the tie carefully; and considering what not to wear. You need never again be confounded when considering what to wear to a formal dinner.


1. Know The Code

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Image Source: Jacamo.co.uk

At the very least, formal wear for a dinner should be a step up from the usual work outfit. Styles may vary between groups, between times of the year and the venue, but usually hover around the same formula of shirt and jacket, with subtle changes being the key to matching the style of the group.

For a formal occasion, we hate to be ‘boring’, but a conservative approach, with some very subtle tweaks and modifications, is usually best. As regards the importance of knowing the code in relation to what to wear to a formal dinner, check out this brief video

video source: Jacamo on YouTube



2. Choose the Tie Carefully

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For the standard, conventional formal business dinner, dark-coloured ties are absolutely the way to go. Forget about loud colours or anything that has a pattern, as that will make you stand out in all the ways that you don’t want to. A dark, great quality tie, has just enough class to mark you out, without leaving you standing out like a sore thumb. A tuxedo jacket and black or navy tie will work well.

However, in the case of “creative black tie” events, guests can usually tear up the script to an extent, or at least move away from the traditional suits and accessories, and look to colours and patterns and other alternatives. An extensive range of top-quality ties and bow ties is also available for formal wear, such as this offering from SetSense, available as a set with a pocket square

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3. Be cautious, if in doubt about what to wear to a formal dinner

what to wear to a formal dinner

Image Source: AMC

A word of caution on white jackets. White jackets are only for some, and are not the best choice unless:

1. you are Don Draper (above) from Mad Men, or Harvey Specter (see below) from Suits;

2. the invitation specifies white, or;

3. the event is a summery daytime gathering.

Stay classic and avoid copying celebrities with unique styles, while khakis and polo shirts are also never to be considered.

what to wear to a formal dinner