Helping Men to Dress for Formal Events

Written by Amy Pusey (last updated August 5, 2020)

'The clothes make the man.' That statement could not be truer when dressing a man for a formal event. Women usually always want to dress appropriately and look their best for every occasion. But, some of you may be surprised to discover that most men really want to look their best, especially when they attend special events, but are afraid to ask for advice.

The invitation is the key to deciphering how men should dress for an event. When it comes to a formal occasion, the dressing options for men become more limited, which actually makes it easier for them to figure out what to wear. How great is that? The basics to formal wear include:

  • Semi-Formal: Calls for a good suit in a dark color, preferably black or midnight blue. A sharp-looking dress shirt should complete the look with a traditionally conservative tie. This is not the occasion for ties with a lot of razzmatazz because the attention does not belong on you. A good pair of dress shoes will finish the ensemble.
  • Black Tie Optional: The choice is up to you of wearing either a dark-colored fine suit or a tuxedo. Whichever you select will be deemed appropriate for events noting the option on the invitation. Wear the one in which you feel most comfortable.
  • Black Tie: This is the Big Kahuna of men's formal attire. If your invitation indicates black tie, it means you are to be fitted in a complete tuxedo ensemble, no exceptions.

A finishing touch that can make or break the look of your formal wear is your shoes. Simply put, if you are wearing a fine suite then wear a complimentary dark dress shoe, usually in black. However, if you are wearing a tuxedo, wear a patent leather tuxedo shoe if the tuxedo is trimmed with satin; otherwise, wear a matte finish tuxedo shoe if the tuxedo is trimmed in grosgrain.

When it comes to formal occasions, there are certain articles of clothing and accessories that all men should have on hand in their closets. Most men will rarely have occasion to wear a tuxedo, so renting an appropriate ensemble is always an option. For all other occasions, men should have access to:

  • Fine Suit. This should be either a fitted, tailored suit or an off-the-rack suit of excellent quality. Choose a dark color suitable for any occasion, such as black, dark grey, or navy blue. It should be single-breasted and medium weight, so it can be worn for most seasons and will last longer.
  • White Dress Shirt. The must-have garment to add a crisp, elegant look to suits or dress trousers. Get a few with different collar styles, including wide and button-down.
  • Trousers. A nice pair of trousers will complete any look that does not require a full suit. Select medium weight wool, which lasts longer and holds shape, with side seam pickets and no front pleating. Definitely have pairs on hand in black, navy, and grey, but it is also nice to have a couple of pairs in light colors for the warmer months.
  • Ties. Some men think it is funny or cute to express a sense of humor by wearing a silly tie to a special event. It is neither, and you only end up looking ridiculous, so think of the person who has extended an invitation to you and not about yourself. Select a variety of ties for your wardrobe, from solid color conservative ties to ones with more color and design.
  • Dress Belts. Definitely have at least one dress belt in black and one in brown to coordinate with your suits and trousers. Men should always coordinate the color of their belts with their shoes.

If there is one skill every man needs to know, it would be them knowing how to properly tie a tie. Loose, uneven, and messy knots can ruin the look of your suit or tuxedo. Every man should learn to tie both a Windsor Tie Knot, which can be worn with any dress shirt, and the Four-in-the-Hand Tie Knot, which is perfect for button-down dress shirts. The best way to learn is to stand in front of the mirror and practice, practice, practice. Oh, and no clip-on ties!

Author Bio

Amy Pusey

With over 18 years experience in operations and human-resource management, Amy Pusey uses her skills in her consulting and freelance writing activities. She is a freelance writer for, as well as a resume writer for ...


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