FASHION: Are You Confused About “Appropriate Attire”?

PolitiChicks.comSocially Smart with Shannon Sloane

America is still an exceptional country, so as Americans we should strive to be excellent in all areas of our lives—in business, in relationships, our speech, and the way we walk and dress.

What to Wear

When we ladies receive invitations to various events, the invitation often includes the word, “Attire,” followed by a description which might say one of the following:

Casual ● Casual Friday ● Semi-Casual ● Business Casual ● Smart Casual ● Dressy Casual or Casual Dressy ● Business Formal ● Cocktail (Semi-Formal/After Five) ● Semi-formal ● Festive ● Black-tie Optional ● Creative Black Tie ● Black-tie/White-tie/Formal

That’s quite a list! Is this entire list of options necessary, and are men as confused as we ladies are about what to wear? Probably not, unless they receive an invitation which requests “Creative Black Tie” or “Festive,” but they might occasionally check with their guy friends like we do—only we do it for every event—including going for a walk.

We will only address the most common of these, including business attire. Keep in mind there are even more deviations from the list above.


But first I’d like to address the unbecoming, yet popular, “Walmart outfit”—pajamas! Walmart is fine (unless you have something personal or political against them—e.g. almost everything sold there is made in China), but please don’t wear pajamas in public at Walmart or anywhere. Yes, you are covered—hopefully—but no one wants to see what you wear to bed. No doubt America became more casual in the late 20th century, but I still encourage you to be a cut above those who wear their p.j.’s in public.

What about wearing shorts or jeans with holes—as well as frayed—and tees to your place of worship? If God were going to be in attendance physically, don’t you want to look your best to meet your Creator? He’s there in the Spirit, so He does see you! When your pastor wears shorts to deliver God’s Word, then you’re on your own.

Times Have Changed

I recently came across a re-run of a 50’s television show—the “Donna Reed Show.” The storyline had the Stone family of four boarding a plane for a vacation. The mother was wearing a tailored suit, the father, a suit and tie. The teenage daughter had on a dress with ballet flats, and the teenage son was wearing a suit. I have not seen Americans on a plane in that attire ever in my lifetime, so that might be a bit much in today’s society.

Basics for the Ladies

  • Honor the host’s attire request; if you are specifically unsure, contact the host for clarification.
  • Shoes should never be lighter than your hemline.
  • Dress for your shape. If you’re on the heavy side, dress to camouflage.
  • Bra straps should not be visible.
  • Camisoles and slips should meet at the hemline of your top or skirt.
  • This should be understood, but please don’t wear dirty or wrinkled clothes in public.
  • If you love linen, use a light starch when washing or spray starch when ironing washable linen/ask drycleaners to use a light starch.
  • Always wear natural looking makeup; more dramatic makeup is okay for semi-formal and formal evening events or the stage.
  • Keep in mind the seasons when deciding what to wear.

Office Basics for the Ladies

  • If you’re going to wear low-rise skirts or slacks, consider tucking in your blouse.
  • Revealing necklines and miniskirts are not considered office attire.
  • You can go without stockings in a corporate office if you see someone in a higher position do it first.
  • In a Business Casual office, no stockings might be an exception in the summer; depends upon your office.
  • If you work in a creative environment, don’t bother with stockings.
  • Do not wear “noisy jewelry” to work that could disturb a co-worker such as a dangly bracelet.
  • No visible tattoos
  • Ear studs and nose rings are not acceptable at work.
  • Do not show cleavage except for semi-formal and formal events, then a little cleavage is okay.

Office Basics for the Men

  • Always wear a jacket
  • Don’t wear a cartoonish tie, unless you work in a creative environment.
  • No visible tattoos.
  • Ear studs and nose rings are not acceptable at work.

Pants, Slacks or Trousers?

For men and women, the most commonly used term is pants. The term slacks follows in second place, but it doesn’t include work clothes or jeans. Trousers is a term more often associated with men’s finer pants and worn with a dressier shirt, jacket or blazer.

Casual Friday at the Office

Consider for men and women alike, the following clothing items are not considered acceptable in the workplace: sloppy tees, slogans on tees, sweats, jeans with holes or frayed edges, pajamas and flip flops. Sneakers, flats (loafers with no socks for the guys) are fine. Refer to the “Casual” category.

Everyday Casual

Ladies: Pants/Skirts: jeans (no holes or frays), khakis, nice shorts (not revealing), denim or cotton skirt. Top: tanks, nice tees with sleeves and no slogans, blouse (sleeveless is okay). Leg/Foot Covering: None unless you choose. Socks are optional. Shoes: sneakers, sandals, flats, one-inch heels. Jewelry: keep it simple and casual, but fun.

Gents: Pants: jeans (no holes or frays), khakis, nice shorts (not hanging on the ground)/ Shirt: nice tees with sleeves, no slogans, button down shirt, polo shirt (or sweater, depending upon the climate). Shoes: sneakers, sandals, loafers. Socks are optional.


Think of this as the “clean-cut,” well-groomed and professional business look.

Ladies: Slacks/Pants/Skirts: khakis, slacks, knee length skirt. Top: blouse, shell with optional matching cardigan sweater. Leg coverings: light colored stockings optional. Shoes: closed-toe shoes. Jewelry: tasteful, nothing gaudy.

Gents:       Slacks/Pants: khakis or dress slacks. Shirt: polo shirt, shirt with a collar, sweater, no necktie. Think neutral and dark colors. Shoes: Loafers with coordinated socks.

Business Casual

This is clothing for the office, or you might receive an invitation that requests “Business Casual” attire.

Ladies:      Slacks/Skirts: dress slacks, cropped pants with matching jacket. Knee-length skirt. Top: collared blouse (sleeveless is okay and wear it tucked in), shell, optional coordinated jacket or cardigan sweater. Leg/Foot Coverings: light-colored or coordinated stockings. Shoes: closed-toe shoes. Shoes: closed-toe, one to two inch pumps. Jewelry: Simple, understated.

Gents:       Slacks: Chinos, blazer. Shirt: nice shirt, no tie. Shoes: pull-on shoes or boots with matching belt and coordinated socks.

Evening Events

These events are times for us to look elegant and sophisticated.

Cocktail/Semi-formal/After Five

Rule of thumb: The later in the evening the event is, the dressier you want to be.

Ladies:      Slacks/Dress/Skirt: Everything is dressy: skirts, knee length dress (black is best), slacks, blouse, black stockings. Tops: sleeveless or sleeves, ruffled blouse, sequined shell/jacket. Leg/Foot Covering: black stockings. Shoes: closed-toe, sequined heels or dress up a shoe with a matching bow or a sequined bow. Jewelry/Accessories: small matching evening bag. Glam it up, but don’t wear fake-looking jewelry, bold but not gaudy. Your necklace should not conflict with the neckline of your dress or top. Sometimes just earrings will suffice. A little cleavage is okay.

Gents:       Slacks: dark or light suit (depends on the season). Shirt: dress shirt with coordinated tie. Shoes: Leather dress shoes with coordinated socks.


White tie is a very formal event where men wear a tuxedo tailcoat (tails) and women wear ball gowns

We might see a male celebrity on the Academy Awards’ Red Carpet in a tuxedo accompanied by sneakers, which makes us think “formal” is subjective and, after all, you don’t want to be overdressed or even underdressed. Hollywood is Hollywood and anything goes; however, consider the safest ideas.

Ladies:      Dress/Skirt: ball gowns, knee length semi-formal dress, or exquisite skirt (knee length or maxi) with a sophisticated and dressy blouse. Leg/Foot Covering: black stockings. Shoes: Closed-toe, sequined heels or dress up a shoe with a matching bow or a sequined bow. Jewelry: tasteful jewelry, nothing fake-looking. A little cleavage is okay.

Gents:       Tuxedo/Suit: Tuxedo or a dark suit and tie with a coordinated tuxedo shirt, tie and pocket square. These can be made from a handkerchief (or hanky as my grandmother called them); pre-made pocket squares can be purchased. Shoes: Leather dress shoes with coordinated socks.

Shannon Sloane

Shannon Sloane holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Arts from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma and a Master's Degree in Biblical Counseling from the Master's College in Los Angeles, California. When she was in high school, she co-hosted a Christian music radio program and at 16, she was crowned Miss San Diego in the Supreme Beauty and Talent Pageant. After getting her Master's Degree, she became the Director of a Crisis Pregnancy Center and has counseled hundreds of young women seeking abortions. For five years, she was the Dove Girl for the Gospel Music Association's international broadcast of the Dove Awards (honoring Christian singers, musicians and songwriters). Shannon can be contacted at and on Twitter @HeartofVirtue.

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