Decoding your office holiday party invitation

holiday cocktails

Festive? Cocktail? Or festive cocktail? The language of party invitations is key to cracking the dress code, well, code. Following are some cues to heed in your choice of attire. And heed away. There is a return to an interest in dressing with intent (thanks in part to a movement against ‘Casual Fridays’ getting too casual). Taking pleasure in dressing for a sense of occasion has triumphed over huffing about having to fuss with a suit or cocktail dress. Wear the hell out of that formal wear.

If you’re fortunate enough to be invited to an event that calls for black tie, why not fully embrace it? Wearing your best can be a point of pride, as well as a nod of respect to your host.

While you open your closet, consider falling nicely in the middle of the sartorial spectrum. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you don’t want to be the flashiest person in the room, but you don’t want to be the most underdressed.

Black tie|
Men

  • Black tuxedo jacket and trousers
  • Crisp white formal shirt with button studs and cuff links
  • Bow tie (or formal long tie, smart tie clip optional, as is pocket square)
  • Cummerbund or vest
  • Black patent shoes and black dress socks

Women

  • Floor length evening gown, or dressy cocktail dress
  • Evening heels or shoes (fabric over leather, often)
  • Formal accessories (not the handbag you schlep to the office, for example) and hair very done

Semiformal or Cocktail

Men

  • Dark suit
  • Crisp, pressed dress shirt
  • Tie, cuff links, tie pin if you’re feeling it
  • Leather dress shoes and dark dress socks

Women

  • Cocktail dress, top and skirt combination or smart pantsuit in an evening fabric
  • As dolled up in accessories as you like: jewellery, handbag and shoes
 
Business Formal – a slightly less smart or formal version of the above for both men and women
Festive Cocktail
Men
  • Relaxed cocktail attire, but a bit more ease. A vest over a dress shirt. Reindeer sweater is not required (be relaxed, but not costumey)
Women
Business Casual

Are jeans ok for business casual? If the function and occasion are more casual than business, then yes, but opt for your darkest, pristine denim.

Men
  • Blazer or sport coat in a seasonally appropriate fabric
  • Casual dress shirt (tie is optional) or collared polo
  • Loafers (if wearing socks, they should be good socks, not white gym socks. And hipsters may bare ankle as they see fit).

Women

  • Casual dress (nothing strapless or too precious) or a shirt with skirt or pant
  • Keep the business in “business casual” – nothing too slinky or bombshell
  • Wedges, modest heels or a smart flat (look no further than Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge for a study in casual)

Cocktail Hour – Ode to the Negroni

When I don’t know what I want to drink, or what to serve friends, I default to a Negroni.

A classic cocktail with three ingredients, this drink doesn’t require a minor in mixology or complicated bar equipment (you don’t even need a shaker) — and yet it is a damn solid drink.

Classic cocktails stand the test of time and the Negroni has earned its rightful position as staple drink. If you like, you can make these with painstaking love, one glass at a time, with finite precision with your garnish, but there is no need to get too precious. The beauty of this drink is its steadfast simplicity: a 1 to 1 to 1 ratio of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. If entertaining a group, you can cheat by making a batch (just don’t add ice too far in advanced when making by the batch, it will melt and spoil your concoction).

Negronis belong in the martini family in the true sense of the term: straight alcohol, not a splash of anything. They pack a punch and have a beautiful complexity about them. Not too sweet, not too bitter and a gorgeous colour. The rich red of Campari screams summer for me, la dolce vita in a glass.

The drink was invented by a Count (really) who worked as a rodeo cowboy, if that’s any indication of the drink’s stock. Not a wimpy cocktail.

You will need:
• Gin
• Campari
• Sweet vermouth
• An orange
• Ice

Here’s how to put it all together — the perfect Negroni, in one minute.

(Originally published for The Huffington Post Canada, June 2012)