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Style Advice

Style SOS: What do I wear to a dinner party?

Style SOS: What do I wear to a dinner party?

"Now that lockdown is easing, my friends are starting to host more dinner parties. What is the appropriate dress code? I feel like my jeans and tee aren't cutting it – and neither are the sweat pants I've been wearing around the house?" Adam via Instagram.

You’re certainly not alone in the struggle to nail the perfect outfit for an evening in with friends, Adam. It feels like 2020 is throwing us new fashion dilemmas at every turn, and while looking good might not have been top of your agenda in the midst of a pandemic, with lockdown lifting, it’s time to start considering how to dress for social occasions again.

Nobody wants to be the person who is over- or under-dressed at a dinner party, so think along the lines of what you might wear to a casual restaurant or bar with friends. Turning up in a hoodie and sweatpants looks like you don’t care about the effort your host has made, but a full suit isn’t going to be enjoyable to sit in all evening.

“Wear things that make you feel comfortable,” stylist Artemis Crowley says. “That way you can focus your attention on the people you’re with.” Drawstring trousers will keep you comfy while sitting and eating so you won’t be having to open your fly or loosen your belt buckle. On top, a camp collar shirt worn over a t-shirt strikes the perfect smart casual balance as it’s naturally loose-fitting, and can be worn open for postprandial comfort.

An easy rule of thumb for smart casual dressing is to balance the elements, for example a rugby shirt paired with dark-wash jeans and Vans, or light cotton trousers with a relaxed denim shirt. Remember to bring a merino jumper in case it’s chilly later on, and make small efforts like ensuring that your shoes are clean, even if you’re going to be taking them off as soon as you arrive.

Dinner parties can also be a good opportunity to try something a little more adventurous. “If there’s an item that you might ordinarily find too smart or impractical for everyday wear, like wider-legged trousers or statement shoes, this could be a safe environment to experiment in,” Artemis says. Balance the bolder element of your outfit with safer, more neutral pieces to avoid feeling self-conscious.

“An evening out like this could also be a good moment to try some colours or patterns that you might not wear in the daytime,” A bold patterned shirt with an unstructured blazer and utility chinos, linen trousers, or light-wash denim jeans is a perfect smart casual combination. “Dressing in a way that feels comfy while still showing that you’ve made a bit of an effort doesn’t have to be boring or insincere,” Artemis says. “It’s a nice way to honour the efforts of your dinner host.”

Words: Ella White
Illustration: Ryan Gillett