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Party Language

We answer that pesky party question: What should I wear?

As our inboxes and mailboxes fill up with invitations to the season’s most promising holiday parties, the question on everyone’s mind is, “What do I wear?”

The language on the aforementioned invitations is often so vague that guests really don’t know how to dress. If only hosts would tell us, simply, “T-shirts and jeans.” But that’s not very realistic — nor is it very Dallas.

What was once “black-tie” has become "black-tie optional,” and cocktail attire has morphed into “cocktail chic.” Then there’s business, business casual and cowboy chic. But, really, what does it all mean?

What kind of wardrobe do you need to survive in the Dallas social world? Fear not, brave partygoers. We’re here to help.


At Two x Two First Look, fashions — and footwear — were edgier, to suit the artsy crowd.

Catherine Rose, Will Rose, Merry Vose, Chad Vose Photo by Lisa Stewart
Catherine Rose, Will Rose, Merry Vose, Chad Vose

Black Tie Optional: When you have a choice and you don't want to wear a tux, opt for a solid-color suit. Ladies should still wear their finest gowns, a silky pant suit or a tea-length dress. 

Pictured: Catherine and Will Rose and Merry and Chad Vose at Two x Two for AIDS and Art

Keith Cerny, Jennifer Cerny Photo by Robert Bostick
Keith Cerny, Jennifer Cerny

Black Tie: Men need to wear tuxedos (any kind, preferably black). Women should don an elegant, fitted gown. Wear a jewel tone or textured solid to stand out from the well-heeled crowd.

Pictured: Jennifer and Keith Cerny at Dallas Opera First Night.

Barbara Daseke Photo by Robert Bostick
Barbara Daseke

Cowboy Chic or Western Attire: Don't be the odd man out. Pull out your bolo ties; cowboy hats; fringed jackets; fancy boots; and chunky, Texas-sized jewelry. Get country cool — and own it. 

Pictured: Barbara Daseke at Cattle Baron's Ball

Thad Smith, Sarah Smith, Charlie Beck, Stacey Beck Photo by Robert Bostick
Thad Smith, Sarah Smith, Charlie Beck, Stacey Beck

Cocktail Chic: Guys can undo a couple of buttons and mix a blazer with solid slacks. Ladies should choose something silky, sparkly and short. 

Pictured: Sarah and Thad Smith and Stacey and Charlie Beck at Art + Advocacy

Austin Ames, Amanda Callahan, Chart Westcott James Edward Photography
Austin Ames, Amanda Callahan, Chart Westcott

Business Casual: Men should leave the ties at home; a nice sports jacket and open button-down with jeans is perfect. Ladies should not limit themselves to a plain black dress. It's all about understated elegance with unique fabric and textures. And never be afraid of a print.

Pictured: Austin Ames, Amanda Callahan and Chart Westcott at Rock N' Runway

Tracy Madans, CB Rosser Photo by Robert Bostick
Tracy Madans, CB Rosser

Formal attire for a themed party: Go all out. There's no sense in attending the party if you're not going to participate properly. 

Pictured: Tracy Madans and CB Rosser at Escapade