Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

The 5 O’Clock Conundrum

(Forgive my tardiness these days. Much goings on. I’ve just returned from my daughter’s Junior Kindergarten “graduation”.)

A reader wrote to ask my opinion on wedding dress and as it’s that time of year (really, when isn’t it?) and the topic relates to my next article for GRID magazine, I thought I hash it out a bit with you, dear readers. The wedding was held at 5 PM. Here’s an excerpt from the emailed question:

I fretted (probably too much) over what to wear to the wedding. I decided on a coral sheath dress with a soft gold bib necklace, small gold and rhinestone Ralph Lauren hoop earrings, very soft gold open-toed pumps and a vintage pearl, small clutch. I felt very comfortable in what I wore, but would like your feedback. To my surprise, some of the attendees that I thought would know better than I what to wear showed up in dresses that I thought would be much more appropriate for a casual morning church service. Others were in dresses that leaned more toward the cocktail side, while still others wore suits. I thought one of the best-dressed women wore what I think might have been an Ann Taylor dress that was a heavy black cotton lace dress with a cap sleeve. However, this was about the only black I saw.

I think that she got it spot on, don’t you. Weddings are celebrations and a burst of colour is always refreshing. It turns out that the mother of the bride wore a long dress, so the tone was more formal. A sheath is longer than cocktail length and therefore appropriate in my book. When in doubt, a dressy suit is always appropriate. Pair it with snazzy accessories to inject a bit of colour and fun.

The only thing that I would like to see all women adopt again as mandatory wedding attire is the hat. I mean a great hat. A stylish hat with a colourful bow or fanciful colourway or something. It gets worn throughout the ceremony and festivities, unless the reception is in the evening, in which case the hat is tucked away or checked. Hostesses used to provide hair spray to help with touch ups in the bathroom, but carry a purse-friendly travel bottle just in case.

Setting aside the grey tuxedos and the fuscia vests that the groomsmen wore, we men have it fairly easy when it comes to weddings that are not our own. If it’s a formal daytime wedding, we may wear a cutaway with striped trousers and a four-in-hand tie or a black sack coat (or stroller) with black and white patterned trousers. These days a dark suit is acceptable, although not as fun.  In the evening at a very formal wedding we may wear white-tie and tails, but a dinner jacket will probably see you though. Less formal evening weddings call for a dinner jacket or a dressy suit like a double breasted navy with all the accoutrements of cufflinks, pocket square, silk satin tie or bow. But what about those in-between times? Five o’clock has always fallen into this category for me as have morning or afternoon weddings with dinner receptions later that evening.

Here’s the rule of thumb: it doesn’t matter what time the reception is, you dress for the wedding. If a later reception is scheduled and you have time to go change, great. If not, attend in your wedding attire.

The Easy and Elegant Life Wedding Attire Crib Sheet for Men:

Informal weddings, day or night: the blue blazer and dark grey flannel trousers. Shirt and tie. In summer you may wear light coloured or white trousers. Those above are tan and white seersucker worn with a saddle tan loafer and a bow by The Cordial Churchman (a tremendous value). I like the double-breasted blazer as it’s a bit more formal and fun to wear to an event, but with temps in the 90’s (ºF), the SB linen seemed a better choice, even with an open weave shirt.

More formal day, or informal evening wedding: the dark suit, shirt and tie. Navy blue or charcoal grey. In the country it may be flannel. Stick to the harder finishes in the city. I like to wear a white spread collar, French (double) cuff shirt with links and a shinier tie — like a silver and blue glen plaid. Black lace up shoes polished with military precision.

The invitation reads “Black Tie”: anything less would raise an eyebrow and the blood pressure of the happy couple. Please comply.

What are your foolproof wedding clothes for the in-between times?

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