Lessons in Etiquette

Q) I have been invited to two special events, and I want to make a good impression at both.  One is a cocktail party for a client after work at an upscale hotel, in one of their ballrooms.  The other is a holiday party at my boss’ home.  My problem is that I am never sure what to wear.  Please help.

A) Let’s review the client cocktail party first.  Since it is after work, you have two options.  If you don’t have time to go home and change, you can wear something appropriate to work and just freshen up before the party, or you can bring a change of clothes to work.
In either case, your attire should be business dress, which means a suit for both men and women.  It should be dark in color and in good condition with no missing buttons, and no tears or stains.  Men should have a crisp white shirt and nice tie with a matching pocket square, if possible.  Skirted suits for ladies should be at least knee length.  Ladies should wear a pretty blouse that coordinates with the suit.
Keep jewelry to a minimum, with no clanging bracelets or earrings.  You want to be “seen and not heard.”  A nice string of pearls is always chic.  Keep perfume to a minimum, and have a nicely coiffed hairstyle with subdued makeup.  You want to look conservatively elegant, not wildly glamorous.  Close-toed shoes and hosiery are a must for ladies.  Shoes for both men and women should be in good condition and polished.  You won’t go wrong if you follow the “less is more” guideline. It should go without saying that in a business setting, whether in the office or out socially, body piercings other than earlobes, as well as tattoos, should never be seen.
Now for your boss’ holiday party.  Hopefully, the invitation stated the dress code for the evening.  If not, it is perfectly acceptable to ask your boss so you will be dressed properly for the event.
Generally speaking, holiday parties are a little dressier than at other times of the year, even when they are held in someone’s home.  So for gentlemen, a dark-colored business suit would be appropriate, unless the invitation calls for formal attire, in which case a tuxedo is in order.
For ladies, the always fashionable “little black dress” would be perfect.  If you prefer a brighter color, that’s fine, but keep it cocktail length for a dress, or perhaps a dressier pantsuit would be more comfortable.  You may dress up your outfit with nicer jewelry, possibly a pretty broach or sparkling necklace with matching earrings.  Also, hosiery with high-heeled shoes would finish your look.