Cocktail suit is a somewhat rare dress code in Finland. Generally, it’s most commonly seen in invitations to weddings and more relaxed parties. Probably the most important aspect of this code is indeed it’s relaxedness – cocktail dress can be viewed as the lightest of the dress codes, informal, yet still dictated by etiquette. Cocktail dress is usually a great solution when ever an invitation stipulates “festive attire”.

For women, cocktail dress means just that, a cocktail dress – usually knee length and often dark. The most versatile article of clothing in ladies’ closets, the little black dress, is apt for cocktails. For men, however, it isn’t quite as simple these days, as etiquette has become rarer and styles varied.

Back when suits were the everyday wear of gentlemen, cocktail dress was a simple code to follow. One chose a clean suit that is most befitting for your personality, which may also have been the suit worn at the office. In contrast to the work dress, however, the suit was “dressed up” more in one’s own flavour, rather than what was dictated by office policy.

Understated medium gray wool suit with a white shirt, restrained tie and pocket square - an excellent choice for cocktail wear.
Understated medium gray wool suit with a white shirt, restrained tie and pocket square – an excellent choice for cocktail wear.

These days, this approach is still valid for suit-wearing men. Those who don’t wear a suit to work should approach etiquette with a bit more caution, as many will only have that single suit, meant for formal occasions, hanging in the closet. These suits will require the opposite approach to the way things were done in the past, with a slight “dressing down”. Instead of a gray silk tie, one should pick a tie with a touch of colour and perhaps a subdued pattern to it, the shirt can also be something other than crisp white and the pocket square may be adorned with an elegant pattern.

Sanders Stockholm. Picture: Sanders
Black cap-toe oxfords are the perfect shoe choice for cocktail wear.

Should the chosen suit be black, one might consider swapping the trousers for striped morning dress trousers, creating a highly elegant day suit, the stroller. Stroller plays perfectly with a medium blue tie, which otherwisely would be a stretch to be worn with a black suit. A sports jacket and trousers combination is out of the question, however, being inherently too informal. The strict formality of the dark suit must be carefully tempered with lightness and relaxedness, while still sticking with wearing a suit.

The seminal piece of a man’s wardrobe, the navy blue suit, again shows its versatility in cocktail dress use. It allows for basically any colour combination in shirt and accessories.

Men’s Cocktail Dress Includes:

  • Dark or medium coloured suit, subdued in pattern
  • White or light coloured dress shirt
  • Restrained tie
  • A pocket square that is harmonious with the dress
  • Black leather-soled dress shoes (not patent leather!)

Also remember that particularly at weddings, one should never outshine the bride and groom!

Text: Jussi Häkkinen, Anu Rautalin
Images: Matti Airaksinen, Herrainpukimo

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