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Illustrations by Mr Antony Hare

"And what costume shall the poor girl wear to all tomorrow's parties?" droned Nico in the Velvet Underground's famous song. And although the subject of "what outfit" is commonly associated with the fairer sex, it is also a pressing question for men. Any social event is an excuse to crank up the style in a near-competitive manner, but in particular a party presents a man with the opportunity to display his fashion savvy. Given the romantic rewards on offer at any good party the manner in which you dress, and how far you take it, are critical. The challenge is to find the path between looking as if you are trying too hard, and looking undistinguished. Click through the slides, above, to see how to walk that line.


Looking too straight to party

When the dress code says lounge suit it's important not to dress as if for a disciplinary hearing at work, or an interview with the immigration authorities. Unless some thought is given to the choice of shirt and tie it's easy to look as if you came straight from the office, which is only OK if you're a secret agent.

No show

A pretty unforgivable thing to do, however it's almost as bad to arrive looking as if you couldn't be bothered to make an effort. Show some evidence of endeavour, even if only in the form of a clean and pressed non-business shirt, a shave, and a splash of Dior's classic Eau Sauvage cologne.

Ill-advised hats

"Fun" party hats are probably best left behind the day you pick up your graduation certificate, not least because manners dictate that hats must be removed once you're inside someone's house or at the table. That said, arriving at a cocktail or dinner party in an elegant fedora sets the right, albeit rather retro, kind of tone.

Sartorial downers

Certain items just don't say party. Tracksuit tops and sweat pants may have a place in most wardrobes, but the only parties they're right for are the kind held on a beach... or a sofa.

Slogan T-shirts

Avoid "funny" T-shirts bearing rude slogans, because what's funny to one man may well be offensive to another. Bitter experience tells us that girls, who are less tribal than men, rarely seem to admire band T-shirts, no matter how rare or how cool we believe the band to be.