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How To Dress For Every Party

Your big entrance begins before the party has even started – here’s a masterclass from the men who got it just right

  • From left: Messrs Jason Robards, Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan, John Steinbeck. New York, 1964. Photograph by Mr Dennis Stock/Magnum Photos

As we enter the festive season proper, and the invites start to stack up, it’s worth taking some time to consider what you’ll wear when you’re putting on the ritz this year. After all, parties can be as much a sartorial trial as they can be a social one.

First up, a few immutable rules to get you on your way from Mark’s Club director, Mr Darius Namdar. “Whether a dinner or a black-tie event, anything too restricting is going to be uncomfortable. Make sure the fit of whatever you wear is just right,” says the MR PORTER Style Council member. When planning what to wear, he advises a bit of restraint. “Try not to overdo it – plenty of men go overboard with accoutrements such as loud pocket squares, patterned socks and bow ties in garish colours – it’s always best to keep it simple and understated. It’s not a competition and you don’t want to outdo your host, that’d be rude.” And if the dress code is black tie? “Bespoke is always better than rental – you’ll get a better fit and finish and it’ll separate you from the waiting staff.”

One final rule we’d like to add has nothing to do with what you wear. While we all deserve a little toe-dip into Lake Inebriated, be sure to keep some semblance of control at all costs. No one’s ever looked their very best when their conversation is beyond coherent.

So, just to ensure you are dressed appropriately for any occasion, MR PORTER presents our five sage sartorial tips for every kind of party – and the style icons who got it right.


  • Sir Paul McCartney and Mr David Bowie at Live Aid Concert, London, July 1985. Photograph by Alpha Press

We all dread looking too formal. But equally, you never want to be that cornball in a one-button-hole-too-unbuttoned shirt, either. An alternative to shirts is a plain crew-neck tee, unstructured blazer with smart trousers (or chinos) and a pair of understated Derby shoes – a timeless look modelled here by Sir Paul McCartney. The result: a polished, but not overly stiff look, made entirely of wardrobe staples that you likely already own. Remember to always steer clear of head-to-toe black – the only thing worse than looking too stiff is being mistaken for staff.

Get the look

  • Rubinacci Grey Slim-Fit Houndstooth Wool Blazer

  • Mr P. Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt


  • Ms Françoise Hardy and Mr Jacques Dutronc arriving at the opera, France, November 1966. Photograph by AGIP/Bridgeman Images

Some advice for first-time black-tie wearers: with regular pressing and dry cleaning, you’re going to get some good mileage out of a tuxedo, so make sure it is a good fit. Most men wear their jacket sleeves too long and their shirtsleeves too short. The jacket should finish precisely at the wrist bone and your shirt cuff should extend just over an inch beyond. For the trousers, go for plain-hemmed bottoms, no turn-ups whatsoever. Wear them just above the hip, but never too tight around the crotch (this is in the best interests of everyone involved). Black and white, arranged well, can elongate and trim square shoulders and whittle down waistlines. But be confident – what better way to ensure you are a hit on the dance floor than channelling Mr Jacques Dutronc (above) as you toe-tap to his timeless “Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi”?

Get the look

  • SAINT LAURENT Black Slim-Fit Satin-Trimmed Wool Tuxedo

  • Kingsman + Drake's Self-Tie Silk-Faille Bow Tie


  • Mr Bryan Ferry with Ms Catherine Guinness at the Red and Black Party at Regine’s, London,1979. Photograph by Mr Richard Young

And we don’t mean the Ibiza kind. We’re talking about a night at the sort of plush Parisian den or sophisticated members’ establishment with a doorman out front that Mr Bryan Ferry still might attend more than 35 years after this picture was taken. This environment requires some due diligence – so find out about the dress code in advance. A good place to start is a suit that’s different from your office uniform – you don’t want to remind anyone you’ve spent the last 10 hours staring at a spreadsheet. Something cut a little closer and a little shorter makes you a lot smarter (regardless of your Excel skills). If in doubt, go dark by dialling down tones a shade. This means a darker suit than you’d usually wear, a darker tie, but knitted or with a subtle pattern. Evening wear is about those little eye-catching details, so don’t shy away from a dress watch with a gator strap, a silver-plated lapel pin, or shoes that are either patent (for black tie) or extremely well-polished.

Get the look

  • TOM FORD Icon Black Shelton Slim-Fit Grain De Poudre Wool-Blend Suit

  • Lanvin 5cm Grosgrain-Trimmed Knitted Silk Tie


  • Mr Keith Richards photographed in France, 1966. Photograph by Mr Jean-Marie Périer/Photo12

Mr Keith Richards is almost as famous for his way with clothes as he is for his guitar solos. And although most people would associate The Rolling Stones with leathers, big hair and bare chests, the band’s founding member also had a keen eye for tailoring – something we commend here at MR PORTER. This dark woollen, three-buttoned mod suit is a casual alternative to traditional suiting, and as such perfect for more informal events. It also provides the perfect canvas for a splash of pattern such as his polka-dot shirt.

Get the look

  • Jil Sander Charcoal Slim-Fit Stretch-Wool Flannel Blazer

  • AMI Polka-Dot Voile Shirt


  • Mr Harrison Ford and Ms Melissa Mathison attend the 35th annual Writers’ Guild Awards, LA, April 1983. Photograph by Mr Frank Edwards/Getty Images

“Afterparty”, as Mr R Kelly noted on his 2002 hit “Ignition Remix” – which, by the by, is on the MR PORTER party soundtrack for this year. It introduced us to the art of party-hopping, and more specifically, endurance dressing. If you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll need an outfit that’s going to keep you looking smart from the first glass of champagne to the 2.00am tumbler of whisky. Nothing says “I’m in control” quite like a tailored black or midnight blue suit and a crisp, white shirt, modelled here marvellously by Mr Harrison Ford. A slimmer cut with tapered trousers is advised and the darker shade will mask any mishaps acquired along the way. Theirs, not yours.

Get the look

  • Mr P. Navy Unstructured Worsted Wool Blazer

  • Mr P. Navy Worsted Wool Suit Trousers

The celebrities featured in this story are not associated with and do not endorse MR PORTER or the products shown