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PARTY ATTIRE IS A COSTUME that serves the purpose of an immediate introduction to your character in a social gathering. What you wear speaks volumes at first sight – so let your image work for you (as opposed to against you). Psychological studies illustrate numerous scenarios that prove the manner in which we dress can have very dramatic effects on those around us.

Take the woman who arrives at a party with her husband in an overly seductive dress; she is sure to attract attention from the opposite sex. A bad thing, one might assume. Yet in some cases, this has proven to arouse a sense of jealousy in her spouse, which led to a revitalized, amorous relationship. Apparently, the party attire did the trick!

Beware, however, of over- or underdressing. You might find yourself short on the receiving end of an invitation for the next fête. The key is to ask the host about the proper attire for the occasion, if it is not specified in the invitation.

For traditional formal party attire, a lady wears a long dress, cocktail-length or a dressy suit with color and fabrics in tune with the season. She should finish her look with elegant hairstyling and jewelry. The man wears a tuxedo, with crisp, white shirt and black studs, black tie and black patent leather shoes. A tux minus the tie is acceptable for a cocktail party.

For a stepped-up “white tie” formal, the man should wear a black tail coat, white tie and vest, white shirt with white studs and black patent leather shoes. The lady wears a long gown.

A cut under “black tie” is considered semi-formal, for “aftersix” social engagements or fine dining. A lady wears a cocktail dress, perhaps, adding some flair with a sophisticated hat, or she can don a pantsuit with well-matched accessories. The man wears a dark suit (navy, black, or dark gray), or a tasteful pinstriped suit with a tie.

For after work business-casual engagements, a woman should opt to wear a blouse, skirt and sweater of seasonally complementary colors with tasteful accessories. The man wears the standard khakis and blazer combination, or simply a business suit with a festive tie.

Nowadays, the leniency of dress codes gives us all more freedom to adjust to the modern lifestyle that encompasses a variety of events within a single day – from work to a dinner party. So how do we accommodate our unique Aloha style?

I just came back from an annual conference that was held on the Mainland. The invitations specified “suit and tie” for men in all evening activities. My Mainland colleagues expressed their admiration for the Hawaiian delegates’ uniquely outstanding (and colorful) Aloha shirts and leis beneath the suit. In this instance, the dress-down proved a success.

Both men and women are obligated to be responsible for their image, which is best broadcast by their choice in costume. This should be considered at all times.