A Rakish Guide To Festive Dressing

Office Christmas parties, post-work cocktails and invites abound through the month of December, but how should one dress for such occasions? Allow The Rake to point you in the right direction…
A Rakish Guide To Festive Dressing
It’s that time of year again. Office Christmas parties, post-work cocktails and invitations to corporate events. Some will have dress codes, whilst others will be annoyingly ambiguous. The “straight from work” office party is simple. You wear your work clothes. If you feel you need to change for the office party you don’t dress well enough for work. If the event requests a dress code of Cocktail or Black Tie, you may need to change but you will certainly need to read my guidelines: 1. In its purest form, a cocktail suit is a dark lounge suit. A navy mohair blend is perfect as it has a slight sheen but can still be worn in the day. 2. Wear your cocktail suit with a plain shirt in cream, white or sky and a simple tie. A silk knit or satin in solid colour. 3. Keep your black shoes highly polished and your tie around your neck. 4. A velvet blazer is a useful bit of kit at this time of year and can be worn casually with a roll neck sweater or as an ersatz dinner jacket. 5. A traditional velvet smoking jacket is not quite as versatile but can still be “dressed-down” with the right attitude. The look should be a bit ageing rocker and not the cad in an am-dram murder mystery.
Robert Redford wears a black suit, white shirt and black Oxfords in Barefoot In The Park, 1967.
David Niven dons a red velvet dinner jacket with bow tie and white dress shirt as Sir Charles Lytton in The Pink Panther, 1963.
Prince Charles wears black tie brightened with a colourful pocket square with Princess Diana during a royal visit to South Korea, 2005.
Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci wears a velvet double-breasted dinner jacket with his wife, 1970. Photograph by Roland School/Pix Inc./Time Life Pictures/Getty Images.
Paul Newman wears a single-breasted suit paired with a white shirt and solid coloured tie on the set of Rally Round The Flag, Boys!, 1958.
Humphrey Bogart looks effortlessly cool wearing black tie at the Academy Awards ceremony with his wife Lauren Bacall in Los Angeles, 1952. Photograph by Frank Worth, Courtesy of Capital Art/Getty Images.
6. The right shoes are essential. So-called patent leather should only be worn with proper black tie but there are some great alternatives currently available. Gaziano & Girling create some beautiful evening shoes in suedes and velvet. Belgian loafers also strike the right chord for cocktail. Even classic Albert slippers can update and refine your cocktail suit or jacket. 7. If the invitation requests Black Tie but you want to be a bit different to everyone else, my advice is to do it properly. A well-fitting suit, hand-tied bow, soft shirt with turn-down collar and button-front. You will be in the minority. I promise. 8. You can add a coloured fancy pocket square with evening dress without breaking any rules. The current PoW always wears a fancy handkerchief with formal dress to maximum effect. But your bow tie is black and/or matches your dinner jacket’s facings. 9. Avoid fancy designed waistcoats and bows. And please don’t wear festive socks. Or cravats. 10. And never wear a white silk scarf with your dinner jacket inside. Check it in the cloakroom with your opera cloak. 11. No opera cloak? Wear a dark Chesterfield or proper trench coat. Avoid branded anoraks. 12. A cream cashmere scarf is an elegant and chic updated alternative to the silk scarf. 13. I like a bit of tartan at Christmas. Tartan trousers can be worn with dinner jackets, smoking jackets or even blazers and always look festive. A black watch dinner jacket can be a fun change-of-pace. I have no idea why we associate these woollen checks with Christmas. The 25th December has only been a public holiday in Scotland since 1958. 14. Did I mention socks? Obviously novelty ones are banned but you can wear purple, bright red, emerald green or French blue. It is Christmas.
An ivory spun silk scarf, silver and onyx dress studs and links, and a moiré bow tie are all from Budd Shirtmakers and demonstrate the correct way to wear black tie. Photograph by Jamie Ferguson.
These black suede Belgian loafers are from Rubinacci, and add an attractively louche quality to any black tie look.
A pair of semi-bespoke Peter brogues from G.J. Cleverley are a good option to finish a formal ensemble for a festive-do. Photograph by Luke Carby.
An alternative way to wear velvet, complete with Merino knit and a tonal grey scarf. Photograph by Ben Harries.
Martin Freeman wears a subtly patterned silk jacquard dinner jacket with green velvet lapels, a great alternative to the more traditional black or midnight blue. Photograph by Simon Emmett.
The Rake, Rakish Dressing
Pedro Pascal wears a bold shawl-lapel velvet evening jacket in salmon pink by Dunhill alongside classic black trousers, white pleat front shirt and black silk bow tie.  Photograph by Anders Overgaard.
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