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Office Holiday Party Memo of the Day

Ah, the peril-fraught office holiday party…

Scene from an office Chistmas party: the drunken grope

I’ve always worked in small- to medium-sized companies that had casual dress codes — if they had any at all. Hence when the office Holiday/Christmas/Festivus/whatever party rolled around, the most I’ve ever received in the way of a dress guideline was “it’s at the Palais Royale, so it’s semi-formal”. It’s a simple, reasonable request (TSOT’s party, which takes place tomorrow, is semi-formal).

Other people are not so fortunate. A reader whom I’ll call “Noel” sent me a copy of the memo s/he received from her/his company’s social committee regarding appropriate dress for their upcoming holiday party. It appears below — the only change I’ve made was formatting it so that it’s easier to read:


This year’s event is not as formal as last years. The dress code is semi-formal/cocktail attire. Please find below some suitable clothing examples for the occasion:

Suitable Articles of Clothing:

  • For Women:
    • Dresses (short to mid-length elegant dresses, i.e. hem one inch above/below the knee to two inches above the ankle)
    • Pants Suits (ankle length hems)
    • Dress Suits (dressy evening separates, not business suits. hem knee length to floor length) (Suggestion: choose looks with a bit of sparkle or holiday bent (for example a beaded sweater with black pants, a red silk blouse with a black skirt). dressy evening separates)
  • For Men:
    • Suits
    • Tie (Optional) (General Rule of thumb: if a button-down shirt is worn with the suit, then a tie would be in good taste).
    • Dress shirt (with or without tie) with dress pants

Appropriate Fabrics and Materials:

  • Women: Silk, Chiffon, Satin, Sateen, Gossamer, Brocade, Rayon, Cashmere, Polyester, Velour, Velvet, Velveteen, etc.
    *Also, embellishments such as sequins and beads are appropriate for women.
  • Men: Wool, Polyester, Gabardine, Cotton, etc.

Many thanks,
Your Social Committee


When I asked “Noel” if I could post this memo on this blog, s/he replied: “Certain ‘cultures’ thrive in darkness. I think shedding a little light on this particular one would be a good thing!” In case you were wondering, the company from which this memo came is located somewhere in the greater Accordion City area.

Got any examples of corporate overly micro-managey behaviour that you’d like to share anonymously on an insanely popular blog? Send ’em to me!

14 replies on “Office Holiday Party Memo of the Day”

What’s more ridiculous about that list than anything else is that the requirements for men and women are two different levels of formality. At the level of formality they’ve dictated for women, men should all be wearing proper suits in a dark colour, and the tie shouldn’t be optional.

Maria, polyester is (can be) shiny. So of course it is appropriate for the holidays. 😉

Makes me sad that they don’t trust their co-workers to dress appropriately.

@Jacquilynne: I noticed that too. The mens’ requirement “Dress shirt (with or without tie) with dress pants” sounds pretty much like the standard office dress code.

The disparity is odd considering that in most cases, the Social Committee at most workplaces is mostly (if not entirely) women.

if i worked at that office i would either boycott the party or rebel completley and show up in flannel pjs. horrible!

The other possibility that springs to mind is somebody got tired of explaining to clueless geeks (there are some) that “semi-formal does NOT mean ‘clean jeans and your tuxedo T-shirt’.”

At least it’s better than the notice I got for a recent dinner. Our team was gathering at corporate HQ, and we were told “It’ll be at [a nice place] so prepare to dress up a bit.” Unfortunately, that email went out on Monday afternoon, while all the people coming in from out of town were already on airplanes.

Jacquilynne is 100% correct. If it’s formal for women, it’s formal for guys… and barring certain exceptions for national/traditional attire, formal means tie and jacket–neither is optional.

If one wanted to be a real jackass, Noel could wear open-toe sandals to the party, along with his suit and tie. They made a boo-boo by not specifying sock type and footwear.

Or take it to the logical extreme by inquiring with the social committee about recommended undergarment types/fabrics (i.e. boxers vs. briefs, tank-top vs. t-shirt, v-neck vs. crew neck, silk vs. cotton, etc).

Amusingly, the style guidelines for men in re: shirts & suits are actually incorrect.

A button-down shirt is a very informal shirt choice, and is inappropriate with a suit. If you’re going for the fine threads, wear a non-button-collar shirt with or without a tie. Doubt me? Check with a good men’s shop, or even the fashion pages of a reputable mag (no, Maxim doesn’t count).

Button-downs are fine with jeans, chinos, or other informal deployments, and can rock a tie just fine in the blazer-and-pants mode, but with a suit you need spread or full collar even without a tie.

All that said, if you’re going to go suit-and-no-tie, I can almost see getting away with a NICE button down (oxfordcloth won’t cut it; go pima or some other smooth cotton), but it’s an iffy thing I’d reserve for wardrobe-limited moments (e.g., travel). The idea that a button down under a suit NEEDS a tie is just wacky; frankly, it makes you look like you don’t know how to dress.

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