Etiquette: Invitation calls for ‘coat and tie’

A bow tie is appropriate with either a sport coat or suit.
A bow tie is appropriate with either a sport coat or suit.

Q. Please settle a big discussion in our family. My son received an invitation to an event. At the bottom, it reads: “Coat and Tie.” The debate we have been having is this: Does this mean he should wear a suit or a sports coat, with tie, of course? And, can he wear a bow tie with a suit, or is that only for a sports coat? Does the fact that the event is outdoors have anything to do with it?

A. “Coat and Tie” means the hosts would prefer gentlemem wear a sports coat and necktie.

If the invitation were to read: “Business Suit” or “Business Attire,” then a business suit would be appropriate.

A bow tie or a regular neck tie is appropriate with either a sports coat or a business suit.

The fact the event is being held outdoors could be a pertinent factor in the hosts’ request for sports coat, but not necessarily.

Q. I see a lot of women wearing long dresses and long skirts again this summer. Some of the dresses are strapless and some or sleeveless. I have a strapless one which I recently bought. I really want to wear it a wedding in July but my husband thinks I shouldn’t. Are they proper for a wedding or not?

A. Unless the wedding invitation stipulates an attire, yes, the popular summer strapless or sleeveless dresses can be worn. However, you must consider what various churches feel is appropriate attire for ceremonies or services inside the church facility. Another consideration is: What does my body type look like in one of these strapless dresses?

Many stores are matching these summer strapless and sleeveless dresses with a short matching or complementing jacket or summer sweater. I recommend wearing a matching or complementing jacket or summer sweater. If the wedding ceremony were being held outdoors on a very warm day, then go without the jacket.

A further note of fashion caution: Although some women wear flip-flops with these longer dresses when going to the grocery store or malls or beauty shops, flip-flops are not the appropriate shoe accessory for a wedding or more formal event.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to