Chances are, you’ve either been to or at the very least heard of a white party. You could have spotted some photos on social media, caught wind of one from a friend or were fortunate enough to just get your first invitation to one. Regardless of your experience with the event, the point is that white parties seem to be at an all-time high in terms of popularity. More and more, these celebrations are becoming a must for summer socializing. The most important question that will likely arise leading up to your next white party is: What should you wear? Having an all-white dress code to adhere to can pose style limitations and challenges, but we’re here to tell you that there are many ways to interpret this code and make it your own.
First, it’s worth understanding the history behind these parties. According to stylist and designer Michael Ferrera, a French man named François Pasquier came up with the idea while trying to find a strategy for spotting his friends in large crowds. He concluded that he and his pals were more likely to identify each other easily amongst the other Parisian locals if they dressed completely in white. The idea caught on, and the all-white ensemble became a common way to find those you were intending to meet up with. Over time, the idea evolved into an elaborate annual bash called the “Paris Dinner en Blanc.” At the event, people were invited to convene at a location that was only revealed the day of and instructed to wear all white.
Today, we look forward to white parties as an opportunity to mix and mingle with friends and to show off those summer-ready white men’s sport shirts and slacks one last time. The most important thing is that you tailor your ensemble to the nature of the party—oh and, of course, be very careful about spilling any red wine.
Dress Code: Beach Casual
You don’t have to wear a full-on suit to a white party. If the dress code is a little more casual, you have plenty of options for appearing put together while maintaining a laid-back vibe. For example, a white fitted polo shirt with white jeans looks undeniably sharp. A clean, crisp pair of white sneakers can top off this laid-back look.
If the forecast shows 90-degree temperatures on the day of the bash, you’ll likely be looking for an outfit that you can stay comfortable in throughout the festivities. Consider a pair of white linen or chino shorts, which look fresh when worn with a classic white button-down. You’ll not only look cool, but you’ll feel cool, too. You can pair this look with some light brown loafers or blue boat shoes for contrast, and, if you’re going for a more dapper look, layer on a blazer.
Dress Code: Cocktail
If you’ve been invited to a formal white party, don’t shy away from a classic three-piece suit. Add a white pocket square, bow tie and cufflinks for a look that suggests sophistication and confidence.
If you want a look that’s slightly less formal but still debonair, there’s no doubt you’ll turn heads in a white linen suit that’s tailored perfectly. Ideally, the sleeves will hit at the bottom of your wrist where it meets your hand, the buttons will close comfortably without gaping or bunching in the front and the shoulders will have enough room to move without any excess fabric. You can opt for a white button-down for more of a traditional look or you can layer a crisp white t-shirt under your blazer.
Pay attention to the invitation. If the invitation doesn’t say “white attire only,” you have a tad more flexibility. For example, you can wear a colored belt, shoes or tie for a playful accent that adds some visual intrigue to your all-white ensemble. White dress shoes and loafers are striking, but if you’re worried about getting them dirty, you can sport brown oxfords or loafers instead.
A few final tips for a formal white party: You don’t necessarily have to wear a suit jacket, but you may be glad to have this extra layer as the temperature drops when evening falls. A suit jacket instantly makes any outfit–even shorts or jeans–look more formal. Of course, you always have the option of taking the jacket off if things are heating up at the party. It’s important to make sure that your jacket matches the shade of white in your shorts or pants, whether that’s a true bright white or warm ivory. The most important thing to remember for a white party is to have fun and be creative with your ensemble—and perhaps to opt for clear beverages (unless you’re feeling brave). The point is, just because the party calls for all-white attire doesn’t mean you can’t express your own personal style with a few unexpected and eye-catching touches.