Q: I recently attended an evening champagne-tasting event. Since we would be drinking fine champagne from France, I wore a dark suit, white shirt and tie. Others came in everything from black tie, to suits, blue blazers and even jeans. Jeans seemed to be an insult to our hosts. What's the right attire for such an occasion?
A: Clothes should be appropriate to the event and tied to the time of day. Since champagne is considered to be the most festive of drinks, jeans were probably inappropriate.
For a wine tasting, particularly at night, a suit or dark blazer is sure to be safe. Perhaps black tie is a bit much for the occasion, but maybe
not. Appropriate social dress depends upon the setting and the tone of the invitation. If it's an elegant charity event held in a fine hotel with an invitation formally worded on engraved stationery -- you know, "Such-and-so requests the pleasure of your company . . ." -- why shouldn't a man wear an evening suit if he wants to? But if it's at a simple restaurant with an informal invitation, then perhaps black tie is pushing it.
During the day, of course, people come in more casual attire: fewer suits, more tweeds and blazers. Still jeans don't seem right.
One additional note, even more important than what you wear to a wine tasting is what you should not wear. Eliminate scents or other extraneous fragrances. Don't put on shaving lotion or cologne and don't smoke. If you're going with a woman and can be diplomatic, try to influence her not to wear perfume or flavored lipstick.
Q: I have heard different versions; please help set the record straight -- when is it correct to wear a cummerbund? Is it only worn with a tuxedo or is it proper to wear it with a dinner jacket?
A: A cummerbund is always correct with black-tie formal wear. An all-black evening suit (dinner suit or tuxedo) and a white shawl-collar dinner jacket paired with black formal trousers are two forms of black-tie dressing.
The distinction between when one wears the all-black outfit and when one can properly wear a white dinner jacket is based on two elements: the time of year and the location of the event. In summer, the jacket may be white. All else remains the same: black formal trousers; white pleat-front shirt; studs and cuff links; black dress shoes; black silk bow tie; cummerbund.
The all-black dinner suit is correct anywhere and any time of year. But, a white dinner jacket is only worn for "country" occasions: parties, dances, and weddings held at a country club, a beach resort, in a rural setting or aboard a cruise ship. It is Palm Beach sort of dressing, not up- or downtown dressing.
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.
Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.