Despite the roller-coaster stock market, the holiday season has arrived, bringing a pile of invitations, complete with creative notes about what to wear. Since these can range from black tie/black tie optional to cocktail to semi-formal to festive - you get the idea -- we've recruited two experts for help in deciphering the details and nuances of the ones you're most likely to see on your invites.
Liberty Jones, PR director of Neiman Marcus in Chevy Chase, D.C. and owner of the much-missed downtown boutique Alex, and Fritz Hahn, editor of the Bars & Clubs section of the washingtonpost.com Going Out Guide.
Here are their respective takes:
Liberty: This means a long gown for a girl in a formal fabric. Since I'd rather be overdressed than underdressed, black tie optional means long gown, too. This year I'm partial to designer Talbot Runhof, whose stretch satin matte gowns with ruching at the waist gives you an hourglass shape whether you have one or not. I also like the designs of Helen Morley, Tadashi and Carmen Marc Volvo. Choose bold jewelry and an opulent evening bag to complete the look.
Fritz: Definitely a tuxedo, and if you don't have patent leather shoes, be sure to get your shoes shined. I like the look of a traditional wing-collar white shirt, a shawl collar jacket a bowtie and a pocket square. Cuffs should extend half an inch beyond the jacket to show off your cufflinks. Avoid novelty cummerbunds and vests in colors, puhleese. Choose a real bowtie because at the end of the night, you can untie it and show off your rakish look. When in doubt, think Frank Sinatra.
Liberty: Semi-formal and cocktail are synonymous. This is the perfect occasion for the little black — or navy — dress that can be stepped up a notch from a daytime look by replacing a blazer with a bold-colored shawl and adding a sparkly purse and an embellished shoe. Alternatively, pants paired with a dressy blouse make a refreshing alternative to the LBD.
Kay Unger navy satin dress, $315, Neiman Marcus; Lace Dress, $175, Banana Republic; Alice + Olivia wide-leg pants ($275) and beaded tunic ($368), Neiman Marcus; Sigerson Morrison Diva crystal pumps, Target, $25.89.
Fritz: My rule of thumb for cocktails is to keep it dark. Wear an oxford shirt with French cuffs and dark leather shoes that go with your suit. Spiff it up with a pocket square and great-looking tie.
BOSS black suit, Nordstrom, $795.
Liberty: Dress it up more than usual, so you wind up somewhere between cocktail and black tie. I'd wear a beaded belt, a sequin top or a crushed velvet wrap to amp up an outfit.
Fritz: I suggest wearing nice jeans, a sport coat and a shirt that you wouldn't wear to work — in other words, not something white or blue. This is a time when my ban against novelty items is lifted in favor of something a bit funky.
Kenneth Cole, kennethcole.com, $138.
Finally, for an invite that says casual, Liberty says that means office wear to her during the week, but jean-cut black velvet pants and a cardigan on the weekend. For casual cocktails, she suggests a beaded belt over a blazer or embellishing a belt or blazer with a brooch or two, a la Michelle Obama.
Pearl brooch, Club Monaco, $69.
Our blogger loves to shop -- and share her finds. Learn where to get the best deals and hottest items.