It’s Saturday evening and your guests should be over in a few minutes. The table is set, candles lit, the meat is coming along nicely, and the wine is breathing. All seems perfect – as you intended it to be – till you see what you’re wearing, and unlike everything else, it doesn’t look very elegant. When entertaining, we often go to great lengths to impress, forgetting that how we present ourselves to guests is as much part of the package as the food, the wine, and the setting.
Just like the staff that greets diners at a restaurant, the host’s appearance (and welcome) is what guests form their first impression of how formal or casual, sophisticated or simple, their experience is likely to be. Therefore, the host’s outfit should set the tone for the rest of the evening. If it’s fine dining in an elegant setting that you’re after, you wouldn’t want to serve your guests in a tracksuit. Likewise, if you dress too smartly for an evening of pizza served in paper plates, you’ll either look overdressed or the food too simple. In short, a host’s outfit should complement the setting without ever looking too casually dressed for hosting guests nor overdressed for dinner at home.
Ultimately, how casual or elegant you choose to dress should depend a lot on how special the occasion is and how familiar you are with your guests. Generally, especially when it’s cooler, nothing beats a shirt and trousers combination. A patterned shirt and jeans or chinos will give a more relaxed look, whereas for a more refined appearance, opt for a shirt in a solid colour and dressier trousers. In summer, consider swapping the shirt with a polo-shirt.
Comfort and practicality are two other factors that one needs to consider. Anything that distracts you while cooking and serving is best avoided. You need to feel free to move around, bend down, or stretch to reach the pan stored on the top shelf, without having to keep tucking your shirt. You also need to feel free of anything that is extra and that keeps getting in the way, e.g. the scarf whose edges you have to keep pulling out of the plates. Of course, darker colours will minimise the risk of stains, making them a more practical choice in the kitchen.
For outfit suggestions that range from casual to dressy, check out our Pinterest board here.
Finally, for the sake of politeness, your guests should have an indication as to what kind of event they are being invited to. Will it be a casual meal among friends, or one that’s a little more formal? Feeling inappropriately dressed, especially among people you barely know, is an embarrassment that can start the evening off on the wrong foot.