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Dress Code Guide: What Does Lounge Mean?

Man fastening a cufflink, dressed in lounge formal dress

When the dress code says “lounge” or “lounge suit,” don’t be fooled. Despite how it sounds, this is one of the more formal dress codes you can find on an invitation.

The term “lounge suit” is a holdover from earlier days of Western fashion, when dressing up was more elaborate and more common. A lounge suit was considered presentable for informal daytime functions, at a time when what passed for “casual” was far fancier than the casual clothes of today.

Nowadays, lounge suit is a dress code usually seen at fancy daytime events, or formal-ish evening functions. It’s a step below formal attire, but not by far.

Lounge: A Definition

When these Western dress code rules got started, clothing choices were divided into informal or formal, and daytime or nighttime.

For formal functions, a morning dress or suit applied during the day, while an evening dress or tailcoat was needed for the evening. At informal events, the lounge suit was the daytime option, while a dinner suit (or “black tie attire”) was worn for the evening.

Today, things have changed: most people consider black tie and lounge attire to be formal wear. Lounge attire for men is easy—always wear a suit. For women, there’s more flexibility: any formal dress, or alternatives like a classy jumpsuit, will work.

When to Dress in Lounge Attire

Lounge attire works best at functions like these:

  • Business breakfasts
  • Fancy brunches
  • Daytime engagement parties
  • Afternoon tea

The lounge dress code implies a formal daytime event. Your look should be a little more demure than your evening wear, but still fancy.

However, some nighttime events might also have “lounge” as the dress code. This suggests that you don’t need to go full-on formal or black tie, but need to take things up a notch from cocktail attire.

Lounge Suit Ideas for Women

For women, lounge attire includes clothes like these:

  • Long dresses
  • Jumpsuits
  • Suits

A dress is of the most common lounge choices for women. Just make sure your dress falls at least to the knee, if not longer. Generally speaking, a knee-length or midi dress is more appropriate for daytime events with a lounge dress code, while a longer dress is best for evening events.

A suit or jumpsuit can also work well as women’s lounge attire. Your look can be fun and fashionable, just not too casual. Lounge attire also typically isn’t as revealing or glitzy as evening wear, so avoid things like sequins and low necklines.

Patterns and colors are okay but should be kept sophisticated and not too loud. Also, a nice jacket or blazer can work to tone down a more evening-ish outfit.

For shoes, heels or dressy flats both work. Your hair and makeup should look nice and polished. Just as with your clothes, it’s best to save super-glittery or brightly colored makeup for more formal or festive events instead.

Lounge Suit Ideas for Men

Men’s lounge attire keeps it simple:

  • Suit
  • Dress Shirt
  • Tie
  • Pocket Square

A suit is a must for men’s lounge wear—no mixing slacks and a jacket, no matter how much you like the combination—although it doesn’t need to be a business suit. You can choose from different colors and fabrics to express yourself in lounge attire. Dark colors are traditional, but something lighter might work for a daytime lounge event (especially a daytime event in the summer).

This is a great time to break out your nice white French-cuffed dress shirt with a pair of cufflinks, although a regular dress shirt is okay, too—just be sure to wear a shirt with a turndown collar and not a button-down collar. Wear a tie for evening lounge events, but for daytime, things are a little more flexible. If you’re ditching your tie, however, we recommend keeping your pocket square as it dresses things up and prevents your suit from looking naked. Make sure to wear nice dress shoes with a belt to match.

With the lounge suit dress code, the idea is “formal, but in the daytime.” Your look should be less glamorous than evening wear, but more formal than cocktail attire. When you get invited to an event with a lounge suit dress code, be thankful that styles have changed: there was a time when people had to dress up like this every day!

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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