the 7 levels of fashion formality: from casual to white tie

I cannot believe how many events I go to where no one has any idea what is appropriate to wear. I've seen Hawaiian shirts at weddings, I've seen flip flops at funerals, I've seen jeans at formal dinners, I've seen workout pants at the office. If none of these things seem wrong to you, please read on, for your own sake as well as everyone else's who has to look at you.

By being alive, you have accepted the Terms & Conditions of Being A Human, which includes knowing these 7 levels of formal dress and when to wear the corresponding clothing.

1. Casual.

Where you'll see it: Everyday life; some very casual offices where client interaction is minimal.

What the men wear: Basically whatever, most likely jeans & a shirt.

What you should wear: Basically, wear whatever you want, as long as it's appropriate (no short skirts, low-cut tops, or anything that might make people mistake you for a hooker).

2. Business Casual.

Where you'll see it: Some offices such as marketing + design (almost all offices will specify the level of dress when you're hired); work functions outside of working hours.

What the men wear: Dress pants and a casual shirt; jeans & a dress shirt; tie optional; full suit not required. If you are a man, read this article.

What you should wear: I can't possibly list all of the possibilities for business casual. Basically, it's halfway between Casual and Business Formal. This means, to list off a few: skirt + blouse, flat shoes or high heels, nice jeans, cardigans + sweaters, dresses, dress pants. Denim is allowed, as long as the opposite piece is dressier - for example, jeans with a blouse, or a chambray shirt with dress pants.

Business casual allows for you to have more fun with your outfits - statement jewelry, more patterns + layering, more colours - it's all permitted. In fact, it's encouraged. For a few outfit ideas, check out this article.

What you should not wear: Tights as pants, flip flops, jeans with rips/tears/overdone distressing, low-cut tops, too-short dresses or skirts, enormously baggy shirts/sweaters, any t-shirt you might see someone wearing at the gym or the club, anything that could possibly be misconstrued as workout wear OR pajamas.

3. Business Formal.

Where you'll see it: Typically the oil/gas industry, legal industry, financial industry (the more Serious ones).

What the men wear: Suits.

What you should wear: Dress shirt + dress pants, blazers, blouses, high heels, dresses that are more on the conservative side. Keep it tailored, clean, professional, and relatively buttoned-up.

What you should not wear: Neon colours, open-toed shoes, flip flops (actually, just sandals of any kind), skirts more than a couple inches above the knee, tights as pants, enormously baggy shirts/sweaters, gaudy jewelry, low-cut tops, anything that even DREAMT about being workout wear or pajamas, denim.

* Note: At an office that is Business Formal, "Casual Fridays" do NOT include jeans, unless otherwise specified.

4. Semi Formal.

Where you'll see it: Most weddings, engagement parties, bridal showers, some galas, charity events, fancy birthdays or anniversary parties, etc. Usually specified.

What the men wear: Suits, dress shirt + dress pants + tie.

What you should wear: Similar to business casual, but a teensy bit dressier and a bit more feminine. Cocktail dresses, high heels, floor-length dresses (not ball gowns, not in fancy fabrics), clutch or small purse, skirt + blouse separates ONLY if they're both very dressy and paired with heels.

5. Formal.

Where you'll see it: Some weddings, every funeral, high-end dinner events, etc. If formal attire is required, it is almost always specified, so keep an eye out.

What the men wear: Suits.

What you should wear: Floor-length dresses (no cotton or jersey), a cocktail dress that's in a formal material, high heels, nice jewelry, clutch or small purse. You probably don't own anything that's that formal right now (most people don't), so if you get invited to a formal event, be prepared to buy something.

and just a few bonus...

6. Black Tie.

Black & White Tie events will hardly ever come up in most people's lives, but I've included them because they are important to know about. Just in case!

Where you'll see it: Galas, high-budget charity events, some weddings,

What the men wear: Tuxedos.

What you should wear: Knee length or longer cocktail dress, long gowns, satin/taffeta and all of those fancy fabrics, your nice jewels that you never get to wear, high heels.

What you should not wear: Anything not listed above. Sorry.

7. White Tie / Ultra-Formal.

Where you'll see it: Incredibly fancy galas.

What the men wear: A specific shirt, white tie, and jacket with tails.

What you should wear: Long gowns aka ball gowns, high heels, and the nicest jewels you own.

And when in doubt, everyone... GOOGLE IT!

simplify your routine: 5 easy updos

I love sleep. And when I say I love sleep, I mean, you have no idea the lengths I will go to in the morning... just to grab an extra minute of shut-eye.

A while back, I wrote about 5 secrets to looking chic every day, which was about putting together a nice outfit together on regular, non-fancy days. Secretly, that blog post was also about saving as much time as possible in the morning before work, to allow myself extra time to sleep (guilty). But besides the clothing, there is another part of the ensemble that you must master in your 20-Minutes-And-Out-The-Door routine - your hair.

So here are 5 tutorials for the easiest, quickest updos that will make you look like you spent twice or three times as long getting ready in the morning. Sleep away, my snoozy friends!

1. the fishtail.

There's no way I can successfully describe how to do a fishtail without a video of it, so here you go. Girls are usually intimidated by how complex it seems, but it's so easy! Practice a few times and it'll be as easy as braiding.

2. the braided bun.

Simple - braid your hair in pigtails. Tie them in a knot. Bobby pin back the stray ends. That's it!

3. the messy french twist.

Tutorial here.

4. the headband hack.

Yes, this style is as easy as it looks. Put headband in hair. Pull hair up from tips and wrap loosely around headband. Repeat until all the hair is in.

5. and of course.... the messy bun.

Tutorial here.

quote of the day: anne lamotte

Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.
Anne Lamotte 

quote of the day: a strong woman

"a strong man can handle a strong woman. 
a weak man will say she has an attitude."


disputing the myth: "no black in summer"

"But SUZANNE", people say, "it's SUMMER. Why are you wearing black?"

Because black is the new black - no matter how hot it is outside. People say you look silly wearing black in the middle of 30 degree heat and I say to those people, "once you go black, you never go back".

The trick is to wear black in light fabrics, sheers, flowy skirts, denim shorts - all of your favourite summer items. If you want to make it a bit more summery, spice it up with some brights over top, or bring in some fun, summery accessories or a floral bag.

Don't listen to those fashion rules that tell you when to wear what. Wear black all summer if you want to (I know I will)!

36 things i wish i figured out sooner, by whitney kimball

"Fluff rice with a fork, never stir it with a spoon.
Vaseline is the best night time eye cream on the market.
You can buy alcohol and chips with your parents’ gas station credit cards.
If you force something, you’ll break it. That could be good or bad.
It’s important to read the care tags on your clothing and follow those instructions.
Related: don’t wash and dry j. crew wool sweaters.
Changing your car’s oil is not optional.
Whatever physical objects you acquire you will one day have to put into a box and move.
You’re allowed to disagree with negative feedback.
It’s always worth reading the instruction manual.
Nostalgia, like any drug, can be a poison or a remedy.
Pets are like human friends but better in every conceivable way.
Good doctors listen more than they talk.
You can’t fix a burned roux.
Just because someone is an authority figure does not mean they are intelligent/competent/right.
Measure twice, cut once.
Get your nice jeans and dress pants tailored by a professional.
If you’re uncomfortable wearing it you will not look good.
You’re not required to drink alcohol while in a bar.
There are a few things that cure all ills: the beach, your favorite album on vinyl, and fresh garlic.
Kindness is not weakness.
Baking soda is not baking powder.
Taking Excedrin P.M. while still in public is not advisable.
Terrible people will succeed. Wonderful people will fail. The world is not fair.
Appropriate footwear is always key.
You can absolutely be too forgiving.
Real humor punches up, not down.
Reading the assigned chapters will actually help you learn the material.
There are no adults. Everyone is as clueless as you are.
Applying eyeliner well is a timeless art.
You can always leave. Awkward dates, suffocating jobs, hometowns that you outgrow, relationships that aren’t growing in the right direction.
You can always come home again.
But it won’t be the same.
Life is too short for bad books, boring movies, shitty people, and margarine.
Never underestimate the importance of eyebrows."

5 essential life skills absolutely everybody needs to learn

A while back I wrote an article about 10 essential skills for every bad-ass, independent women. And then I thought, By George! I am onto something here. But this time, I won't discriminate. This list is 5 essential life skills that EVERYBODY needs to learn.

1. how to not get way too drunk and be "That Guy".

We've all done it, my friend. Maybe you forgot to eat during the day, or you got swept up in the excitement of an open bar, or you volunteered to take those shots no one else wanted. We've all been the guy who got (accidentally) way drunker than everyone else at the party and woke up the next morning regretting being born. And sometimes, that's fine! It happens to the best of us. But sometimes, it is NOT fine... like if you were at a work function and shared way too much information about your personal life, or if you were at a wedding and let out what you really thought of the bride, or any number of other horrifying scenarios.

- The first step to not being That Guy at an inopportune time is realizing where you are. It sounds simple, but this is the first mistake most people make. Are you at the bar with pals after work on a Saturday night? Go crazy! Are you at a work function on a Tuesday afternoon? Tame yourself. Just because there is booze doesn't mean you have to drink it.

- The second step is food. If you know you'll be imbibing, make sure to eat beforehand. Don't skip meals. Carb up! An empty stomach is a cheap drunk.

- The third step is water. "No way man, I need another drink, not a water. I'm not even drunk yet, you're so square". False. You will thank me later. Have one glass of water for every 1 or 2 drinks, and have a few big glasses of water before bed to help the hangover you will probably have.

- The fourth step is knowing when to stop. Think you're at a good level of drunk? For god's sake, stop drinking. A funny thing happens when you keep drinking... You get drunker. And it's all downhill from there.

2. how to make small talk, professional or otherwise.

I know. Small talk sucks. But your skill level with small talk can help you gain friends, score jobs, secure good contacts, and entirely change people's perception of you. You don't want people to meet you and immediately be looking for the exits. So a few tips for those who struggle:

- Ask questions. I cannot stress this enough. Way too often, I meet new people and they fill the conversation with stories about themselves, and I stand there listening without being able to contribute anything. As interesting as I'm sure you are, every person secretly wants to talk about themselves.
Instead of rambling on about yourself, ask the other person - what do they do, and how did they get into that line of work? What hobbies do they have (and do you have any in common)? Did they grow up in this city? etc.
Or if you're more adventurous, something ridiculous like -  what kind of cookie would they be and why?
Asking questions will give the impression you are interested and genuinely care about getting to know them. Hopefully that person also reads this article and they ask you questions back.

- Listen. Don't interrupt them mid-sentence to tell them about something related to their story. Absolutely don't check your phone. Don't let your eyes wander elsewhere. Focus on them and the body language they are giving you, and contribute to the conversation.

- Smile. Easy. Even if their story doesn't interest you but they are obviously excited about it, be excited for them. Engage in the conversation, be friendly, and smile.

3. how to own an event where you don't know anyone.

Remember that time I taught you all about small talk? This will save your frickin' life in an event where you don't know anyone. There is no terror like walking into a party of 10, 100, or 1000 people and realizing you don't know anyone besides the host. Time to pull your socks up!

- Find someone who is also alone. Other people who are also standing alone are easy targets to make conversation with. Once you have found a kindred soul, you two can go join other groups and make even MORE friends! Friends friends friends!

Small talk. Remember? Ask questions. Listen. Smile.

- Be honest. Make a joke of the fact that you don't know anyone at the party. Everyone has been in that awkward situation before, and I find I'm usually welcomed in even more if I'm flyin' solo! Some would call it pity. I call it: them realizing your potential awesomeness and independence.

- Know when to leave. There is nothing worse than accidentally finding yourself in a personal conversation where you are obviously not welcome. Politely excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, call the babysitter, refill your drink, or check if the host needs help. On your way back, find a new group to chat with.

4. how to take a compliment.

"You're really pretty!"
"No, YOU'RE really pretty! Oh no, my hair looks terrible today. You're like, way prettier than me. I hate this outfit. And I accidentally spilled something on my shirt."


This is something that almost every person I know struggles with, especially girls. Girls are the WORST for this! How about... instead of a) putting yourself down, b) denying the compliment, or c) pointing out something negative that they might not have noticed, you just say thank you? That's all. Just a big, genuine smile, and a big, genuine thank you.

5. how to be alone on purpose (and happy about it).

This is also something that 99% of people are bad at. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being by yourself - in fact, it's incredibly beneficial. Take time to yourself (on purpose!) to unwind and do things that you like to do. Take yourself on the best date you can think of. Want to go to a concert or a movie but have no one to go with? Just go! Really want to go for brunch? Take a book and sit by yourself and om nom nom all day long. Don't be scared or intimidated by spending time by yourself - cherish your time alone to recharge your batteries and find out what YOU like.

focus yyc: 9 more unique calgary date ideas

I get so sick of hearing the sentence, "there is nothing to do in Calgary". FALSE. You are just too lazy. So take yourself, your friend, or your significant other on a date and fall back in love with Calgary.

1. Recordland.

There are lots of record stores around Calgary, but in my opinion, Recordland has the most charm. Grab a coffee from a nearby Inglewood cafe and browse through the cluttered, crowded shelves stuffed with every album you'd ever dreamed of. Don't own a record player? Well, that isn't my problem, maybe you should.

2. Punk rock bingo.

Do you like bingo? Do you like beer? Do you like loud music? Do you like ridiculously cool and weird prizes like enormous tiger blankets, ugly sweaters, records, Star Wars 3D puzzles, and Sigmund Freud trivia cards? Well duh, take your significant other and head to Punk Rock Bingo. It goes on every Tuesday at either the Ship & Anchor or Broken City.

3. Farmer's market.

Who doesn't like food? Losers, that's who. And if you like food, you should especially like local food, because it supports your local community and all that good stuff. Check out the Kingsland Farmer's Market, the Calgary Farmer's Market, or Crossroads Market. Bonus points if you buy ingredients to cook a meal or go on a picnic together.

4. Blues bar.

I love the blues, and I especially love the blues when it's played to me live while I hold an ice cold beer. Such luxuries are offered to you at the Blues Can in Inglewood, where you can watch live blues every day of the week and indulge in some Creole nachos or fried pickles.

5. Calgary Culture First Thursdays.

Check these listings for unique events happening the first Thursday of every month in the cultural district of Calgary. Most are free! Or discounted! And who doesn't love a cheap date?

6. Check Urbanspoon's top restaurants.

Urbanspoon is a great resource for any food-lover, with a constantly updated list of the top restaurants in town. Why not randomly choose one of the top choices from any category and try something new?

7. Support some local artists at an open mic night.

There are lots of open mic nights in the city, but I'm particular to the open mic nights at Cafe Koi (100, 1011 - 1st ST SW).  They also do singer songwriter open mic on Tuesdays, jazz open mic nights on Thursdays, and occasional Hip Hop Improv nights on Saturdays. Come on, that's awesome and you know it.

8. Go to Comedy Monday Nights at Broken City.

Amateur comedy, as it turns out, can be extremely well done. A friend of mine invited me to watch his first stand up routine at Broken City a few weeks ago, and I had no idea such a thing even existed. A few of the acts were misses, but most of them were hilarious! I highly recommend grabbing a casual beer and having a few laughs in the dingy darkness of Broken City (613 11th Ave SW).

9. Take a cooking class.

I know, I've mentioned food a lot. But the fact is, Calgary is turning into a huge foodie city, and if you aren't taking advantage of all we have to offer, you are seriously missing out.  Food is good, food is great! So sign up for a Cookbook Co cooking class, or one at SAIT works too.

best quote for "intimidating" women

"of course I am not worried about intimidating men. 

the type of man who is intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in."

- chimamanda adichie