After months of trying to book the coveted dinner reservation for two, you finally secured a time slot to enjoy a meal at the hottest restaurant in the city. You’ve spent so much time reading about the establishment that you can recite specific details from food critics and Yelp reviews and how to dress. You’ve already combed through all the Instagram photos associated with the restaurant, at least twice. You daydream about holding the menu in your hand and excitedly choosing the items you’d like to order – like a kid in a candy shop with an unlimited allowance.
You’re well aware of the fact that this meal could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so you’ll want to dress the part. You wonder, “What should a person wear for a multi-course meal at a critically-acclaimed restaurant?” You can stop worrying about your wardrobe and start letting your mouth water, thanks to our tips and suggestions.
Know the dress code
Just because a restaurant serves gourmet items at premium prices doesn’t necessarily mean they enforce a formal dress code. Some restaurants are relaxed and casual, while the cuisine is elevated and groundbreaking. You may find the dress code on the restaurant’s website or on a reservation platform. In addition, you may be able to search restaurant reviews for other diners’ observations about dress code. When in doubt, call the restaurant and ask.
A “casual” dress code typically means a blouse and fitted jeans for women and a polo shirt and tailored jeans or khakis for men. “Business casual” usually means dress slacks, skirts, and tailored dresses for women, and it means collared shirts and trousers for men. “Casual elegant” is a more dressed-up version of casual attire, while “formal” means that you should wear your best.
Restaurants calling for “jackets required” will expect formal wear, and they want men to wear a suit jacket. Some restaurants actually have an “anything goes” dress code, so you’ll be able to wear whatever makes you feel comfortable – within reason. The fashion blog Who What Wear says women can’t go wrong with a silk dress and printed heels, suiting and fun accessories, or an elegant midi skirt and cashmere knit. The Dark Knot blog says men will always impress by choosing dress shirts with skinny ties or chinos with blazers.
Get some inspiration
One of our favourite places to look for dining inspiration is Hollywood. By reflecting on some of the most iconic movie and television scenes that take place in restaurants, you can get some fun ideas for your once-in-a-lifetime meal attire.
For example, in the iconic film Pretty Woman, Vivian played by Julia Roberts and Edward played by Richard Gere dine in a restaurant called The Voltaire. While Vivian wears a lacy, fitted black dress with a scoop neck and short, off-the-shoulder sleeves, Edward wears a dapper black suit.
The long-running TV series Sex and the City is another excellent example for stylish women since the four SATC ladies were always dining at the hottest establishments all over Manhattan. In season one, Samantha and Carrie try to get a table at Balzac, “which had overnight become the only restaurant that mattered”. Samantha wears an elegant olive-green skirt suit, while Carrie wears a cobalt-blue spaghetti strap dress.
Consider your accessories
When getting ready for your once-in-a-lifetime meal, you’ll want to remember that your choice of accessories is just as important as your clothing. First and foremost, you’ll want to opt for accessories that won’t interfere with your eating experience. For example, long, dangling pendant necklaces and droopy bracelets are not recommended, since they may fall onto your plate.
Many restaurants utilize dim mood lighting, so any bright colours you wear will look muted. However, jewellery always sparkles and dazzles, especially in candlelight. Pearls are a reliable choice since they seem to glow in the light of a small flame. Did you know that the Ancient Romans valued pearls over diamonds? Of course, the Romans who could afford precious pearls spent their days lounging around, eating juicy grapes by the flame of a torch. They knew a thing or two about looking chic in candlelight!
We recommend a custom cultured pearl necklace from Add-A-Pearl. If you don’t already have a pearl necklace, then you can treat yourself to one of the starter necklaces, which features one lustrous pearl. Then, when you enjoy your next memorable meal, you can purchase another pearl and add it to your original necklace. Whenever you wear your necklace, you’ll be reminded of all the spectacular meals you’ve enjoyed throughout your life.
Above all, be practical
We understand that you want to look fashionable and chic, worthy of your surroundings and the amazing food placed before you. However, you’ll also want to be practical and realistic.
Eating a multi-course meal is going to expand your belly and leave you feeling full. The evening of your dinner may not be a great time to wear a form-fitting dress or slim-fit slacks. Instead, opt for forgiving materials that have stretch and elasticity, so you can feel completely comfortable as you work your way through your meal. Eating isn’t fun when you’re feeling constricted by your clothing.
You should also be aware that you might accidentally spill food or wine on yourself, so try to avoid anything light-coloured or that’s difficult to clean. Linen, rayon, and silk are notoriously hard to wash.
Now that you’ve read our suggestions, do you know what to wear? Try on a few outfits for a trusted friend or family member and get that person’s opinion before you commit to an outfit. Alternatively, you can post a photo of yourself on social media and ask your followers to give you advice.
Whatever you decide, keep your focus on the food and all the amazing aromas and flavours. Years from now, you probably won’t even remember what you wore to the restaurant, but you’ll certainly remember the delicious dishes you were able to enjoy.
Sebastian is a former hedge fund trader who worked only to indulge his true passion – food.
He has dined at over 240 Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, savoring culinary masterpieces and understanding the stories behind them. He now advises restaurants on menu design, decor and holistic diner experience.