A well-known perk of Greek life is the parties, and not just the sweaty, vaguely-themed dance parties on the first floor of some frat in a room covered in glow paint, bumpin’ and grindin’ to the soundtrack of someone’s iTunes playlist. No, we’re talking crush parties, date parties and formals. The kind of parties you have to know someone to get into.
Whether you are involved in Greek life, you probably have been or will be invited to one of these events at some point in your life at Northwestern. Great — everyone loves parties! But now that you’re invited, what do you wear? Nobody warned you when you were on your way out the door this September that college would be like your high school semi-formal all over again. And again. And again.
What to wear ends up being one of the biggest concerns surrounding these events. And it’s not just girls wondering, “Cocktail or formal?” When it comes to event couture, guys need some guidance, too. While there’s no way to tell you specifically how to dress (no, that purple shirt should not be brought out in public, and for the love of God, don’t wear suspenders), there are a few general guidelines that apply to the different events.
Crush parties are informal parties where members invite between two and five dates. The good news is that crush parties are probably the easiest kind of party to dress for. Not only are they the most casual, but they’re usually themed, which makes for creative and fun outfit scenarios. Crush parties can have themes based on holidays, colors, sports or pretty much anything else that involves dressing in funny clothes. Dress according to theme — the parties are way more fun when everyone dresses up. Don’t worry, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have to show up to a party dressed like an escaped circus clown.
“Most girls wore little black dresses to our last crush party,” said Weinberg sophomore Christie Horvath, whose sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, recently hosted a black-and-white-themed crush party. According to Horvath, almost everyone dressed based on the theme.
Warning: Crush parties are the exclusive territory of sororities, so if you’re a guy (or non-Greek girl) who wants to get in on the fun, start making some friends in sororities. Right away.
A word about bar nights: Since frats don’t do crush parties, they make up for it (sort of) by having bar nights in Chicago. As far as dressing goes, bar nights are a free-for-all. Sometimes they have themes, but the truth is, people wear whatever they want, usually “going-out” clothes. You know the ones I’m talking about — the stuff you wouldn’t wear during daylight hours. Perfect.
Date parties are more formal than crush parties, because each Greek only brings one date.
Girls: Put your prom dress back in the closet. Unless you want to look like an overdressed high-schooler, you should leave that princess ball gown back where it belongs. Yes, date parties are a step up from crush parties, but they’re hardly a night at the opera.
“For date parties, you want to wear something fun and cute and comfortable,” Weinberg sophomore Anna Kelly said.
Most girls opt for slightly above-the-knee dresses: cute and flirty, but nothing too fancy. This can be anything from a girly sundress to something more sleek and form-fitting. It’s even okay to show up in a fancy top and nice jeans. Whatever you end up wearing, remember that the point of the night is to have fun. As long as your outfit works for you, you’ll look great.
Guys: This one can be tricky, but it’s as dressy as you want to be, especially if it’s your own date party. If it’s a sorority event, or if you just want to be polite, it’s worth checking with your date to see what she’s wearing. Typically, a nice button-down shirt or polo is a safe bet. Ties are probably a little too dressy, but it’s fine if you really want to wear one. Nothing fancier, though. Save the suits for your formal, Huggy Bear.
The big deal. One date. Dress to the nines.
Girls: Now you can have fun. This is when you get to spoil yourself and spend all day doing your hair (or getting someone else to do it, if you really want to). While most girls eschew full-length dresses in favor of something easier to dance in, the fashion bar is raised for formals.
“At formals, you can really go all out and wear that awesome dress you’ve been saving all year,” Kelly said.
Lots of girls do have a specific formal dress they’ve been saving, but there’s no need to panic if you don’t. There’s still time to run out into the madhouse that is post-Thanksgiving shopping to find one. And if you’re too scared to brave the malls now (and who could blame you? People die in those places.), just go down the hall knocking on doors until you find someone with the same dress size as you.
Like at date parties, most dresses are cocktail-length. “The dresses tend to be pretty trendy,” Horvath said. “The styles are more modern. They’re not just one color.” So if you’ve got a great little black dress, go ahead and wear it. Just be warned: you might be the only one!
Formals are also a great time to bust out the pair of heels you’ve needed an excuse to wear all quarter. Heels are pretty much standard at formals; unless you absolutely hate them or have a broken foot, they’re your best choice.
Guys: A jacket and tie is pretty much the norm for formals. At the very least, you should be wearing a nice dress shirt and pants. This doesn’t mean you have to wear that frighteningly expensive silk shirt your mother bought for you for your cousin’s wedding. Keep in mind that you’re probably going to be dancing and therefore sweating, so don’t wear something if you’re not okay with sweating on it.
Again, it’s always smart to see what your date is wearing. We girls care about things like this.
A note: Many residential colleges also have formals. Same dress code applies.
Now you have no excuse not to look dazzling at your next event, whether you’re dressed in an oversized Michael Strahan jersey or decked out head-to-toe in BCBG. It’s time to concentrate on something much more important: who the hell are you going to invite?