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Jun 27, 2012 12:47 PM

Dressing well for upscale restaurants while travelling?

Hey everyone,

I'll be going on vacation to New York shortly, and I hope to travel light. At the same time, I'd like to visit some of the 2- and 3-star Michelin restaurants, if I can get in. I might be able to squeeze a jacket into my suitcase, but I'd like to keep the rest of my clothes as practical as possible.

Would the following work OK for going to a place like Eleven Madison Park or Jean Georges?

* Ecco shoes:
* Black Dockers
* Button-up shirt, sort of like this, but I think with a black/red pattern:

Is there a huge difference between dress pants/slacks and Dockers? Does it matter?

Is it OK that the shirt is not explicitly a dressy shirt? Does it matter if it's plain or patterned?

Do restaurants really provide loaner jackets? This would save me some suitcase space.

Please bear with me. I've never actually gone to an upscale restaurant before — at least, not since I was much younger — so this is all very new to me. Thank you!

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  1. When we were starving students, Mr. Pine and I went to a restaurant where jackets were required (not only did he not know ahead of time, he didn't own a jacket). They gave him a loaner, with an attitude of such disgust that even Mr. Pine (not known for registering such things) was aghast. So, wear a jacket during the flight (planes get cold) to save packing space. I don't know that restaurant, but I would steer you away from Dockers if it's indeed a dressy place.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pine time

      Also, when traveling, always smile at the lead flight attendant, as you board, and ask if there is a place to hang the jacket. Unless you are flying en Embraer 145, or CRJ 200, there usually is. Most flight attendants will help you out.

      If there is no place to hang, then turn the jacket inside out, then gently fold it, placing it atop a small carry-on, or briefcase.

      Good luck


    2. an old thread that will be helpful. I'm guessing that if you google up the names of places and "dress code" you'll get a lot of hits.

      1. I usually just wear the jacket on the flight, stuffing it into a suitcase really messes it up. With the jacket on the shirt is less important. The pants imo are not as important so long as they aren't jeans, I wouldn't hesitate to wear a pair of Dockers. As far as shoes, so long as they aren't athletic shoes I don't think it matters.

        1 Reply
        1. You will not need a jacket at either EMP or jean georges. Dockers and a button down shirt will not get a second look at either place. Enjoy!!

          1. I'm curious to see how this thread develops. American restaurants always seem to be much more formal than the equivalent quality here in Europe. Foir instance, I only know of a handful of places in the UK where jackets are required - and, as someone who doesnt own a jacket, I can easily and happily avoid them.

            19 Replies
            1. re: Harters

              " I only know of a handful of places in the UK where jackets are required"

              I think you can count on two hands the number of restaurants in the states that requires a jacket.

              1. re: kurtt

                Wow. So few. I must have been really unlucky in coming across several of them planning our last couple of trips to America.

                1. re: Harters

                  I maybe exaggerating a little but the number of restaurants that require jackets decrease yearly. When was the last time you visited?

                  1. re: kurtt

                    I think you are right...apart from private clubs (and these are abandoning their standards daily) I can think of only a tiny number of restaurants requiring a jacket..and none demand a tie anymore. The uber-traditional Locke-Ober in Boston caved in last year, Wilton's in London abandoned the tie requirement a few years ago and, I think, is now "jackets preferred" or something like that. Ever conservative New Orleans has one place requiring a jacket on Sunday and after five o'clock.

                    Stick-in-the-mud that I am, I will not go to Eleven Madison Park or Per Se or a squadron of other places without a coat-and-tie.

                    1. re: kurtt

                      Last trip in June, 2012. Before that, I think 2009.

                      The one that sticks in my mind was from this trip. Place in, I think, Connecticut which was on a farm. It all seemed very casual, including the offer of a hayride before dinner - but still required a jacket.

                      I'd still take the view that American restaurants, or at least American customers, are more formal than in Europe. The "jacket preferred" also seems much more prevalent and, certainly, worn more often than here in the UK.

                      By the by, Wiltons is one of the few British places still requiring jackets (which means I won't be going any time soon)

                      1. re: Harters

                        I'm surprised that anywhere in Connecticut--apart from a couple of yacht clubs I can think of--requires a jacket anymore. When I was last there a couple of years ago it was possible to walk into the bar at the Griswold Inn wearing tennis togs.

                        I thought Wilton's had slipped to "jacket preferred" but am glad to hear it is slightly more strict than that. A friend made a reservation there about ten years ago and was politely told "You do realize that we require jacket and tie for gentlemen?" And he responded "You do realize that I should not be dining with you if you didn't?" The days of the dinosaurs . . . .

                        1. re: hazelhurst

                          Found the CT place - even worse than I thought. They also mention tie as well as jacket (something else I havnt owned in many years)


                          1. re: Harters

                            Egad...reminds me (depressingly) of the Upsons house in "Auntie Mame." "A lit-tle too B. Altman...only the more exspensive floors, mind you."

                          2. re: hazelhurst

                            No - Wilton's (as of 2010) was "jacket required," but only for gentlemen. Have not tempted fate, on several later ventures, so they might have relaxed their standards?

                            Though I was turned away for lunch in 2010, I hope that they have not.


                          3. re: Harters

                            This is somewhat odd to me because as North American women we are often told to pack a decent dress and shoes for dinners out in Europe - that we will not fit in with the locals in the sneakers and shorts we might wear for sightseeing during the day. But I guess you are talking about actual formal requirements and me more about general fashion/style sense.

                            1. re: julesrules

                              I wouldn't say shorts and sneakers are appropriate for diner in many North American restaurants, either (then again, it's not what I would wear for sightseeing, either).

                              1. re: julesrules

                                "Decent dress and shoes" is not formal in my book.

                                You will find that most upscale British restaurants, if they declare a dress code, it will be "smart casual". I think Americans would say "business casual". Even where there is a "jacket preferred", you'll find that many male diners are not wearing one. I cannot think of any restaurant in Britain that I've been to where I have not felt entirely comfortable and not out of place wearing chinos and a proper shirt.

                                But you're right - shorts are rarely appropriate in "nice " restaurants anywhere

                                1. re: Harters

                                  No. It is not.

                                  In the US, "formal" is tails and white tie. Semi-formal is tux, with appropriate accessories, is required.

                                  For ladies, formal definitely means long dresses. For semi-formal, or cocktail attire, it can mean at least "cocktail dresses," which can be shorter.

                                  For gentlemen, "formal" also means patent leather, or polished kid, and the same goes for "semi formal," regarding shoes. For the ladies, they get MUCH more latitude.

                                  In the US, "semi-formal" is often translated to dark suits. That is not correct. It means tux. Before 6:00PM, a white, or beige dinner jacket, can work too.

                                  Too many confuse the terms. Too many mis-use the terms.

                                  If I see "formal," and know that they REALLY mean formal, then I know that I am to be in tails, with white tie, and if in Winter, a black overcoat, a black formal hat, and a white scarf.

                                  OTOH, living in Arizona, USA, I see all sorts of dress-codes, like "Western formal," or "Resort Formal." Those can mean any danged thing imaginable. We did one gala, where "Casablanca Formal," was the dress-code. What the heck is that? It was at 7:00PM, so white, shawl-collared dinner jackets, were not going to work?

                                  At least most restaurants, still with a dress-code, do not get silly.


                              2. re: Harters

                                Ah, had not seen Wilton's in this reply. You are correct. They DO require gentlemen to wear jackets, even at lunch.


                              3. re: kurtt

                                As far as "requirements," you could be correct. As far as how ALL of the other gentlemen are likely dressed, it really has not changed much.

                                If one wishes to push the bottom of the envelope, then all should be OK.


                            2. re: kurtt

                              Well, I have encountered maybe two dozen, on the Mainland, and in Hawai`i, so it will depend on how many fingers YOU have on each hand.


                            3. re: Harters


                              I find it to be almost the opposite, but then we are most often in London, Mayfair, so things might well be different.

                              Even if there are not stated "dress codes" in Mayfair, there are many places, where all gentlemen WILL be in jackets, if not suits.

                              Are there places in the UK, and the US, where jackets are not "required?" Yes.

                              However, if all other patrons are in suits, and I show up with none, will I be comfortable? Probably not.

                              Recently, on a rainy day, I left my blazer in the room, and donned my overcoat. We arrived at Wilton's for lunch. Guess what - I needed that blazer. I, of all people, was devastated, but I took the two lovely ladies in my company across St. James for lunch at a lovely bistro.

                              I have encountered dress-codes for gentlemen in Rome and in Paris too.

                              Just my observations,


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Indeed, Bill, I know you're often dining in Mayfair - one small part of one city in the country. My only really upscale experiences there are the Michelin 2* Hibiscus and the 1* Locanda Locatelli and, nope, I didnt feel or look out of place with no jacket.

                                1. re: Harters

                                  That is good to know.

                                  You are correct, in that we are usually in Mayfair, or within Westminster, though do get out of London-Centre a bit - just not often. Then, as I have brought my jacket, I usually have it handy (especially after my Wilton's faux-pas), and honestly do not really take note. I may well be over-dressed, but am comfortable.

                                  The exact same holds for other places, and many in the US. Even in Hawai`i, I usually have a jacket for dinner (though that CAN change, depending on the restaurant).

                                  Just today, we hosted a gracious donor to lunch, at an up-scale, resort restaurant in Phoenix. I wore a blazer, while others were in shorts. I think that I was the only jacket in the restaurant, but it did not bother me.

                                  I happened to grow up in an area of the US, where there WAS more formality, even with oppressive heat, and humidity. That just carried over, and has become my "style."

                                  It's kind of the same with ties. Obviously, if I have a Reyn Spooner Hawai`ian shirt, or a polo, then no tie. However, with a dress shirt, I might, or might not - it just depends. As I have 100's, I need an occasion to wear them... [Grin]

                                  In Mayfair, I usually do, as I seldom have a "soft-collared" shirt, under my blazer, but that is just me.