Fashion Dictator: Dressing For A Christening

Each week, Esquire's Fashion Director, Catherine Hayward answers your style conundrums. Tweet your questions to her @chaywardstyle.

I've been invited to a christening in the country. How formal do I need to be?
Dan, via email

Unless your hosts have specified an exact dress code, you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to choosing appropriate baptism attire.

But panic not. If you’re not immediate family, then take this invitation as a sign they’re celebrating the arrival of their bundle of joy in a big way, so think of the christening as a mini-wedding ceremony.

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There'll be a formal and hopefully short-ish service in church. Then, guests are usually invited to a drinks reception or – if they’re really pushing the boat out – a sit-down affair.

And right now, you’re thinking you need a suit, right?

That is the correct assumption. Much better to opt for the safe option of suit, shirt and tie when confronted with a cross-generational family gathering, and especially effective if you're sitting next to the ultra-traditional Great Aunt Maud who has a penchant for natty neckties.

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But what are the basic rules?

Don't wear black. Too dense; too evening; too Reservoir Dogs.

And don't wear separates. Too casual; too Alan Partridge; and too likely to result in a style faux pas, if you’re unsure.

Burberry London grey wool and linen-blend suit £1,095 from

Instead, opt for a mid-grey or navy two-piece. A mid- or lightweight wool will work if the ceremony is in the next few weeks. Keep the proportion as slim and as neat as your build will allow – even pleated trousers come in narrower fits these days. If you prefer a three-button single-breasted style, button the middle button only. With a two-button style, it’s the top one. And leave one-button styles to the evening. 


Lanvin Pleated Tapered Wool Trousers £545 from

A soft blue or very light pastel green/pink are suitable alternatives to classic officewear white shirts, which can look a tad corporate in a country church setting. And ties? Well, as long as you’re wearing one, you will be forgiven for branching out into bold colour, pattern and lots of texture.

Richard James Blue Cotton-Poplin Shirt £125 from

And Great Aunt Maud would approve of that.

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