Dress Code Decoder: What is Napa Chic?

Social events in the Napa Valley are a blast whether you’re invited to a private tasting or big bash winery party. But deciding what to wear to said soiree can be a bit of a chore, especially when you get an invite with the ubiquitous yet impenetrable “Napa casual” or “Napa chic.”

Basically, Napa Casual, Napa Chic, Dressy Casual and Cocktail Attire mean you can wear pretty much whatever you like short of mud-stained jeans or a ballgown. (Although I have seen both of those are Napa Valley events.) For men, it’s time to pull out the chinos-polo-shirt combination that never fails and ladies can rely on nice dresses or pants with an interesting top (but be sure to add a shawl or jacket because wine country evenings can be quite chilly.)

For a tongue-in-cheek look at the perils of cracking the wine country dress code, I put a few questions to a man who has saved me from a few sartorial stumbles. Let’s call him the Wine Country Wardrobe Adviser.

Q. What is dressy casual?

WCWA: The result of someone who can’t make up their mind what to specify. Is it dressy or is it casual? Ultimately, it means there will be some finicky b*tch who will say, “Well, what was SHE thinking?” … and it will probably be me.

Q: What is Napa casual?

WCWA: See above.  Also any “casual” designation in Napa Valley means you better know to wear flats because anything more than that will sink deep into damp golfing turf (leaving you with little turned up toes and a snapped Achilles) or powdery dry vineyard soil. Keep the latter particularly in mind when considering open toes … and French pedicures.

Q. Why is it that no matter what the dress code it always translates to “untucked Tommy Bahamas shirt” for men?

WCWA. Because men get a pass.

Q. What is the one outfit that will get you through just about any wine country occasion?

WCWA. Crisply ironed blue jeans, a white shirt and a blue blazer … men or women.

There you have it, partygoers. See you on the social circuit!