Tenue is a set of clothing, ensemble or outfit, and de ville is French for "of the city." When combined, the term means dressy and usually business attire — those clothes that an individual would wear in a business setting. As translated by native speakers of French, the term can refer to any type of semi-dressy but not formal clothing. A sweater vest or slacks with a sports coat might make up part of tenue de ville, or a skirt and blouse worn by a woman.
In some cases, dress code for businesses is defined in this way, and it generally means business clothing. This tends to refer to suits for men, or at the very least, slacks, coordinating jackets, and a formal shirt and shoes. For women, tenue de ville is a bit more loosely constructed. It can mean dresses suitable for business, skirts and tops, or women’s business suits. People who are unsure about what business clothing is appropriate for a particular event can ask others or, for work-related events, take a look at what other employees are wearing. It's best for individuals to keep to more conservative clothing like suits until they see how relaxed or formal the standard is.
This term does not refer to formal clothing, such as tuxedos, full-length ball gowns, or morning coats. Instead, it is the normal clothing that someone would wear to the office or to a semi-dressy gathering, perhaps to a friend’s home for dinner or out to a mid-priced restaurant.
People are likely to see the term used in Europe, parts of Canada, and very occasionally in the larger cities in the US. It might be added to an invitation for an event when describing dress code, or places that someone visits may use it to refer to the dress code. For instance, a nightclub or a restaurant could specify that dress is tenue de ville.
Some historical sites or churches make similar recommendations, though not always in the same words. For instance, if a traveler went to visit a Russian Orthodox Church, he or she should dress conservatively, and women are asked to wear skirts and nylons or tights. Some places are very particular when it comes to women’s dress, and request skirts, tights and modest blouses. Both men and women may be asked not to wear shorts.
As much as this designation does not imply overdressing, it also means not under-dressing and avoiding the following:
- Jogging suits
- Flip-flop shoes
- Bare legs
- Revealing tops
- Mini skirts
- Tee shirts
- Highly stylized clothing like extreme low-waist pants or tops that don’t cover the midriff