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Business Casual, Holiday Dress optional

December 12, 2004

Next time I get an invitation to a Christmas party that reads "Holiday Attire" or "Business Casual, Holiday Dress optional," please point me toward my own website.

This year my employer held such a party. And coworkers were really vague about what that meant. And I didn't know what it meant. And lo: I am ignorant.

I mean, I know what business casual is - I dress that way everyday to go to work. But Holiday Dress??? What IS that? I assumed it meant that some people could wear holiday attire if they wanted. I didn't know what holiday attire was, but apparently someone did. I was imagining the ladies wearing sweaters and vests of sorts with black slacks. The kinds of sweaters and vests that are embroidered with christmas trees and jingling bells. Or perhaps with ribbons and bows and laughing snowmen and prancing reindeer. You know: the kind of sweaters sold in the old lady section. (Uhhh...sorry mom. But that is where they are.)


People! Women were wearing SEQUINS. Like, as in prom-style sequins. Didn't I already graduate from high school? Isn't this being held in a barbeque joint? Am I the only one who is confused here?

Earlier that night I had talked Roger into just wearing slacks and a shirt, despite his attempts to persuade me to dress up a little bit more. After all, it said Business Casual. NOT SEQUINS AND SUITS.

Roger and I felt soooooo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o (sooooooo!) under-dressed. We immediately sat down at a table with some other folks in a lame attempt to hide half of ourselves underneath the table. Maybe people would think I was wearing a long, flowy skirt with my sweater. A skirt that would CERTAINLY be more acceptable than khakis. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

Soon we had to get up to go to the dinner buffet, which meant I was REQUIRED to WALK IN FRONT OF EVERYONE and then EVERYONE had to see what I was wearing. And this is when my vanity hit me. I asked Roger if he wanted to go home and change clothes, and he looked at me like I was half crazy. I sort of am, by the way.

So: attending a holiday party? Does the invitation say HOLIDAY ATTIRE (optional)? Do you not know what that means? It's okay. I didn't either. Which is why I'm about to break it down for you.

Men: Whatever you do, wear a blazer. Men have it easy because you can wear tailored jeans with a collared shirt and blazer and you have it made. Still, I'd suggest nice, dark slacks, a collared, button-down shirt and a blazer. Easy-peasy.

Women: I don't suggest wearing sequins unless you know that the party really is a formal one. (And if it is formal, it should say so on the invitation.) Sequin gowns at non-formal events scream either (a) HELP! I'M STUCK IN 1992! or (b) I have nowhere else to wear this, and really, really, really wanted to. Rather, wear a tasteful cocktail dress. Something nice, that hits in the region between your calves and just above your knees, maybe with minimal beading or a sequined neckline, but for the love of all things holy, please don't wear head-to-toe glitter.

If you need additional help, email me. I'm happy to help anyone avoid a blunder such as my own. Additionally, you may find THIS SITE particularly helpful.





Melissa said...

I heard that Roger got sick. That is a bummer! I hope he's feeling better. As for your business casual mess, that is very bizarre. Didn't you say the party took place in Deep Ellum? I find that odd that people got so dressed up for it. At least it's over with though and hopefully wasn't too embarrassing for you! :)
December 13, 2004 9:37 AM

Anonymous said...

You want Christmas attire? hows this?
How tacky is this wedding?
December 13, 2004 10:36 AM

jes said...

OH. MY. GOODNESS. i just took a look at the above site. i stared at disbelief until i came to the bride's wedding cake, and then i busted out laughing, clasping my hand over my mouth, as i read the comment "the mothership has landed"...you have GOT to see this!!!
December 13, 2004 10:49 AM

Eddo said...

Don we now our gay apparel...

Oh Jes, what a conundrum indeed- it seems your entire weekend was spent not having a good time- Please tell Roger to plan his sickness around a time when you don't want to go someplace- or maybe that is what you did? If you didn't want to come to my house on Sunday- then you should have just said so, no need to make up this "Roger is Sick" story...

JUST KIDDING- I know you felt bad for not being able to make it and I want you to know that it was no big deal at all- I went and rented Stepford Wives and ate myself into a delicious coma.

Hope Rog is getting better!
December 13, 2004 12:41 PM

jes said...

Yes, I plan to tell Roger that next time he gets sick, I hope it will be at a more convenient time for me. This weekend was not at all good planning on his part.

I'm so jealous of your Sunday! Not only did I miss out on the lasagna and caesar (i LOVE caesar, just not fishy caesar) and NM choco chip cookies, but I missed out on the Stepford Wives, too. I've been wanting to see that!
December 13, 2004 1:01 PM

Katie said...

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha, I just looked at the ghettofab wedding. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. I feel horrible laughing at someones wedding but I can't stop myself. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
December 13, 2004 1:26 PM

Katie said...

Jessica - I found this a while back when trying to interpret invitations and write a few for the youth group. Here you go:

Banish pre-party jitters about attire with our quick reference to dress codes for social events.

Black Tie means formal. Men wear tuxedos, women wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.

White Tie means ultra-formal. Men wear full dress, with white tie, vest, shirt. Women wear long gowns.

Formal usually means the same as Black Tie, but in some trendier cities like New York or Los Angeles, it could mean a black shirt, no tie with a tux. Women wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.

Ultra-formal means White Tie. Men wear full dress, with white tie, vest, shirt. Women wear long gowns.

Black Tie Optional means you have the option of wearing a tuxedo, but it should clue you into the formality of the event, meaning a dark suit and tie would be your other option.

Semi Formal Dress means women wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.

Black Tie Invited means you have the option of wearing a tuxedo, but it should clue you into the formality of the event, meaning a dark suit and tie would be your other option. Women wear cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates.

Creative Black Tie leaves room for trendy interpretations of formal wear. He can go more modern with a tux -- maybe a black shirt, no tie. She wears long or short dresses or evening separates (maybe a long lace or sequined skirt with a sleek cashmere sweater).

Semi-formal is the trickiest of all dress codes. Usually it means that tuxes are not required, nor are long dresses. An evening wedding (after 6 PM) would still dictate dark suits for him, and a cocktail dress for her. Daytime semi-formal events mean a suit for him and an appropriate short dress or dressy suit for her.

Cocktail Attire means short, elegant dresses for her and dark suits for him.

Dressy Casual usually means no jeans or shorts. Similar to business casual, but a tad dressier.

Casual generally means anything goes.

Informal can mean the same as casual. However, when associated with a wedding or other special event, some form of decorum and good taste should prevail. A dress for her or a nice pair of slacks and shirt for him are informal, but respectful of the event.
December 13, 2004 3:15 PM

Amanda said...

Work Christmas parties always seem to put me in a very non-Christmasy mood. Maybe that's why I try to avoid them AT ALL COSTS! Luckily for me, one of the three Christmas parties my work is having this year was canceled in favor of getting to leave work early on Friday, which I found to be a MUCH better Christmas gift than a stupid party. :)
December 13, 2004 4:24 PM

jes said...

Leaving work early would be nice. In support of Melissa's theory, my favorite "instead of a work holiday party" suggestion so far has been receiving the cost of the party as a bonus per individual/couple.
December 13, 2004 4:29 PM

jes said...

Katie, thank you for such a thorough listing of party attire explanations. However, your list failed to mention HOLIDAY ATTIRE.

When I got to work and recapped the story to a couple coworkers, they were really surprised that most people were wearing FORMAL DRESSES AND SUITS. So, it seems that really the people wearing FORMAL DRESSES AND SUITS were the odd-men out. Sadly, it felt just opposite of that.
December 13, 2004 4:56 PM

Sara said...

OK, once AGAIN, I ended up anonymous...Im the one that posted the ghetto fab wedding site. Apparantly, my mom got one with more commentary on it, so what i remember ill fill you in. If you look at the picture of the castle ice sculpture, apparantly all around the table were bowls of peanuts and bowls of hot sauce (???). another thing, notice the ridiculous number of people in the wedding party, then notice that it looks like they are having their reception in the basement some church or rec center. And in the pictures of the happy couple sitting at their table, those HUGE red bottles on the table were "for decorative purposes only", I guess that was just to add to the theme of oversized and outrageous, like her dress and those glasses they were drinking (maybe orange soda?) from.
December 13, 2004 4:59 PM

jes said...

i was wondering if that was you, sara. your MOM posted these pics somewhere? What? Am i confused? how in the WORLD did your mom get these pics? is this a typical georgia thing? ;) if so, can't wait til YOU get married! i'll have plenty to post about! heehee :)
December 13, 2004 5:11 PM

Amanda said...

Jes, thank you so much for your comments. Your words were such an encouragement to me! It feels really good to know I'm not the only one who seems to be thinking and feeling this way. Oh, and we live in Longview, TX. But, we used to live in Bedford.

:) Amanda @ Camouflage Lace
December 13, 2004 7:47 PM

Sara said...

GOOD LORD NO! my mom was NOT at that wedding. someone sent her the site. Ive been to several Georgia weddings, and let me tell you they were nothing like that one. I had to miss my bumpkin cousins wedding, the one that was in the church that his father built in their front yard so his wife, the grooms mother (the hair salon owner, Mary Kay seller, and now preacher)could have her own church. She officaited the ceremony and when it was over the happy couple walked back down the aisle out of the church to "she thinks my tractors sexy". Even THAT isnt as bad the the ghetto fabulous wedding. I did do to my southern cousin Cary Ann's wedding, and minus the Harley tread engraved on their wedding bands and the fact that we practically had to hold Cary Ann down while I put makeup on her and her mother forced her to wear heels (which came off and tennis shoes went on right after the ceremony, but at least they were white) that wedding was pretty normal. Sigh, my family is weird.
December 14, 2004 9:36 AM

jes said...

When you describe those things about your family, it sounds soooo funny. What's funnier is that it's soooo not who YOU are! Thanks for the laughs!
December 14, 2004 9:41 AM


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