Trying to Break the Holiday-Party Dress Code

by Celia Rivenbark


I love everything about holiday parties except for the dress code, which I’m never quite sure how to get right. If, for example, the invitation specifies “business casual” I’m truly at a loss.

I work from home, so does this mean MY business casual, which would be a leopard-print robe over a “Crazy Cat Lady” T-shirt and sweat pants? Somehow, that doesn’t seem right.

The vague “holiday attire” could be anything from that deeply discounted blinking Rudolph sweat shirt on the end cap at CVS to a classic Stella McCartney gown in Christmas red. I DON’T KNOW.

It’s times like this-and only times like this-when it would be nice to be Kim Jong Un. Holiday party? He thinks he’ll just wear the mandarin-collar pajamas in cell-gray. Just like he does every single day of his life.

Or, bless her heart, Whoopi Goldberg, who attends everything from state dinners to the Oscars in an oversized white Oxford shirt and a black maxi skirt big enough to hide a half-dozen Honey-Baked Hams.

Or Lady Gaga, who would interpret “holiday attire” as the perfect excuse to skin a polar bear and wear it. (Don’t look so shocked, Tony Bennett; we tried to tell you she was a little crazy).

Deciphering the holiday dress code baffles men, too, but they don’t seem bothered by it.

Getting ready for a “holiday attire” party the other night, I carefully combined black lace palazzo pants with a sparkly gold wrap top and some vintage rhinestone earrings. There.

I go into the bedroom and there’s Duh Hubby, wearing pale-wash Wrangler jeans, a rugby shirt that screamed “Oxford” that we got on vacation last summer and Jesus sandals.

“I’m ready!” he says.

Lord, don’t let me kill him ’til the house is paid for.

One of my least favorite designations is “Creative Black Tie,” which is confusing to women and men alike. Of course, I had to Google the term to make sure we didn’t get it wrong and one of the definitions was “a more modern interpretation of a tux, perhaps with a black shirt and no tie.”

I think it would be hilarious to let your modern interpretation be no shirt and a black tie. There’s even something called “Texas Black Tie,” which calls for formal wear accented by, I’m not kidding, oversized belt buckles and cowboy boots. Other states should follow suit.

Here in my home state, “North Carolina Black Tie” could be a regular tuxedo with a basketball jersey subbing in for the shirt. In Florida, you could replace the cummerbund with a very short New Jersey transplant tied around your waist. Colorado Black Tie could be a tux made entirely of hemp and in West Virginia…oh, who am I kidding; nobody wears a tuxedo in West Virginia.

Maybe we’re all confused. Last year’s White House Christmas party dress was “wintry mix.” Which just leaves me cold.


Rivenbark is the author of seven humor collections. Visit her website at ©2015 Celia Rivenbark. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.