Dress Codes

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by Leandra Medine
August 8, 2013
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We’ve had it up to here with you.

One of the most salient features of hosting a summer party unfolds as frustration at the dress code constraints. What does one mean by “festive attire”? I am not a piñata. Is “athletic chic” a real thing? Furthermore, does it mean we will be white water rafting but that Isabel Marant is absolutely mandatory?

Last week, in fact, I went to a party in Prospect Park. The e-vite came with those familiar, small, enigmatic block letters at bottom right. “Dress summer soiree.” According to my humble capabilities with the French language, “summer soiree” means summer party which does not translate to a mode of dress unless, of course, I was expected to appear dressed as a red Dixie cup. Or better–Simon de Beauvoir in white linen? I went as neither of those things and instead settled on white pants and a white blouse. That seems like the only outfitting concept immune to the futility of party dress codes. When I got there, though, there were black ties, long dresses, some jeans, some flip flops and so it had been confirmed: nobody else understood what the fuck “summer soiree” meant either.

This brings me to the above. In trying to figure out precisely how to dress for the various, nonsensical dress code regulations that may be thrown our way through the feeble duration of summer, why not completely shun the prospect of respecting your host and instead really, really make said host wonder why they thought calling the party “beach chic” in spite of its occurring on a concrete rooftop in Manhattan was all right.

While I wanted to act out each and every scene (see: clipping tree leaves into my hair for a “garden party,” wearing a bikini and sarong – or fin – to a  “beach chic-yet-black tie” affair or perhaps toting Pride and Prejudice through a room while in denim cut-offs for one such “smart casual” event), it appears as though sometimes photoshop is far better at making at point so above you will find seven instances that require your most creative dressing capabilities and while I can certainly tell you precisely which looks match which codes, isn’t it more fun if we play the guessing game? I will say, (especially in the preliminary case of Anja Rubik), we are all about a good dichotomy.

Fine, spoiler alert, she’s dressed business casual. That’s right–you’re looking at le smoking, looking smoking, while paired with Duane Reade’s finest flip flops.

Now, between “semi-formal,” “black tie optional,” “festive,” “garden party,” “beach chic” and “The White Party,” ( – what if people took that constraint literally, huh? And came dressed as mimes? – ) where do the rest of these fall? Furthermore, did we leave any ridiculousness off? Share your woes, people. We’re a family.

REPLIES
  • Kirby

    Saw you last night at premier movie of “Jobs”, too shy to go up to you and tell you “I love you, and your blog!” :)

    Kirby from bbekirby.blogspot.com

    • Leandra Medine

      Oh man, I wish you did. I really, really enjoy your comments.

      • Ludapris

        I’ve also been too shy to say Hi, when I saw you on the street! You da baddest :)

        • tahiti

          say hi! I did. leandra’s a sweet heart and just as hilarious in person!

  • Patagonia Gifts

    hilarious post haha! fortunately I don’t follow this codes to the letter. ;)

    Carolina

    http://www.patagoniagifts.com/giftblog/

  • Katie

    Dress codes are both good and bad… I do hate that I can’t wear my Celine fur birkenstocks to work or a long maxi dress because it is not considered business causal…. that would be considered beach chic. Yet in the summer guys can wear Sperry’s to work… not fair! We have casual Friday’s but of course no baggy or ripped jeans (my favorite- but I do work in a semi-professional environment). How I would love to wake up and wear whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I already can’t wait till Friday aka tomorrow! When I worked at a restaurant it was great throwing on a uniform everyday but now I have to calculate what I wear based on what other people are wearing in my office. I find myself wearing blazers and skirts/flirty tops/pants/skirts on a daily basis… with a pair of open toed wedge boots of course. Have to be fashionable somehow….

  • Daria Kunilovskaya

    Hi, Leandra! Was great to meet you in New York at MaxMara event.
    As long as I read your posts I can’t stop thinking that you’re probably among very few people there in fashion world that can say out loud the obvious truth. The question is why the hell everyone else in our fashion industry keep pretending everything is ok while many things have already gone beyond circus?!

  • http://alcessa.wordpress.com/ alcessa

    Pic Nr. 2 (darkly undereyed lady with shorts) :

    surely that is a member of a “well-shagged WAG convention”?

    You know, WAGs as in … well, WAGs

    Not a dress code the rest of the world can do so well …

  • http://jessjoycej.wordpress.com/ Jessica Joyce

    Same problemo. How, oh, how are we supposed to know? Maybe it’s all just a game on how guests are supposed to interpret the dress code, while the host/hostess has the advantage to look the best.

  • Naomi R Tallin

    I have a beach wedding to go to where the groom is wearing a tux but encouraging everyone else to wear Bon Jovi teeshirts and jean shorts! I told him that he’s setting the wrong example if he wants everyone else to go casual.

    Naomi

    • Charlotte

      It’s the same case with something like “Black Tie Optional” in which they set an expectation you are supposed to pick up on while simultaneously contradicting it. How are we supposed to know?

      • Leandra Medine

        Bow tie and denim shirt. That’s what they’re insinuating but too afraid to say

  • Amatoria Clothing

    I say throw your own party with dresscode : “Ass Hat Chic”

  • http://www.farandwildjewelry.com/ abigail lind

    the dress code for slide two probably read flashy but poor cara misread it as flasher. slide three is obviously an episode of pants off dance off and cara is winning. slide four is the annual highland fling and jared really ran with the mad for plaid theme. slide five is obviously an episode of my super sweet quinceañera. slide six is a quaint garden party. slide seven is the same quaint garden party only you were hardcore PMSing when you got dressed. slide eight is hobo chic and mary kate is nailing it. slide nine is beach chic and ariel is nailing it. and silde ten is a nuit blanche that some parisians took a little too literally.

    abigail
    http://www.farandwildjewelry.com

  • Gigi

    Dress codes stress me out. Whenever there is a dress code for an event I instantly become frantic and then say “eff it.” Most of the time I will wear whatever I feel like when I’m told to dress in a certain style.

  • olivia kirsch

    When is doubt… go casual!

  • Magda McCann

    “Formal attire encouraged” on a wedding invite last fall. Coaxing my very casual boyfriend to find and buy a tux (bow tie and cuff links his grandfathers) was ultimately a victorious feat. I didn’t mind being one of the better dressed couples, but I don’t know if he’ll believe my dress code deciphering abilities again.

  • CarolinaG

    I loved it!
    I’m posting looks from Los Angeles and accessories:

    http://www.thegavlak.com

  • CarleyFrost

    If I see “Snappy Casual” one more time….what the shit is that supposed to mean anyways? Google says ‘more trendy attire’ but I still think no one really knows except the person who came up with it…I say put ‘shit, shower, shave, and show up’

    • andrieya

      ew! snappy casual!? you’ve seen that more than once? i’ve never heard that one……it’s probably the same people who call appetizers “nibbles”

  • Behind the Mirror

    Courtney Cowart is in the background of photo 3 at the Tony’s!!! So Cute!! I just did a interview with her on the stash she keep behind her mirror! Love!
    http://behindthemirrorbeauty.com/2013/08/04/behind-the-mirror-of-courtney-cowart/

  • Mila

    I think it is always – at least here in Finland – to be overdressed than under-dressed!

  • Curvily NYC

    I almost lost it at: “perhaps toting Pride and Prejudice through a room while in denim cut-offs for one such “smart casual” event.” You are fantastic.

    • Kirby

      Definitely my favorite quote of this piece!

  • Jackie Mundy

    I was at this event in Santa Monica and the dress code was “LA upscale casual hipster chic” I wore a t-shirt and jeans….haha. livelyjax.blogspot.com

  • Nina Morena

    haha this is hilarious insight on dress codes! you never cease to entertain.

    http://ninamorenaxo.blogspot.ca/

  • Aubrey Green

    I think it would be fun to throw a party with dress code: wear whatever the f*ck you want – just to see what people wear, or don’t wear.

  • Guest

    My company is having a summer party tonight

  • http://www.beautifymylifeblog.com Jessica

    My company is having a summer party tonight on board a permanently docked boat-turned-restaurant in Philadelphia. My boss called for “upscale beach wear.” In an office filled with mostly 20-something women, I can’t begin to explain the agita that this directive created.

  • Royal Wang

    no matter what topic,you can always writes a lot,so it is not strange that you can release a book.

    http://www.fashionculturediary.blogspot.it/

    http://www.fashiongalleryglobal.blogspot.it/

  • http://www.fashionsnag.com/ Fashion Snag

    This drives me crazy!

    http://www.FashionSnag.com

  • http://mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr/ Mafalda

    That’s the best way to turn dress code upside down!

    Mafalda ❤
    http://www.mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr

  • VonRuhtenbergHandbags

    I love your humor on the subject, and I totally feel you when it comes to goofy dress code requests. I think people get caught up in what they think is the chicness of their invitation and end up making no sense. But, I’m always the optimist and I see the dress codes of our era just like going to the opera in Manhattan. You know you will see people wearing the full spectrum of clothing. I think that is the fun of living in our time. You, in essence, have full freedom to dress like yourself.

  • Dana

    those city folk, just too clever for their own dang good. Have to say, I appreciate a denoted dress code–not for me per se, but for clueless others. Just attended a beautiful, early evening wedding and a guest—a female guest!— showed up in jeans and a henley! the horror

  • Dalmat

    It’s usually one of two things – either the host or whoever is penning the dress code is finding a ‘cool’ categorization of what they plan to wear (“the narcissistic host”) – or – the host has a sense of humor and a penchant for suspense (“the experimental host”) who throws something out with tons of possible interpretations…kinda like the artist who painted the blob that everyone’s trying to decode, but it’s really just a blob

  • ASULikeIt

    Maybe the best solution to an e-vite that needs attire explanation means that next to the RSVP is a Pinterest board of inspirations for the party. One person’s definition of summer soiree may be completely different from another’s. Visuals, people!

    • Leandra Medine

      Now THERE is a sound solution.

  • Magda

    @leandramedine:disqus have you ever considered yourself as Carrie Bradshaw of modern era? :D

  • Ilia

    The only time a dress code should be used is if it’s a themed 18th or 21st, e.g. arabian nights (it would be shitty if it was your party and people came in a better outfit than you) otherwise once you’re older and have a full time job you’re not interested in going home to change to suit the dress code for the party, you just want to indulge in the free champagne and food and take two nurofen before bed to avoid a hangover. Ps Leandra- heading over to NY for my first time ever (im from australia). Going to sit at Jacks Wife Freda everyday I’m there until you happen to walk in- my trip would be complete if I met you! (We have a few mutual friends anyways)

  • JLMCGO

    You cant have style if you follow codes! Man Repeller is the perfect example of this!

    Check out my styling closet at wishi.me/r/jm

  • Mikalah Jones

    i love this, but i think its worse when people tell you to dress however then get mad out your outfit choice! that has happened on multiple occasions then i had to go into a detailed description of what “dress however” actually means.

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