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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Licentiate Column 24/03/11: Dress Codes

The unprecedented has happened. This month, I have not one, but two awards ceremonies to attend. This time last year, I was lucky to have not one, but two pub quizzes with which to grace my presence.

Awards ceremonies are tricky. Go long, or short? On-trend colour pops or classic monochrome? Stripes or spots? Hair - up or down? Bags - clutch or envelope? Consort - is he holding your bag or the drinks? It's one of the (very) few occasions when I wish that I was a man instead of a woman, accessory holding notwithstanding.

Black and white tie is strictly regulated - for the guys. You must wear black dress socks, you must have a black satin cummerbund, you must have the right coloured bow circling a stiff, starched collar in a brilliant shade of white. For women, it's slightly more difficult.

What then, if traditional dress codes go out the window? Black tie is now the stuffy formal mode of dressing - far too rigid for us hipsters and awards attendees. We have to have a different language; a new set of buzzwords for a new generation. We don't need your bourgeois, stinking dress codes, man!

We think that we've thrown off the shackles of sartorial suppression, but we've only made things worse. By opening up the remit in which we get dressed, we leave ourselves open to a whole new level of disaster. If you're going somewhere special and you want to look appropriate (an attribute that is severely underappreciated in modern existence), then dress codes are vital.

Imagine going to a wedding wearing jeans while your partner rocks up to the church in a bedazzled suit that the combined efforts of Versace and Liberace could not surpass in terms of extreme, overarching, gaudy glamour. Not a good image, now is it? Especially if your partner is a blocky, Beamish drinking, aggressively heterosexual nightclub bouncer named Craig.

Even if you don't have a Craig-esque partner, or even have a partner at all, the new series of dress codes are so utterly stumping that you can just about manage to worry only about yourself. Gone are the days of transparent codes, here to stay is Blank Chic, the code where the word 'chic' is preceded with something utterly meaningless, something that magicks up only a vague image that could be interpreted in a million different ways.

Last week a friend of mine told me about a party she attended - the dress code was 'safari chic'. What does that even mean? Did she need a pith helmets and and elephant gun to go with her Breakfast at Tiffany's cocktail dresses? Perhaps a scad of malaria to give that perfect touch of je ne sais qois to an LBD?

People generally don't like rules and regulations; it's a sign of suppression and bureaucratic measures, it limits creativity and personal freedoms and lest we forget, people don't really like doing things against their will.

But we're not talking about totalitarian government, nor are we really talking about awards ceremonies. We're talking about weddings and graduations, christenings and office parties - any formal occasion.
It's nice to be free and loose, but sometimes it's better to do what is right and proper - this includes a dress code.