As the holiday season comes around, many people will begin receiving invitations to holiday parties of
all kinds. In some cases, you'll know exactly what is expected of you as far as mode of dress. Let's be honest; your best friend's tree
trimming party is easy to dress for, but what about that invitation to your boss' annual New Year's party at the Country Club that says
"White Tie Required"? Or, do you know what dress is appropriate for a wedding where the bridal invitations read "Semi-formal attire is desired"?
The Tradition of Dress Codes:
The Dress Codes were created to help people know what was expected of them in a particular setting.
It is a function of etiquette, those rules designed to help us interact comfortably with one another. The host of any given function
would specify a dress code based on the atmosphere he or she was hoping to create for the event. And as your host or hostess was going
to the time and expense of organizing and providing food and entertainment for your enjoyment, it was considered very bad taste to attend
dressed inappropriately. The dress code allowed you to know what to wear, and more importantly, what not to wear.
Therefore, a hostess planning a function that wanted to be elegant and sophisticated could send her
invitations and request that her attendees wear "Formal" attire. Doing this, she was assured that no one was likely to show up wearing
something to ruin the atmosphere she has worked hard to create, and more importantly, something that would result in the wearer feeling
uncomfortable for having chosen.
If you should ever receive an invitation to a function where there is no dress code suggested, yet you
feel it is possible that your host intends for there to be a standard of dress, do not hesitate to call and ask for clarification. Your
host will be grateful for your considerate gesture, and you will be much happier when you aren't over-or-underdressed.
Modern Adaptations of Dress Codes for Business:
Today, when most people hear the term dress code, they think of school or work and the clothing
required for those environments. This is especially true for those persons in corporate environments. Decades ago, we had terms like
"Blue collar", "White collar" and "No collar" jobs. "Blue Collar" jobs were those uniformed, labor-intensive, skilled, industrial jobs in
machining, fabrication and manufacturing, and were called such because the typical uniforms were blue in color and were all nearly
identical regardless of which company you worked for. "No Collar" jobs included unskilled work in retail sales, food service, janitorial
service, and general laboring, the "uniforms" for these types of jobs were all varied depending on type of job and where you were employed.
And then there were "White Collar" jobs. These were the professional jobs where the workers dressed in suits and ties or at least shirt and
tie for lower-level positions.
"White Collar" jobs today have evolved from the strict "suit and tie" mode of dress and include less
formal styles, like "Business Casual" and "California Casual". The Internet Boom and the Dot Com era created a demand for highly-skilled
individuals who also tended to be highly-independent and creative. These individuals balked at the "cookie cutter" uniformity of the
"Business Dress" environment and companies found that by relaxing the dress codes and adopting more casual attitudes about office attire,
they could improve morale and increase productivity.