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Dressing for life-event rituals

Posted by Robin Abrahams  September 28, 2011 05:52 PM

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Sal at Already Pretty has a terrific post up about the etiquette of dressing for important life events -- weddings, funerals, b'nai mitzvoth, christenings. It's a good read. Her basic principle is extremely sound:

[E]motionally significant events are some of the few for which you should aim to blend in. I don't generally encourage anyone to conform, purposely dull, or invisibilify themselves, but my experiences have led me to believe that events such as these call for clean, plain, unobtrusive dress. If you wear your finest fancy frock to a wedding and show up the bride, you'll feel crappy. If you pile on the statement jewelry for a funeral, you'll feel conspicuous. Many emotionally significant events are about honoring SOMEONE ELSE, and if you keep your clothing and accessories chic but subdued, you will allow the process of honoring to continue smoothly.


And she has good guidelines for what this means in practice. (Although I disagree with the idea that only black or grey are appropriate for funerals. Somber, subdued colors, yes, but unless you are a member of the family, black is not required. This is a palette of the outfit I wore to a memorial service two weeks ago.) The comments are also worth a read for advice, helpful tips, and the occasional doozy of an anecdote:

My brother is a high school principal in Kansas. The school has a dress code (not super strict, but does say things like "no exposed midriffs, shorts/skirts must not expose butt cheeks, no sagging pants, exposed underwear, graphics on shirts must not be explicit, etc." Completely reasonable rules.). He sent a girl home once because she was dropped off late and was wearing a spaghetti strap cropped halter top and black low-rise shorts that were about the length of volleyball shorts, and flip flops. When the parent came to pick up her, he asked why the girl was late and why she was inappropriately dressed. Parent said, "well, we'd just come from her great grandfather's funeral and she didn't have time to change."

Oh, dear.

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at missconduct@globe.com.
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Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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