Cracking the dress code

Written by Ravi Bajaj | Updated: Aug 3 2008, 09:39am hrs

Dress codes are most often intimidating, if not irritating for most of us. When we receive an invitation that has a dress code, it does send a nervous, discomforting sensation up the spine, that is, if you are the image-conscious kind. Instead of getting excited at the idea of having a great time at the do, we start worrying about, Oh God! What am I going to wear Even though, its not such a big deal to figure out whats appropriate. In this column, I am going to de-code and decipher the various dress codes that are likely to come your way. Let us look at some fairly common codes that come on invitations:

Dress: Formal: This is simple. Gentlemen have the following options:

a) A dark suit, navy or black, with a white shirt and dark tie, lace up black shoes

b) A dark bundgala suit worn over a white shirt, shoes remain lace ups

c) Kurta pyjama Now this is a bit of grey area, whilst a kurta is our ethnic /national dress, it still has to be worn with a certain sense of formality. Sleeves should not be rolled-up. The kurta should have a band collar and most importantly, the footwear needs to be sharp and clean.

The above are options for the conventional man. For the slightly less conventional, a black suit, black shirt and black tie should be nice and dandy. Ladies should stick to wearing a sari. Its formal enough even for the White House!

Dress: Lounge Suit/Uniform/National Dress: These are the dress codes that come with most of the invitations to National Days of various Embassies. For people in the services, I guess a uniform is fine. But for civilians, it causes a problem. But, what the heck is a Lounge Suit

Well, any suit that is not a business suit or a black suit could qualify as a lounge suit. So you could wear almost any suit with a shirt and tie and you are ready for the occasion. But here I would like to add that when one goes to diplomatic events, its always good to wear your nationality on your sleeve, so perhaps a bundgala, shervani or kurta pyjama would be more authentic.

Ladies could of course wear a not so shimmery sari or even an avatar of the salwar kameez or churidar.

Dress: Smart Casual: This one actually is more about attitude rather than clothes. Because smartness is a mind trait. How does one look smart What most hosts try and want from you is that you turn up fairly presentable, without looking too uptight.

a) A shirt with a pair of jeans (not ripped)/ a pair of pants.

b) Shirt and jeans paired up with a blazer.

c) Shirt and trouser with a front open cardigan.

These can be some smart yet casual options for you.

Ladies could go with purely western or indo-western clothes. No problems.

Dress: Casual: This to most folks means: license to dress shabbily! Thats why I never use this dress code on any of my parties or events. Because, invariable people show up looking disastrous! Casual is often mistaken for sloppy. Track pants, flip-flops, Capris, eeks! Enough to ruin my evening at least. Casual should merely suggest dress as you please. So, a pair of jeans and shirt/collared T-shirt or even a sports jacket could be casual. Ladies can stick to wearing dark jeans and kurtis/tops/shirts, etc.

Then, there are some dress codes which are theme based. Such as Karl Lagerfelds party for Dom Perinon in Paris last year where the theme was libertine! Now something like this could be really interesting for the guests to interpret. When confronted with dress codes like this one, its usually good manners to read up the meanings, then see how closely one can follow it without making an ass of oneself of course. In our country, we feel that its cool not to adhere to a dress code. Perhaps we feel that we might seem meek if we do so. I think this is a sign of lack of confidence and conviction. However, having said all of the above, I must add that ultimately you have to be comfortable in what you wear. So, irrespective of the host, venue, occasion, just be your natural self.