Dressing up

abendAt the opera house some weeks ago, my husband and I watched the audience and were struck by how little most of the women dressed up. Mind you, it’s easier for the men: Wear a dark suit, a pale shirt and a tie, and you’re set. As for the women, the great majority wore black trousers and a colored jacket, some a black or silver jacket, with a blouse or top underneath. A few women wore a suit, either with pants or a skirt. Even fewer (I among them) wore a knee-length dress. One lady wore a floor-length dirndl. She was easily the best-dressed woman present, but she stuck out quite a bit. This got me thinking about what occasions I (and other women) actually dress up for.

I own two ball gowns, but actually I never wear them except for very formal occasions like graduations balls. I also own two long evening dresses (one of which still fits), but again, I wear them very rarely – for balls and for evenings at the big opera houses in Vienna or Munich. I have worn them at weddings, too, but it gets rarer and rarer here in Germany for female wedding guests to wear long gowns, and most women turn up in cocktail dresses or short party dresses.

I also own one cocktail dress, which I only got recently and plan to wear for the opera at smaller places and for Christmas. If there’s a wedding in the near future, that would be my dress of choice, too.

For all other occasions – graduation ceremony, christenings, birthdays and other parties, I just pick my best daywear. I have a lot of dresses and skirts, so I always find something nice. It’s easier in the summer, as many summer dresses look very charming anyway, and are often perfectly suitable for a party if accessorized correspondingly.

I still think it’s a pity so many of the opera visitors just settle on black pants and a jacket. It’s obviously become a uniform by now, and a boring one at that.

My question now to you: For what occasions do women dress up in your country, and what do they wear?

– Rike Horstmann

5 thoughts on “Dressing up

  1. maggie b.

    I don’t go places right now that require much dressing up. I have a black skirt which has a graduated hem from about mid thigh down to mid calf. Depending on the top it is formal or fun. Most of the weddings I attend don’t require much formal wear, for example this summer I attended one in a silky floral sleeveless sheath. I went to a wedding two summers ago where I was one of a very few people in a dress clothes. The wedding was outside in the afternoon (but on country club grounds!) and everyone seemed to dress in what I would consider “nice” summer casual (lacy spaghetti tops, capris). I like that things aren’t super formal anymore but do feel we have to stop the trend at some point. Twice now I have seen young women shopping in their pajamas. Slippers, comfy cotton tops. And I am not just talking the leisure pants many of us wear. I am talking about full on pj’s like those pictured here

    maggie b.

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  2. Ann

    I try to dress nice for all occasions. I wear a nice pair of black pants and a dressy top for dinner at a nice restaurant, graduations, baptisms & bridal/baby showers. At a wedding I will wear a dress. I own one gown that I wore for my niece’s wedding. I am always in jeans, so when I get a chance to dress up a little, I will.

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  3. Ingrid

    I live in Holland and people dress up very little to go to the theatre. I always dress extra warmly, because the airco can be fierce. So the few dressy, bare-armed dresses I do own, are out.
    I saw a theatre producer on tv the other day, and he said auditoriums should be cool, or people fall asleep. According to him the optimum temperature is 18 degrees C. That may be all right for a man wearing a jacket, but it is freezing to a woman in evening dress. So no wonder I always wear a wool jacket or a thick cardigan to the theatre. Even then I often feel the light breeze of the airco all night.

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  4. Missie

    Well, I live in U.S., in East Texas. While one will often find people wearing jeans to a funeral (though they do usually starch and iron them — and jeans may well be all the folks own), the tendency I’ve noted is that if there’s an event at the Cowan Center, say:


    most folks will make an effort to dress up their look a bit more. It won’t likely be formal wear/ballgowns, but it is more likely to be at least office wear if not more dressed up “after work hours” wear.

    Formality of dress for a wedding depends upon the time of day of the wedding as well as one’s role in the wedding — members of the wedding party (best man, bride’s maid/matron of honor, groomsmen, bridesmaids, parents and grandparents and siblings of the bride/groom) will likely dress more formally than guests. Usually, the later in the day the wedding is, the more formal/dressy the attire the guests will consider (significant difference between a wedding at 10AM or 2PM and a wedding at 7PM).

    Here in the South, many folks still adhere to dressing themselves up for church, as well — they still wear their “Sunday best.”

    Many will still also dress for certain school events, such as graduations and special school programs (play productions, musical productions, and such). Here, most schools have strict dress requirements for students for formal school functions such as formal dances and graduations. They aren’t so strict at university level (students must wear the requisite cap and gown, but we saw some students at our son’s uni graduation wearing flip-flop shoes and obviously wearing shorts under their grad gowns, though most dressed more formally under their gowns), but they are quite strict at high school graduations — students at our son’s OUTDOOR high school graduation were required, in 90F/32C or greater heat, to wear suits and ties for the gents (complete with long-sleeved shirts, dress socks, and dress shoes) and dresses and PANTYHOSE (they had a female teacher make each female student raise her dress to prove she wasn’t wearing knee high hose or, heaven-forbid, stockings *rolls eyes*)…all under their gowns. I think that’s carrying things beyond common sense, if you ask me — it’s a wonder the poor kids didn’t pass out in a puddle during the ceremony…many of the audience in the stands were dressed more appropriately for the heat and HUMIDITY (it’s East Texas, we’re humid here): ladies in summer dresses WITHOUT HOSE (or at the least in stockings, which are cooler than wretched pantyhose) and men in cotton khaki pants or some such cotton pants and short-sleeved dress shirts.

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