Friday, April 29, 2011

Cocktail Casual

by Susan Sey

Confession time: It's been over eight years since I had a job I needed to dress up for. To be perfectly honestly, it's been eight years since I had a job I needed to get dressed for at all.

See I'm a stay at home mom and a writer. This requires one of two looks: PJ pants & an earflap hat, or shorts & a pony tail, depending on the season. I'm not much of a groomer, so this makes me happy.

However, I recently got invited to a charity event & the invitation arrived with this ominous post-script:

Dress is Cocktail Casual.

Um, what?

Now I'm not a total amateur when it comes to dress codes. I know the difference between black tie & white tie, I know business formal & business casual. I even know casual Friday (Jeans--yes. Flip flops--no.) But Cocktail Casual? I have visions of feathers & I'm pretty sure that's not right.

I implored my husband for help & he rendered this manly opinion: pants & a collared shirt. Which is great advice if I want people to hand me their empty glasses all night & ask for a warm up on their coffee. No help there.

Next came Google. Nearest I can tell, 'cocktail' defines the ballpark--we're talking a bit fancier and/or sparklier than work wear, with dresses around the knee. I'm thinking 'casual' tones down the fancy. Maybe throw on a cardigan to mitigate cleavage & arm flab?

Shoot, this is exhausting. There better be an open bar, that's all I have to say.

So how about you? Have you ever flubbed the dress code? Or witnessed an epic wardrobe fail? Share!

And if you happen to know what cocktail casual is, share that too! And please, be specific. And timely. This shindig kicks off at 6 tonight, so time is of the essence.

45 comments:

catslady said...

Ohhh I'm first. It pays to stay up late. The kitties have been waiting for their playmate lol.

I rarely dress up myself. I have a nice pair of dressy black pants that you can dress up or down and everything goes with black lol. A nice pair of heels and purse can also dress it up. Let us all know how it went!!

June M. said...

I would think that either dressy pants and a blouse/sweater or a nice dress would work well, but I rarely dress up either.

Helen said...

Well done catslady have fun with him

Susan
Your posts always have me laughing I am not a dressy person at all and cringe at the idea of having to get dressed up, so for me Cocktail casual would mean a nice pair of pants or skirt with a flashy top ar a nice dress with nice heels.
Enjoy your evening
Have Fun
Helen

Jane said...

Congrats, Catslady.

Hi Susan,
I've always heard it's better to be overdressed than underdressed, so I always keep that advice in my mind when dressing for an event. I don't think I've ever witnessed any inappropriate or wacky outfits like the ones Bjork favors.

Sheree said...

When in doubt, go with the little black dress. Just don't go overboard with the bling since it's "cocktail casual".

Pissenlit said...

I once was verbally invited to see a children's choir sing at a Christmas concert put on by an inner-city non-profit organisation by a friend who worked with the kids. I was absolutely mortified to find out that it was a fundraising event for donors and such when I arrived in fairly casual slacks. Thank goodness the lighting in the church was very dim, my pants were brown and I had on a smart top. The next year, I showed up in a dressy mid-length skirt and blouse!

Ooooh, they're so unhelpful when they make up their own mish-mash of a dress code! My stab at Cocktail Casual would be a less fancy cocktail dress(yep, just above the knee or thereabouts), cute flats or low heels, going easy on the jewelry and make-up. So, you know, nice but not like you're going to a whole lot of trouble. Also, I don't think one can ever go wrong with trotting out the little black dress at times like this.

Yes, open bar does make everything better, doesn't it? :D

Susan Sey said...

Good morning, catslady! I think black pants are the answer here. And I have those. But I've been hearing lots of "sparkly top", too, and this concerns me. I have no sparkles. I don't sparkle well.

But I have an adorable purse. Maybe that'll help?

Susan Sey said...

June M wrote: I would think that either dressy pants and a blouse/sweater or a nice dress would work well, but I rarely dress up either.

Oh, a sweater! I think I have a nice sweater! It doesn't sparkle but that'll be okay, won't it? I mean, I'm not princess Kate or anything...

Susan Sey said...

Helen wrote: for me Cocktail casual would mean a nice pair of pants or skirt with a flashy top or a nice dress with nice heels.

I have the cutest pair of heels I just found over christmas, too, and I've been dying to wear them. Maybe this is my chance! I'm short, so heels never look too obvious on me. Yay! Silver lining!

Nancy said...

Catslady, congrats on the bird!

Susan, I so feel your pain! I had the same dilemma during the holidays. I fear "cocktail casual" means different things in different groups, and I was sure everyone else at the dh's boss's house knew the unwritten code that would make the meaning clear.

I settled on black slacks, a silk blouse, and my grandmother's gold locket but added the crystal fake diamond earrings that come out mainly for National or Moonlight and Magnolias. Better to be under-dressed than over, I figured. Though I did go out and buy a velvet top with sheer sleeves, which I ultimately rejected.

Too bad it's velvet, so unsuitable for NYC in July, and I have to go shopping again. I hate shopping.

Anyway, the people who were wearing things like that velvet top were very few, so I blended right in. Thsnk goodness!

It's so blinkin' easy for guys! Dark suit, white shirt, muted tie, and they're ready. Sooo not fair!

Nancy said...

That's THANK goodness. The iPad won't let me scroll down to fix typos. :-/

Susan Sey said...

Jane wrote: I don't think I've ever witnessed any inappropriate or wacky outfits like the ones Bjork favors.

Let us pray to whatever gods will listen that I do not channel Bjork at tonight's event. Though it could happen if I let the Golden Rooster dress me. I'm sure his idea of 'cocktail casual' isn't what they event organizers have in mind...

Susan Sey said...

Sheree said: When in doubt, go with the little black dress. Just don't go overboard with the bling since it's "cocktail casual".

Good advice! And since I do have a black dress and don't have any bling, it suits me to a T. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Pissenlit wrote: So, you know, nice but not like you're going to a whole lot of trouble.

Ah, so they're planning to rely on my good breeding and inherent taste? Ha!

I had to laugh at your story of ending up at a formal event in casual pants. We were once invited to a black-tie optional wedding out of town & I was still a new enough bride that I didn't know I was supposed to monitor my husband's wardrobe choices. I just let him pack himself. He ended up at a super formal wedding wearing a light brown suit. Urgh.

I still don't pack for him but I do peek in the suit case. Just on the off chance that my input is needed. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Nancy wrote: It's so blinkin' easy for guys! Dark suit, white shirt, muted tie, and they're ready. Sooo not fair!

I know! And they size men's clothing in inches, too, so if you know how big you are, you know what size to wear! What does the fashion industry have against women, anyway??

MsHellion said...

I am no help whatsoever because I'm thinking, "What IS the difference between black tie and white tie, except for the obvious?"

And I wear flip flops a lot to work. I'm awful. I admit it. I hate shoes. God forbid my feet get hot, which is often. I realize a lot of people seem to have 'cold feet', but this baffles me.

Susan Sey said...

Ms. Hellion wrote: And I wear flip flops a lot to work. I'm awful.

What? No! You're not awful, your workplace is great! That's all that means. :-) Hope you & your feet have a lovely, temperate day. :-)

As for white tie/black tie, I'm in murky waters there myself. But I *think* it's distinguished by the white tie (or maybe that's a decoy to weed out the classless like moi.) Because I also think maybe it can be a morning suit--you know with tails and spats and top hats. Could be wrong there. I don't run in those circles. (Surprise!) But that's what I think I know. Or maybe not.

Dtchycat said...

I hate when people tell you what the dress code is for something because most of the time, they don't know what they want. Case in point...we received an invitation to an outdoor wedding at a fairly fancy place during October and the invitation said dress was "formal" - which meant different things to different people. Half the guests thought it meant to should up wearing suits and dresses, the other half thought it meant to have clothes on apparently...Rule of thumb, always go with the little black dress (even change the color, maybe the little purple dress) and carry accessories with you that you can bling it up as needed as you sit in the car spying on what everyone else is wearing. I also bring two pairs of shoes - if it is more fancy I go with a higher heel, less fancy, I go with flats.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Good morning, wedding watchers! Grins.

Hey Susan, at least we didn't have to figure out what hat to wear with our elegant suits to the Royal Wedding. Grins. I look good in hats, but many people just DON'T and I have seen a lot of the latter on TV this morning! Grins.

As to cocktail casual, do NOT ask the GR about this. His answer will not be what you need. :>

I've done the "too casual" at a more formal event before, and only once have I done the "too dressy" at a more casual event.

It said Cocktail Attire. That, to me, is...well...cocktail attire! Like the dress in your post, or something with even more flash. So I wore flash. *eye roll* there were people at the same party in jeans and casual tops.

So either people don't read (likely) or cocktail attire meant something totally different to me, and to my hostess who was also in heels and sparkles. Grins. At least the two of us were "correct" to the invite. Snork!

I think CCasual means nice shoes, nice pants or skirt, nice, potentially sparkly top. It's dressed up business casual - more sparkle, but not quite to the level of full beaded sheath with diamond chandelier earrings. Grins.

But what the heck do I know? I too work from home.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Dtchycat said: Half the guests thought it meant to should up wearing suits and dresses, the other half thought it meant to have clothes on apparently...

Hahahah! I nearly spewed coffee over this one!

Ha!

Pissenlit said...

Dtchycat - the other half thought it meant to have clothes on apparently

Oh, were my aunts at that wedding? LOL I have a couple of aunts who think having clothes on is the answer to any dress code. One of them wore pink flip-flops to a wedding and when someone called her on it, she justified them by saying that people can't see your feet under the banquet table. A few years ago, her nephew's wedding was very formal so there were no flip-flops in sight...she wore a pair of those cheap black Chinese mesh slippers. :D

jo robertson said...

LOL, Susan, nobody does funny like you do. Hilarious post!

I have no idea what casual cocktail is, although I suspect the cocktail is for women and the casual for men, meaning suits instead of tuxes.

Heck, I don't even know the diff between black and white tie, but I know this for SURE:

Kate Middleton's wedding gown is GORGEOUS!!!

Catslady, hope the kitties keep the rooster in line today!

catslady said...

They are playing hide and seek as we speak lol.

I just went to an awards dinner at my daughter's college and they said to dress business casual. So nice pants and top but nothing too overdone. The husband sitting next to me had on a red flannel checkered shirt and I saw jeans on some too - I guess it depends on where you work lol.

Louisa Cornell said...

Don't ask the GR to dress up for anything, Catslady! He ALWAYS goes for the bling!


In my singing days I would know exactly what to wear and I had a nice wardrobe of smart clothes from which to select.

These days I wear navy and khaki, all day every day - navy and khaki. I swear the day I leave Walmart I will burn every navy and khaki article of clothing I own! YUCK !!


I think cocktail casual does NOT mean jeans in any form, nor flip flops, nor t-shirts, not matter HOW much money you paid for those items. If someone is foolish enough to pay 80 dollars for a t-shirt it is STILL just a t-shirt. (Can you tell I have seen people dressed like this for fund-raising cocktail parties? SHUDDER!)

I would think your basic little black dress and pearls would be perfect for cocktail casual. Or some nice dress slacks with an evening type top.


I work at Walmart, ladies and gentlemen. The HOME of WHAT NOT TO WEAR !!

Inara Scott said...

Susan, I think you need to PUSH THE ENVELOPE tonight. If they're going to give you completely ambiguous dress code advice, you should take their "cocktail casual" literally and give them BOTH.

Bling on top, hair in an up-do, jeans and sneakers on the bottom.

Or perhaps swanky heels and a cocktail skirt with t-shirt on top.

Or go little black dress and carry a trashed backpack instead of a purse.

Susan Sey said...

Dtchy cat wrote: Half the guests thought it meant to should up wearing suits and dresses, the other half thought it meant to have clothes on apparently...

Oh, my gosh, I *know*! I went to a wedding recently where I saw everything from suits & dresses to sweatsuits. Kid you not. SWEATSUITS.

Susan Sey said...

Jeanne wrote: It's dressed up business casual - more sparkle, but not quite to the level of full beaded sheath with diamond chandelier earrings. Grins.

Well thank goodness because my beaded sheath & chandelier earrings are at the cleaners. The Oscars was just hell on them. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Pissenlit wrote: One of them wore pink flip-flops to a wedding and when someone called her on it, she justified them by saying that people can't see your feet under the banquet table.

Is this like newscasters wearing plaid shorts under the desk? It won't show on camera, therefore...

I'm just glad somebody called her on it. I hate it when people act like your wedding is their living room. Wear your uncomfortable shoes for me, damn it. This is my wedding day.

Susan Sey said...

Jo wrote: Heck, I don't even know the diff between black and white tie, but I know this for SURE:

Kate Middleton's wedding gown is GORGEOUS!!!


Oh, wasn't it? Love, love, LOVE! So classic and elegant. Then again, she looks classic & elegant in everything. What I wouldn't give to be tall & thin. Beautiful wouldn't hurt, either, but tall & thin is a nice start. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Catslady wrote: I just went to an awards dinner at my daughter's college and they said to dress business casual. So nice pants and top but nothing too overdone. The husband sitting next to me had on a red flannel checkered shirt and I saw jeans on some too - I guess it depends on where you work lol.

Ha! This is my *good* flannel, I'll have you know.

Susan Sey said...

Louisa wrote: I work at Walmart, ladies and gentlemen. The HOME of WHAT NOT TO WEAR !!

I have to tell you, Louisa, I gave my MIL a "People of Walmart" book for christmas, full of fashion don'ts. We laughed ourselves brainless over it. Do you really stuff like that, or is it all photoshopped madness?

Susan Sey said...

Inara wrote: If they're going to give you completely ambiguous dress code advice, you should take their "cocktail casual" literally and give them BOTH.

Ha! Like my little black dress with my wool socks & birks? Shave only one leg?

Or, no, my worn out jeans and lank hair with expensive heels! I could have Bryan give people the crazy eyes all night & tell people I was Katie Holmes!

Louisa Cornell said...

Yes, Susinia, there really are PEOPLE OF WALMART !!!

We who work there have learned a great many code words to inform our coworkers of a particularly heinous fashion faux pas so we might all participate in the "joy."

For instance - and ONSD on Aisle 3 more than likely means someone wore a red thong with white stretch pants two sizes to small and a black bra safety pinned with one of those lovely diaper pins under a white lace shirt.

MEME in Produce means you are going to race for the eye wash station if you see the 5 foot tall 500 pound woman in the size 12 sequin top (which produces size 38DD backboobs to match the 46 DDs threatening to spill out into the cantaloupe bin) and "daisy dukes" and platform flip flops rolled onto the sides because they have exceeded the weight limit.

We do become competitive when trying to do an eyeball measurement of exactly how much space exists between a guy's natural waist and the belt of his trousers which has landed somewhere around his knees thus exposing his snappy RIP Biggie Smalls Boxers to our "admiring" eyes.

The words "tammy faye baker" muttered under one's breath means one's coworkers are about to be blinded by the use of electric blue eyeshadow, lips draw up to someone's nose and two perfectly round orange circles of blush all applied under hair teased so big as to threaten to take out the ceiling fans over the produce bins.

Kaelee said...

I have no idea what dress codes mean other than I will never be attending black or white tie events.

I'm getting a lot of chuckles today and it just adds to the feel good feeling I have. I stayed up all night to watch the WEDDING. I did love Kate's dress.

Now would you be wearing a hat or a fascinator to this event. LOL

Anna Campbell said...

Ooh, Susan, color me confused too! Hope you have fun at the function!

Catslady, congrats!

Beth Andrews said...

Hey, Susan. Like you, I live in comfy clothes but I do love the chance to dress up a bit.

That said, I was under-dressed at my first RITA/GH ceremony (in Denver) and felt a bit out of place. Now I have a few dresses I can put into rotation so I don't have to buy a new one each year :-)

Have fun at the charity event!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Susan!

Since we're all a-buzz about the royal wedding today, I'll share something that happened years ago at a friend's wedding. Okay, I didn't witness this one since I was in the wedding party, but my best friend did.

Our good friends Terry and Bob were getting married. My best friend was sitting in a pew waiting for the ceremony to begin when down the aisle on the arm of an usher came this older woman.

Suddenly they stopped by my friend's pew and the woman took one step, bent down, picked up her half slip that had fallen off, tucked it under her arm and kept walking!!!

hehehe

Sheree said...

As far as I know, jeans are "California Casual" and even then not ripped.

Susan Sey said...

Louisa wrote, re Walmart fashion: "...and platform flip flops rolled onto the sides because they have exceeded the weight limit."

I absolutely love this image. The flip flops over the weight limit, just rolling over & giving up. Ha! You must have the best stories to tell after a day on the job!

Susan Sey said...

Kaelee wrote: Now would you be wearing a hat or a fascinator to this event. LOL

Ooooh, the wedding! I taped it so I could watch it with my kids tonight. I've always loved hats, & would happily wear one to an event if I ever went to a hat-friendly thing. For myself, of course, I would choose the fascinator. Absolutely. What could ever be wrong about pinning a fancy feathery thing to the side of your head & calling it fashion?

Susan Sey said...

Anna C wrote: Ooh, Susan, color me confused too! Hope you have fun at the function!

Thanks, Ann! I did have a good time & I was (thank the good lord) appropriately dressed in a gray & black sheath dress with a black shrug sweater over it. Some people were not so lucky. That is all I'll say about that.

Susan Sey said...

Beth wrote: I was under-dressed at my first RITA/GH ceremony (in Denver) and felt a bit out of place. Now I have a few dresses I can put into rotation so I don't have to buy a new one each year

The dress I wore last night was purchased for a wedding ten years ago. It's a classic though, so it remains in rotation. I think that's a lovely idea--to have a stable of little black dresses just waiting for use.

Susan Sey said...

Suz wrote: Suddenly they stopped by my friend's pew and the woman took one step, bent down, picked up her half slip that had fallen off, tucked it under her arm and kept walking!!!

Well.....I suppose there was nothing else to do but proceed with aplomb, right? :) Sometimes life gives you no choice. It's lovely to see somebody just gracefully going with it.

Susan Sey said...

Sheree wrote: As far as I know, jeans are "California Casual" and even then not ripped.

I mean no offense to Californians or the state of California when I say this, but I have observed CA tends to play by its own rules fashion-wise, in a way that often leaves us Midwesterners puzzled, if not actually agape. :-)

Susan Sey said...

thanks for coming out with the advice yesterday, everybody! Just wanted you all to know I selected a gray, knee-length sheath dress printed with black velvet flowers, a black shrug sweater and a pair of heels. It was extremely appropriate and you're all to be commended for steering me so properly. There were people in attendance who were not advised nearly so well. Thanks!