Hello and welcome to Fashion Bites! I'mEllen Byerrum, author of the screwball noir Crime of Fashion Mysteries, featuringLacey Smithsonian, a fashion reporter in Washington DC, The City That FashionForgot.
Lacey solves crimes with fashion clues and she has ExtraFashionary Perception.
Today I am pondering the dress code fora conference I recently attended.
It called for “dressy casual, ” a brand-newclothing category for me.
However, it didn't seem to have much of an effect onthe participants.
Let's think about the other categories we're bombarded with: professional business attire; business casual; casual, which slips right intocasual Fridays, which I think should also be known as “anything-goes” or “clothingchaos.
” There is also cocktail attire, festive attire, formal attire, black-tie, and “creative black-tie.
” Now to that list we can add “dressy casual.
” But isn't that a contradiction in terms? An oxymoron? Yet in these wacky fashion times, we getthese kinds of requests.
My favorite of these confusing instructions is “creative black tie, ” which I've seen in action in theatre circles, and it seems to mean, Go and raid the costume shop and put on anything that is satin, velvet, taffeta orcrepe, or with lots and lots of sparkle! And if you want to wear a gold lame skirt with high-top sneakers, that's okay, because it is certainly creative.
But whoever wrote the “dressy casual” dress code really covered the waterfronton this.
Depending on your personal definition, it could be anything fromoveralls to a long gown or a combination of both.
How are we to interpret “dressycasual”? Painter pants with a tuxedo jacket? A rock band T-shirt with astatement necklace? Torn blue jeans with a sweater set and pearls? No, those would be wrong choices.
But I doubt if in these anything-goes dayspeople would be kicked out because of their attire.
And they weren't.
And theywere dressed perfectly fine, in what I consider “business casual.
” Asking for”dressy” implies you might employ a certain savoir faire, a desire to blendin, but adding a personal touch that stands out, so you don't blend into thebackground.
When the conference requests “dressy casual” I believe they want a”business casual” look.
The idea is to look professional, but to be comfortable.
To beprofessional but not boring.
Comfort is important when you attend a conference, because you might be sitting on hard chairs, dealing with temperature issues.
It's either too hot or too cold.
You might want to wear layers or bring ashawl or scarf, and you don't want your clothes to bind or bunch or pull apart.
You don't want your clothes to distract you, or more important, you don't wantyour clothes to annoy whomever you are talking to.
I once attended apresentation with a famous female playwright.
I was so excited to hear herwords of wisdom, but I found it hard to concentrate on what she was saying, because her blouse kept gapping over her stomach and bust.
Plus she constantlyshifted around in her chair like a five-year-old on a red ant hill, and she giggled constantly, out of nervousness I suppose.
I held my breath, hoping her buttons wouldn't pop and give us a real show.
Sohow could this happen? She dealt with plays, performances and actors all thetime.
She dealt with how things look on stage.
But apparently she didn't considerher speech as another performance or how she would come across.
Yet she was inpublic, on a stage, and it was another kind of performance.
Remember that every time you stand in front of a crowd and talk, you are giving another kind ofperformance, of yourself, and frankly I don't even remember what that playwrightsaid, because I was holding my breath so many times.
When you attend a conference or any professional meeting, you need to consider how others see you.
You want to be memorable, but not for the wrong reasons.
Sometimes this is a trickyproposition.
You want to stand out, but you don't want to look like a clown, orso odd that no one wants to talk to you.
Nevertheless, “dressy” in “dressy casual” is a step above.
You can add a little bit of interest with a necklace, a bracelet, ascarf or a jacket.
Adding a nice dose of color will also help you stand out in acrowd.
So what did I wear to this conference? I started with a plain canvasof black, basic black slacks and a black top.
Dear Lord, what would we do withoutour black slacks? And I chose this emerald green jacket.
The jacket is aknit material that I don't usually wear, however, it was soft and comfortable allday.
I added my current favorite necklace and I brought a wool shawl.
Because thiswas a writers' conference, I added a pin in the shape of a pen, for a touch ofhumor.
If you have to attend a conference, strive to be comfortable, butprofessional and memorable.
Remember to bring along your business cards.
And alot of conferences hand out tote bags, but others don't, and you'll want to be ableto stash your notes and handouts somewhere, so you might choose abriefcase, like this one, which I repurposed from an old Estee Laudermakeup case.
Also, try on your outfit the day or the night before, to make sure allthe buttons are attached and you don't have any unexpected fashion flaws.
Youcan check the fit.
Then you can enjoy your conference without worrying aboutwhat you're wearing.
That's all I have for now.
If you want to know more aboutme or my books, check out my website at ellenbyerrum dot com.
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