The thorny issue of formal dress
Once in a blue moon, I’m invited, as my real self, to the type of function that requires me to wear something a bit more glam than the class mums’ night out (no offence, ladies) – something that asks attendees to wear black tie or what I find infinitely worse, ‘formal dress’.
Black tie is easy: a dress that reaches the floor, heels, great jewellery, a clutch, silk cocktail gloves (just kidding) and you’re done.
‘Formal’ is a potential minefield of sartorial disaster. The men will, of course, be in suits. This being Dubai, many, male and female, will go straight from work, so that’s my starting point for ‘formal’: it must fall somewhere on the sliding scale between what you could wear to the office and a full-length gown.
That’s a lot of scope.
I’m telling you all this because I have a function to attend tonight, in the dreaded ‘formal dress’. DH, who will attend straight from work in a navy suit, came home last night to find dresses draped all around the bedroom, hanging off the doors, floating around the bathroom, laid out on the bed, and me hopping around the bedroom in half a pair of black footless tights and one eye-wateringly high sling-back stiletto (it was a sort of ethnic experiment involving a silk tunic).
‘Are we having another garage sale?’ he asked, looking at my collection of best frocks.
‘Just trying to decide what to wear tomorrow,’ I said, giving up on the tights. They were too hot anyway.
‘So what’s the problem?’ he asked. ‘Any of these will do.’ He’s right – one of my worst habits is buying dresses for the glamorous lifestyle I no longer lead. If I have a lot of anything, it’s nice dresses.
‘Ah, the problem is shoulders.’
I’d been told that the event was being attended by a handful of Emiratis and that, as a measure of respect, shoulder-coverage would be well received. How much shoulder coverage to indulge in, though, was not specified. Was a thick strap okay? A sleeveless style that covered much of the shoulder? Or were we talking cap sleeves, or more? (I did wonder, at this point, if I could just wear my abaya and nice lipstick).
I explained it all to DH. He saw the problem at once.
‘Good job you mentioned it,’ he said. ‘I’ll make sure I wear my full-sleeve suit tomorrow.’ Pff.