By Ayanna McPhail
Knight Ridder Newspapers
There is a way to avoid getting your attire bashed at this year's holiday parties.
Get in touch with your fashionable side. For 11 years Cathy Corey has been the director of the Johnson County (Kan.) Cotillions, and she owns rows of etiquette books. While preparing for her own Christmas party, Corey shared the truth about fashion faux pas for the festive season.
"This is the dressiest you can get," Corey said. Gentleman are expected to wear a tuxedo jacket with a tail, white bow tie, white vest, white gloves and black shoes that tie. They should not wear a cummerbund or cuff links.
As for the women, "I think of something that the Queen of England would wear, and she would always wear gloves," Corey said.
Females should wear long formal dresses. Fur coats and formal jewelry are welcome, but Corey says an extravagant necklace and gaudy earrings are too much - do one or the other. If the dress has a fancy neckline, a necklace is unnecessary.
This is a formal affair but not as upscale as a white tie event. Men are expected to wear tuxedos with a black bow tie and a white tuxedo shirt. Women should wear long gowns.
BLACK TIE OPTIONAL
This "means some of the gentleman will be in tuxedos and some will be wearing dark suits with white shirts."
It is appropriate for women to wear formal knee-length dresses.
CREATIVE BLACK TIE
"The creative black tie is fun, especially for a themed party," Corey said. A woman can wear a cocktail dress with goofy shoes or a man can wear something weird to go with his outfit. For New Year's Eve, "people might wear an inverted champagne glass on their heads, you just never know," Corey said.
DRESSY CASUAL/ELEGANT CASUAL
Men can wear sports coats, cashmere sweaters or a nice button-down shirt without a tie.
For women, slacks or skirts with boots are appropriate. A shirt with a vest or a silk blouse are examples of suitable attire.
This is dressy casual with holiday flair. Christmas colors are encouraged and so are fun ties and sweaters.
-First, do not color coordinate with your date.
-"A gal shouldn't wear a shirt that is too low or a skirt too high at some of these events," Corey said.
-As for make-up, Corey says less is better and "most women don't need as much as they think they do."
-The outer outfit should match the "under outfit." If light shows through, underwear may be revealed. Or, with a sleeveless outfit, the bra strap may show.
-If the dress is tight and you're not well endowed, it is OK to forgo a bra. You also can use duct tape or adhesive stick-ons to hold your chest in place. Bustier women need to wear appropriate support garments.
-If you cross your legs and can see skin when your pants raise up, you need longer socks.
-Your belt should match your shoes.
-Do not wear brown shoes with black, gray or navy, no matter what the English do.
-If you can't fasten the top button of your dress shirt, it's too small. Buy a new one.
© 2003, The Kansas City Star.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.