by Richie Frieman
Allow me to paint a picture for you: You have an event tonight, you lay your clothes out, take a long shower, do you hair, and walk out of the house feeling like a million bucks! You arrive at the event expecting people to be blown away by how great you look, only to realize you are either over or under dressed for the occasion. Then, the only thing that pretty red dress matches is your cheeks, as you blush in embarrassment. This is not just a ladies' thing though, my fellow gents and I have found ourselves (on more than one occasion) arriving to an event feeling like we totally missed the memo on proper attire.
This podcast is brought to you by MarketingProfs. MarketingProfs is a one-stop shop for marketing know-how. Join a community of more than 500,000 entrepreneurs, small-business owners, and professional marketers to get practical advice on marketing tips. Sign up for your free, basic membership today at mprofs.com/manners
When you realize you stand out more than the 25-foot-tall ice sculpture in the middle of the event space, you basically want to run and hide. However, this should not be the case, if you properly evaluate the situation at hand, get creative, and twist your fate around into a fabulous evening. Call it mind over matter (if you don't mind, it doesn't matter) but improperly dressing for an event does not have to be the end of your social life. So with that, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for how to handle being improperly dressed for an event:
Tip #1: Take a Tip from the Grammys
The Grammy Awards recently celebrated the who's who of the music world. And although many people in attendance hardly count as true "musicians," it was still a fun collection of music industry folks, many of whom have their own unique sense of style. And style is what really makes award shows memorable. Lady Gaga's meat dress comes to mind. In spite of the dress code imposed upon Grammy attendees this year (thanks CBS!), the stars wear what they want to wear (within reason that is). I can't help but admire people who spent their entire life waiting to go to the Grammys, only to wear a trucker hat and ripped jeans. It's an impressive display of ego that us regular folks can learn a lot from about how we approach dressing for our events.
Bottom line: Whatever event you’re going to, you have to own the moment and not be afraid to feel comfortable in your own skin…within reason. If you go to a black tie wedding and decide to wear your old fraternity t-shirt, that's absurd (not to mention totally rude to the bride and groom).
It reminds me of a quote from the great Dr. Seuss:
"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You."
When you go to an event, you don't want to wear something that will have you itching, twitching, and fixing all night. That will not only ruin your time, but make you uncomfortable to be around. I once wore a dress shirt that had such a tight neck, I felt like I was being strangled the entire night. Even when I unbuttoned the top button to loosen it up, it still bothered me. Had I just worn something more comfortable that fit my style, rather than what I thought was in, I would have had a much better time. I was too worried about looking great than feeling great. I should have just embraced my own style (which I will say is not too shabby) and worn a much more properly-fitting shirt. Instead, I went for what was trendy and suffered because of it.
Tip #2: Being Over-Dressed Can Be an Advantage
Last year I showed up at a retirement party wearing a suit and tie, but it ended up being a t-shirt and jeans affair. As I pulled up to the venue in my car, I saw people walking in wearing very casual clothes. Then it hit me: I am WAY over-dressed! I called my wife in a panic and she tried to convince me that it's no big deal. She made a good point (as always) but still, I felt very uncomfortable. After I hung up, I waited a few minutes, debating whether or not I should go home and change (ironically the event was only a few miles from my house). But then I remembered that my suit is not attached to my body…shocking! I can easily remove some layers. I took off the jacket, the tie, unbuttoned the top button, rolled my sleeves up, and walked right in, without a worry in the world. Why was I so panicked before?
This is an example of how we can overthink a situation. My first instinct was to flee rather than face the embarrassment, but the more I thought about it, the more creative I got and realized that I could make the best of what I was wearing. Sure, even without the jacket and tie, I was slightly better dressed than the others, but no one cared and I fit in just fine. If I would have worn the whole suit in, I'm sure I would have been much more conspicuous, which would have made me feel even worse.
When you overdress, you can always tone down your outfit in some way to get closer to fitting in with what everyone else is wearing. As I said in Tip #1, you need to feel comfortable and go with the flow. So don't panic and don't run out of the room in shame – that will draw even more unwanted attention your way.
Tip #3: Bring in Reinforcements
My friend Bill will hate that I'm telling this story, but I've changed his name…he usually goes by Will. Oops!
Last summer, Will – uh, I mean Bill – attended a casual work party. He wore his favorite pair of khakis and was ready for a fun-filled evening with colleagues. However, when he got out of the car to get gas on the way to the party, he split his pants in the back from below the belt all the way down his thigh. Bill was already twenty minutes from his house and only a mile from the party. And I don't care who you are, not even someone as cool as Johnny Depp could pull off a split khakis look. Although, I'm sure Depp could pull it off, but you get my point. So of course, Bill did what any other grown man would do – he cursed a rainbow of colorful expletives for about five minutes. Then he examined his options:
Option 1: Go home, change, and arrive late to the party (which is highly improper)
Option 2: Show up with a rip that looks like a T-Rex took a swipe at him.
Then, just over the horizon, like a mirage in the desert, a red and white sign illuminated with hope…Target!
Bill drove over to Target, picked up a decent pair of khakis, and bid farewell to his once favorite pair. Sure, the new pants didn't fit quite as well as his designer ones, but they worked for the evening.
Here is a clear example of how you have to be open to other options in an emergency. You can't go three blocks without running into a retail store nowadays and if you need something in a jiffy, you can't be too picky. If you spill coffee all over your shirt or blouse, go pick up another one that will work for the time being. If you break a heel, head over to a store and grab a pair that will get you through the next hour or so. You never want to spend money you didn't plan to, and it may not be your first choice in clothing, but in a jam you have to act fast. It’s that, or sulk in a corner over your stained dress or ripped pants. And where’s the fun in that?
Do you have a great story about over or under-dressing at an event? Post all the details in the comment section or on the Modern Manners Guy Facebook page.
As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.
Beyonce at the Grammys, Man in Suit and Target images from Shutterstock