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Jewish World Review
August 18, 2010
/ 8 Elul, 5770, 5770
Dressing for dinner, suit yourself
Our experience with "dressing for dinner" has been somewhat limited. For us, the phrase most often meant someone was supposed to tell my father-in-law to put on a shirt so we could eat.
The husband and I spent a long weekend this summer at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, where guests are expected to "dress for dinner" — and they don't mean to simply put on a shirt.
After 6:30 p.m., men are to wear coats and ties and women are expected to wear dresses, skirts and blouses or nice pantsuits. Holding to a dress code in the Age of Casual is a considerable fashion risk. Restaurants with signs saying, "Jackets Required" and a maître d' that keeps a stash of neckties beneath the reservation stand are now rarities.
The first night we dressed for dinner we struggled to get over feeling that we were going to a funeral. We had to keep reminding ourselves that nobody had died.
Once we were seated in the dining room, we felt like extras in a glam movie from the 1940s. Men in coats and ties gave the air a touch of dapper. Full skirts swooshed between the chairs and white-haired matrons boasted sizable baubles on their sizable chests.
Even children had been caught, tethered and squeezed into nice clothes. Not all though. On the other side of the windows separating the dining room from the world's longest porch, a dad was chasing two small children, running at breakneck speed in T-shirts and shorts. And chasing the dad, who was chasing the children, was the concierge. For a woman in a dress and heels, the gal could really run.
Dressing for dinner has become a throwback to another generation. I remember watching my parents dress for an evening out. I was certain that was what Hollywood must be like every night of the week.
Mom would dart between the bedroom and the bathroom in her slip, touch up her lipstick and give her hair one more blast of spray. She'd put on a pair of heels, then oh so carefully slip her dress overhead, allowing ample clearance for her hair. Dad would zip her zipper, then hustle to the kitchen to polish his shoes.
Mom would open her jewelry drawer and take out the dangly lantern rhinestone earrings and matching bracelet. Then she'd pick a bottle of perfume from the glass tray on the dresser and spritz herself behind both ears and once on the wrist. She'd switch off the bedroom light and glide down the hall with a cloud of Aqua Net hair spray and Estee Lauder perfume trailing behind her.
Dad would be waiting in the living room, shoes shined, a pressed handkerchief in his back pocket, tie straightened and his coat neatly folded over the back of a chair.
You could be sure whoever they were going out with was running through a similar routine at their house as well.
Dressing for dinner was more of an event years ago because eating out was more of an event. And to think that today, when we talk about dressing for dinner, it often means putting on your nicest pair of jeans.
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© 2009, Lori Borgman