If there's no dress code listed, pay attention.
Have you ever been faced with an invitation to an event that has conveniently skipped over that undying question of "What should I wear?" While some invitations hope you know the definition of "dressy casual" – or, "Delta casual," in the sake of our friends in Mississippi – it can be challenging to figure out what is appropriate to wear to an event if you aren't sure about the lingo. We turned to our favorite etiquette experts, Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, for their take on dress codes. These Southern authors (find their books Being Dead Is No Excuse and Somebody Is Going To Die If Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch That Bouquet at your local bookstore) and Delta sweethearts know their way around a dress code.
While some events give a little more leniency in dress code etiquette, others, as Charlotte points out, have strict rules. "If you watch royal weddings, what will you not see? You won't see tuxedos, black tie, and that's because they happen in the daytime. Never wear a tux to a wedding unless it's after 6 o'clock. Tuxes at a certain time are just plain wrong."
But, beyond the dress code written on an invitation, our etiquette experts urge you to use common sense in determining what to wear. "I have a friend who says that she's never gonna go to another party that tells her when to come, when to leave, and what to wear, and I agree," said Gayden. "Can't you look at the invitation, and if it has red-and-white gingham check on it, and you know you can wear jeans, but if it's engraved or thermographed in black, you know it's dressy?"
Charlotte agreed. "I remember one time asking my mother, holding the invitation saying I wonder what to wear, and she said, 'Read the invitation, it'll tell you what to wear.' But it won't tell you what to wear by saying wear jeans or not, you just knew by the way the invitation was done what to wear."
And, if you're not sure, Gayden and Charlotte encourage you to ask your hostess. "If you're in doubt on what to wear, you should call your hostess and say, 'Jennifer, what is John gonna wear?' What's wrong with asking a question? Nothing. You get no answers if you ask no questions."