How Dress Appropriately For A Daytime Event

One of our regular readers, DocP, suggested in passing that I might discuss the difference between daywear and eveningwear. Specifically, if one is invited to a daytime event, does one wear the same clothes one might wear in the evening?

Well, no.

Not if one wants to sail the High WASP Sea Of Appropriate. So let’s use the cheery device of women’s  magazines, those perky do’s and don’t’s. We will start with the Do’s, because it’s so much nicer to steer towards Yes than away from No.

Do’s For Daytime

  1. Minimal shine, in fabrics and in jewelry.
  2. No beading – on your clothes. For jewelry of course, it’s fine.
  3. Skin shown appropriate to the venue. Very little skin indoors, more outdoors is fine. They call them sundresses because you  wear them in the sun.
  4. Black is not your default, although it’s not forbidden.
  5. If tight, not clingy. If clingy, not tight.

The Artsy Cousin wear might something like this to an early afternoon fundraiser, in a museum. Just make sure the words “Cocktail Attire” are nowhere in sight. The dress is jersey, by Ralph Lauren, but it’s not too tight, and has no sheen. My mother went to a wedding the other day dressed in fawn with turquoise beads, and black shoes. I was surprised at how well the colors worked.


And yes, the leather jacket will raise a few eyebrows, but she’ll give it to the coat check in the unlikely event she feels too uncomfortable. Being Artsy, she like to live on the adrenaline-charged edge.

Don’t’s For Daytime

  1. No need to dress in furniture fabrics, i.e. chintz, florals, toile, madras.
  2. Don’t shy away from more sophisticated color pairings – no one prefers an entire room full of women in pastels and primaries.
  3. You don’t need to dress as your mother might, unless your mother has exquisite taste.
  4. Think respectful, but not all the way to sedate.

Thanks to DocP for the idea. May we all be safe from daytime beading shocks to the system.

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  • Would you consider that Tory Burch dress you bought, daytime, evening, or both. I wrote a late comment asking you about when you would wear the dress, so this is a good time to ask again. Because of my work (artist) I wear mostly jeans. When I see a great dress like yours, I worry about when/where I’d wear it. I’d like to think I might wear it to dinner with friends – but in LA, probably not. So I’m curious.

  • you are going to hate what i wore to my power lunch.

    6:52 am
    Flo said...

    Lauren! My Gawd! For daywear? I can’t believe you went OUT in something like that at lunchtime! A little more coverage, please:

  • I can remember minimal shine and no beading.

  • I steer away from anything that might make me look like a local female news anchor.

  • My mother has exquisite taste but she is more of the Grande Dame and I am not quite there yet!
    Love that brown jersey dress with that pretty bracelet!

  • Hugely valuable: no furniture fabrics and if tight, not clingy and if clingy, not tight. Half of unsuitable attire would disappear if women understood this.

  • I do love “The High WASP Sea Of Appropriate” – in fact, it would make the most wonderful name for your blog. ‘Privilege’, although a part of your life and character, somehow boxes you out of your perception and gentle humour.

    For the record, I type this in grey leggings and a burgundy dress, with, of course, pearls.

  • You are my hero. My favorite: “If tight, not clingy. If clingy, not tight.”

  • Check out my Saturday event outfit on my Sunday post. I hope I got it right?

  • Who knew that I qualified as an artsy cousin? I would totally wear that outfit. Although admittedly I would be a teeny bit self-conscious about the leather jacket.

  • I loved this Lisa. Particularly the taupe dress.

    Every time I buy something beaded for day wear I never wear it – no matter how much I love it. Same with sequins.

  • Uh-oh. I think I might be doing it wrong.

  • I am new to this blog. Question, why the gray hair? Is that a High Wasp thing? By the way, I do think your hair is beautiful as is but just wondering.

  • Excellent outfit. Agree with all your rules. Is it okay for Michelle O to break them all because she is FL? :)

  • Oops. Sorry. Just read your entry below about no politics after I wrote this!

  • I asked Lisa to tackle this because I had noted a trend of evening elements (fabrics, beading, sequins and accessories) being worn for dressier day social events. I almost wondered if this category of dress was disappearing, much as the Victorian/Edwardian distinction between morning and afternoon dresses is all but gone. Many/most women work outside the home. I suspect most of us have “work clothes”, “evening clothes” and “weekend/hanging out clothes”. Wearing what I think of as “evening clothes” for these events didn’t look right to my eye, but wearing “work clothes” feels under dressed – even a formal business suit. Lisa has shown a look for daytime dressier events that is easily put together from elements many of us already own – a separate wardrobe is not necessary for the occasional event. The “rules” of course, are different in different cultures.

  • I’m making this observation a separate post so it can be easily deleted if Lisa feels it brings too much of partisan politics to the blog.

    Much of the honest debate (as opposed to that which is clearly racist or partisan or even a matter of individual preference) about the current First Lady’s wardrobe choices centers on this exact area. I suspect it is an area of women’s dress in major transition as we move from being at home during the day to being away at a job site. There are no objectively correct answers – only that which would be seen as appropriate or not appropriate by a specific cultural group.

  • Oh yeah, did you ever decide on a leather jacket? I’m home sick with a bad cold, and sort of stalking your site, waiting for an answer about that Tory Burch dress that I have a love/hate relationship with. This is what happens to me when I don’t paint.

  • Excellent tips, dear lady;-)
    I belong to the artsy set.
    Actually most fashion trends begin in the art world.
    Take this “colour blocking” trend for example.
    Artists have been colour blocking since centuries, but the fashion world just picked it up a season agao;-)

  • It’s important for designers to be conscious of the larger implications of their work and it’s important for consumers to be aware that leather, suede, fur, shearling, and down are not mere fashion or stuffing options.

    For more information on the leather industry, see:

    Global leather trade video:

  • kathy – OK. Sorry this took a while. Was down in Santa Barbara with my mother. I wore the dress out to a casual dinner with low heel navy slingbacks. Because it is SO COMFORTABLE, really just a long t-shirt, it’s not hard to wear – despite California casual. If it had any structure, wouldn’t happen. I also can dress it up with the Rene Caovillas I wore to my brother’s wedding, if I have a more formal event.

    lauren – Gwyneth wore this to the Emmy’s. Same thing.

    Susan – :).

    Patsy – Ha! You must have some blingy news!

    Hostess – I doubt I will attain full Grande Dame status. Too sturdy in my heart, although I can put it together when I try really hard.

  • Debbie – I thank you. Valuable is one of my highest goals.

    Mise – Sigh. I think about that title all the time. Have you read my sidebox? The privilege that matters most is the one we inherit at birth – consciousness. But, I understand the issues and thank you for seeing the humor in it all. Also for wearing pearls now and then with leggings.

    TPP – It’s mutual:). Hey, a tight, structured sheath is the Grande Dame’s daytime dress of choice!

    ms. Givens – Looks to me as though you followed the rules brilliantly!

    MJ – Ha! We don’t make this stuff up, do we, about perhaps needing to check the leather jacket.

  • A Farmer’s Wife – Well then! And I love that taupe dress too. I would have worn it in my younger days, happily.

    Cynthia – Never too late:). Or, alternatively, ignore me completely and use the rules of a different culture.

    Donna – Ah. Good question. A host of reasons. It’s not a High WASP thing per se. I started going gray because a) got really tired of highlights AND lowlights b) didn’t like me with yellow hair any more. Lots of impact, however, that I couldn’t have predicted. I’ll write it up again soon. But if I go right to the punchline, I feel more attractive with my gray, believe it or not.

    Wilhelmina – That one was OK:). After all, the Queen of England gets to wear diamonds all over her body in the daytime.

    DocP – I am OK to discuss the politics of being female here, and certainly the politics of clothes. As long as we are all courteous and thoughtful – not something I would worry about for you DocP. I would like to point at and applaud your comment on the cultural context bit of all this.

  • kathy – No, it’s been too hot for leather jackets. But I did answer your Tory question:).

    Englishvers – You are a fabulous Artsy Cousin. Want to do a guest post for us? Love to have you here.

    KO – Making room for your voice here with a little editing to keep the tone informational.

  • Subtlety in all things, indeed the very distinction between night and day, seems to be a lost art. You wouldn’t believe the number of 20-year-old women I see who dress for a night on the town to go to the grocery store.

  • Thank you for the tips. I especially love the set you put together. I am guilty of wearing sundresses indoors, but generally with a cardigan so I can easily shed it when walking to the outdoors. What can I say, it’s 10 months of heat in souh Florida and after ten years, I finally gave in. ;)

  • I love a pretty day dress, one that does not look only corporate. And remember the dress with not a jacket but matching coat? (Or the skirt suit with its coat?) Perhaps before your time. How I miss those elegant dresses, which my mother called “afternoon dresses”.

    Your mother sounds so gracefully-dressed.

  • Your rules make sense, and your demonstration outfit is easy and appropriate.

    I too wonder how the young women who wear glitz and sequins to the office ramp it up for an evening event? Of course it could be that they don’t have “events” to go to so it doesn’t matter to them.

  • Just Perfect. I love beautiful day dresses but have so few opportunities for them now. Is this the times or just the location?

    I too love the mantra of “If tight, not clingy. If clingy, not tight.” All too often though, it seems like some kind of artifact of some ancient civilization.

  • I’m posting this late, but I have a few dear friends who only dress in furniture fabrics! While I probably won’t ever emulate them, it is fun to see what they’re wearing.

  • I’m with you here, as usual. I do have an a-line beaded skirt that to me is very “daytime” – chocolate brown with turquoise & coral bits – but I’m known to to play fast & loose with the society rules occasionally.

  • Great post – I once read somewhere that a key failing of American womens style v. European women is that the former can only ‘dress up’ for evening, whereas the latter understand the distinction between day dress and evening dress.

  • Hey!!

    Its a very nice share .

    While choosing a dress for a day time event is quite difficult.

    It is the ideal stage to flaunt your figure and well-trimmed body.

    Go for dresses that will appreciate your figure.

    Pay special attention to your accessories, because those are things that never get redundant.

    Also, I thing to keep in mind is always wear a dress in which you feel comfortable.

    Thanks for the share.
    Keep doing good work.
    God Bless U!

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