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20-40-60 Etiquette: Dress code for the table?

Should my mom make us dress up for dinner at home? 20-40-60 Etiquette answers, with Hilarie Blaney as guest.
by Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman Published: March 1, 2012

QUESTION: Is there a dress code for the dinner table — at home? It seems to me that I should be able to wear what I want to when my mother calls me to the table (I am 16). But if I have on a tank top and cutoffs and generally look too casual, she will send me upstairs to change into something more appropriate. What gives?

CALLLIE'S ANSWER: I can see this being frustrating, although I don't know what you think is appropriate and what your mom thinks is inappropriate. At my house, we are very casual, wearing what we have on or had on through the day. That said, I would say listen to your mom — there is no need to start a fight about something so small.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: More than likely, your mother is the one cooking dinner and providing a home for you to live in. It isn't easy to plan meals and cook dinner every night for a family, and she is probably asking of you the same respect that you would show at others' homes or at a restaurant. Meals are a production, no matter how thrown together, and they offer a good chance for family members to connect; at 16, I would imagine that you are scattered more often these days than you used to be.

Try showing up to a meal dressed like she would want you to be and with an attitude of thankfulness that you have the time together and a mom who is cooking for you. I may be reading more into this issue than she intends, but if you are sincere in thinking about it from her point of view, perhaps she'll loosen up from time to time and think about the strict dress code from your angle. At 16, you are the child, even for not much longer, and she is the adult. You'll have plenty of time soon enough to sit at your own table dressed how you want, but, then again, you'll be making your own meals and spending your own money on food. Which would you prefer?

HELEN'S ANSWER: It is respectful to your family to look your best. The dinner table is a place where your family meets, hopefully for a good dinner, and usually good table settings. The cook has gone to some trouble to see that you have food. It makes sense to me to honor that.

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by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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