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20-40-60 Etiquette---Should I dress up for the family parties?

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: December 3, 2012


By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: It is time for the holiday gatherings. My large family has several events during the season where we all get together for dinner or for celebrating. Am I supposed to dress up for all of the parties that my relatives attend? It’s just us!

CALLIE’S ANSWER: I love to dress up for the holidays. You look better and feel good about yourself. My vote is YES!

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: If you’re asking whether it’s OK to roll out of bed and come to family gatherings in your pajamas, then the answer is “no.” If you’re asking whether you should wear formal attire like a cocktail dress for each family event, then I think the answer to that question is “no” as well, or at least “not necessarily.”

Entertaining guests, even if they are “only” family members, takes some effort, and it’s nice when your attire acknowledges that, depending on the occasion. If it’s a potluck dinner or pizza, then a casual outfit is fine — even jeans. Take each occasion on a case-by-case basis, and enjoy wearing something festive, whether dressy or casual. But more importantly, try to enjoy the people with whom you’re celebrating.

HELEN’S ANSWER: Relatives are so important. You are lucky to have a large family. Hopefully you will enjoy dressing up for all the events. My favorite memories are of Thanksgiving Day and two of our relatives — they were sisters — came to my house totally dressed up and wearing high heels. I appreciated the effort, and both of them looked darling.

My other memories are of my own daughters wearing matching holiday dresses when they were very young during the Christmas season and my young son wearing a coat and tie. They always looked precious and their seasonal attire made the holiday season so much fun!

What a blessing it was to be together.

All of my grown children see to it that my precious grandchildren look their best when they are around the relatives for the holidays. Most generally, everyone wears festive holiday clothes, even if it is just for dinner. I am always so proud of all of them.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Linda Miller, author of Fashion Matters Blog: If this is an annual occurrence, how do other family members dress for the multiple events?

If your family is like most, there are probably some who want to look festive, even if it’s as simple as sparkly earrings or a red satin blouse, and others who prefer jeans and a sweatshirt.

Try following the lead of most of the other relatives.

Something as simple as a velvet jacket can dress up a pair of dark jeans.

Aim for pulled-together rather than sloppy.

Usually the focus of these get-togethers is on family and celebrating rather than attire.

Callie Gordon is twenty-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email

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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