Dress Codes???

As you know last week The Atlas and I were invited to a very formal ‘black tie’ event.

The ‘black tie’ dress code was stipulated on the invite and on follow-up emails.

Bearing in mind this was an evening event, almost every man was in a tux and there were some very prominent New Zealanders attending…… what would you expect of the ladies?

I decided to go full length – because I love dressing up and as a mark of respect to the formality of the event.

I was surprised to see how many of the women decided to dress. I don’t want this post to sound at all judgmental of how people chose to dress rather it made me question whether New Zealanders in general have a similar understanding/interpretation of dress codes.

Now before you think I think ‘I’m all that and a serving of caviar’ – we go to a church where it is acceptable to come in boardies and jandals and I’ve never seen the ‘pastor’ in a suit. The Atlas usually likes to be a couple of levels more casual than anyone and I quite like to dress up for any occasion.

So to the women at this event. Of all the people with long hair I was the only one I saw with my hair up (I realise it is quiet fashionable to wear your hair down nowadays) in a style that was more than a ponytail or a plait.

Some women had gone for a cocktail/day at the races kind of look which I liked. Clearly they had ‘dressed-up’ for the event.

Very few women wore a full length dress or ensemble.

A lot of women looked like they had dressed for a wedding. Nice but not necessarily formal.

Quite a lot of women looked like they had come in work clothes. Smart yes, formal no.

There were also women in trousers.

So this is my question/s – is this variance in dress because:

a/ New Zealanders are super casual (even though they were with a man in a tux!) and they think nice black trousers and a shirt with a necklace is formal?

b/ people don’t have a concept of what a particular dress code requires?

c/ women would like to dress up but unlike a man who can hire a tux they don’t have a formal option to wear or hire?

d/ they could care less and want to feel comfortable even if everyone else is dressed up?

e/ this is a Christchurch thing and people in Auckland, Wellington, overseas would have been more formal??

f/ we don’t really do etiquette/ formal codes/ social expectations as a culture?

g/ I have ideas above my station when it comes to dressing up! 🙂 ?

h/ something else entirely??

I would have loved to really have a good stare at what people were wearing. Like I say I am curious about this anomaly rather than judging. It was a great evening and I’m sure every woman there had thought about what she was going to wear before she made her choice.

I personally felt thrilled in what I was wearing. It didn’t worry me that I was one of the most formally dressed people there. But I was glad I hadn’t gone for the backless sexy number.

What would you wear to a ‘Black Tie’ evening event??

18 responses

  1. I remember going to the ballet not long after I arrived in New Zealand. People were wearing…Kathmando polar fleeces!!!!!!!!!!! We were outraged! We English girls looked like princesses in our almost-ball gowns, fake fur stoles and diamonds (alas also fake). People probably thought we were in fancy dress. Dressing down a notch is a New Zealand thing. It’s a modesty, “were not show offs us kiwi’s, no” thing. It’s a shame. Dressing up rocks!

  2. I Think It’s might be a mix of all of the above, with more of ‘a’ and ‘f’. As a culture we have never really been into huge balls and functions, (this is mean being very sterotypical, I’m sure some Nz’s love them!) haha. Personally I would never pants to a black tie event! I would most likely go for the cocktail/race day outfit, even though I have two formal long dressess… and then I would have looked at you once we were in the function and whish I had gone long! 😉

  3. B. I agree with Max. You and The Atlas look wonderful and I think you set a standard 🙂

  4. I think you and Atlas were the belles of the black tie event.
    I know when I was working in law and we had balls I was shocked by some of the outfits, but then again my outfits probably shocked some.
    Pants no no no
    And I also agree with the above I think NZ’ers as an ‘average’ don’t do the formal thing very well and I don’t think Aucklanders or Wellingtonians would have been any different.

  5. Oh you just look amazing in your outfit. Why not dress up? It said so on the invitation! Where I used to work, every year there was a Xmas do which was black tie. Most years I wore a full length dress and really made the most of dressing up, as it doesn’t happen very often. I’m not a girly girl and I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes but I really enjoyed dressing for the occasion. Each to their own though, it’s all about what you feel comfortable in. Glad you had a fab time anyway. xx

  6. I have a wardrobe full of evening dresses (as you know) but primarily wear them for performing in and LOVE it.[And because of this I know that as a woman you most definitely CAN hire formal wear as I’ve done a number of shows where I have.] I think NZers are a casual nation firstly, consequently most people have no idea what dress codes mean, and generally don’t care that much if they are the most casual person in the room! I think with women especially other factors to consider are: age, weight and confidence. Many women are scared of standing out by looking fat, like mutton dressed as lamb, or like [as you put it] ‘I think I’m all that and a serving of caviar’ Basically a lot of it comes down to tall poppy syndrome: we don’t want to stand out.

  7. A, B, D, F, when I was at school and didn’t know the answer I would circle them all 🙂

  8. We are a casual nation, which is a great shame as dressing up is so much fun! I haven’t worn a long formal dress since I left school – black tie events seem to be pretty few and far between. I recently went hunting for a formal dress and actually came up pretty short – there weren’t many options; we are very focused, it would seem, on the cocktail dress.

    Also, I do think most of us are a bit fuzzy on dress code expectations, and a lot of people are scared of standing out. I don’t think it’s limited to Christchurch!

    I think you both look lovely, and I would do the same – I love glamour and long swishy skirts. 🙂

  9. All of the above ;-)! We are a causal nation, so I think most people just ‘wouldn’t get the code’… I know I would have worn something like your black dress, but probably not even quite that formal and assumed I was fine!

  10. I think as a couple you two look great – neither is more dressy than the other. You look as though you are attending the same event. I do think New Zealanders on the whole are quite casual and we don’t really do formal as a rule. Having said that, I went to my husband’s work do last week which was billed as semi-formal and I could have afforded to dress up a little more (the bosses wife looked lovely in black lacy dress trimmed with sequins). When I lived in England I went to a ball once or twice a year – we don’t have to many opportunities to do that here. Tis a great shame in my opinion.

  11. We are far too casual. It’s stupid really, because it is so much fun to dress up! I went to my husband’s work Christmas party last week, and considering there was a sit down dinner and awards I dressed in a cocktail dress and heels. There were many, many people there in jeans and tshirts which just seems such a shame to me.

  12. I haven’t been to anything formal since my high school ball back in the late 80’s. I know I don’t have anything in my wardrobe suitable for such an occasion, right atm I dont’ even have a cocktail dress I could fit into! I wish there were more opportunities for formal dressing as I know if there were I’d sew something wonderful!

  13. No compromise – Black Tie = long dress. Cocktail – Shorter dress.

    We have been invited to 3 corporate events at Justin’s work this past year. 2 Cocktail and 1 charity ball which was Black Tie, the invite very cleverly had a man in a tux and a lady in a long dress so it made it pretty clear and I don’t recall seeing anyone besides the lead singer in the band in a short dress.

    I am not that fussed about the hair though, mainly due the fact that firstly I now have short hair but secondly my hair rarely stays up in any kind of do so I never used to bother in the UK either!

    There are very few occasions to dress up so why would you not cease the opportunity? I think even if it was the trend to go with shorter dresses I would still wear a long one because I will feel like a princess 😉

  14. Dressing up is fun, but I must admit that if I were invited to such an occasion I would have nothing to wear. You look lovely and appropriate. Your dress up is classy, which is the best sort of sexy, I think. Anyone can show skin. You looked terrific!

  15. First of all, you both look wonderful!

    And I would totally agree that NZers as a whole do not dress up. We get caught out every time we go back to Australia as the family over there are so much more glamourous and dressed up at formal events. We have acclimatised down.

  16. I would wear a dress, similar to yours. I think formal is just that, formal.
    I do think it’s partially our culture, people just don’t dress up here in NZ anymore 😦

  17. So many responses, I haven’t read them all, but at the time you were choosing your outfit I had a chat to my younger colleagues and it turns out that no one wears long dresses to balls any more!!!!!! I was stunned. I think things have gotten more informal and casual in the last 10 years. Its a tragedy. Sorry to hear about the quakes. We went to the airport to get a new flight and the queue was VERY long. We’ll try phoning air NZ in the morning to get a new booking 😦 Sorry the boys are feeling a bit wobbly.

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