Dress Right Dress

Ten years ago I took a long cruise on the Royal Viking Sun, and the dress code was simple. The dining room required men in tuxedos and women in gowns on formal nights. All other nights, it was cocktail dresses for women, coat and tie for men. This was strictly enforced and if a man came into the dining room in a jacket, but no tie, he was turned away. Everyone knew what to expect. 

 Today, there are cute names for suggested (emphasis on “suggested”) attire.  On my last cruise, “Country Club Casual” was the recommended wear after 6 PM. I immediately went to the country club near my home to check out what the guys were wearing. Had I shown up in my country club’s casual, I would have worn a T-shirt, old khakis, and a billed hat.

And then there’s the ubiquitous “Business Casual”. What? Is it Boca Raton, Broadway, or Beverly Hills business casual? Is it Monday to Thursday wardrobe or is it casual Friday attire? If you work in the Silicon Valley, a business outfit is torn jeans and a “T” shirt. But wait, jeans aren’t allowed in the dining room, even without rips in the knees. Wrong business? Oh I’m sorry, let’s try real estate business casual. Multi colored Hawaiian shirts covering the backs and hanging over the belts of those putting the “Open House” signs in the ground.

Informal is more clear. “Informal” simply translates to jacket, with tie optional. They can’t mess this up, thought the fathers of floating fashion. Oh yeah? Well a windbreaker is a jacket, isn’t it? And, if by chance you show up for dinner in just a button down shirt, well, hey, that’s OK. What about a polo shirt. Well, (pause, sigh), OK, sure, after all, you have to eat.

You would think that “formal” would be the dress code least open to argument. Well, let’s see; tuxedo is nice, but dark suit is acceptable. Actually, any shade suit is fine; apparently, so is a sport jacket. A tie, however, is mandatory, unless of course, you decide not to wear one. 

On a recent cruise, formal night was a sartorial stew. The “formal” attire ranged from a guy in slacks and a Hawaiian shirt, up a rung to a man in a light gray sport coat, bright blue pants, white socks and brown shoes. One guy figured “formal” meant a T-shirt without writing on it. And scattered here and there, the minority, the endangered species; team tuxedo.

What about the wives?  Don’t they have any influence? They love this dress up stuff. They always look great. They wear their best gowns and every piece of their accumulated jewelry. I guess all their psychological ammunition gets used up in getting hubby off the golf course and onto the ship; “Wear your skivvies for all I care, just make the reservations!”

Cruise lines are trying very hard to be sure the dining room looks classy, but they are too worried about losing customers to actually enforce a dress code. So, what to do? How about nightly dress code uniforms, all identical, made from some sort of disposable fabric, maybe paper. The uniform would be distributed to every man prior to dinner, and tossed away when finished for the evening. Think of it; easy packing, no choice confusion, and the comfort of knowing you belong. 

Or the simple way. Women dress as usual. Men come in what makes you comfortable. We don’t care; just don’t slurp your soup.



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