Understanding the Dress Code-Take 2

Traveling makes running my blog a challenge and being out of the country with sketchy wifi just adds to the mix. My blog went down yesterday and I was powerless to fix it. I’m back today with “Understanding the Dress Code-Take 2”. We attended my daughter’s MBA graduation yesterday on Tuesday. Prior to the ceremonies, she’d organized a tailgate party in the parking lot with her classmates. I like to think I always know what’s appropriate to wear for varying occasions…yesterday proved me wrong.

The schedule was for everyone to meet at our trailer park…caravan to her school parking lot…have the tailgate party then go on to the graduation. I was dressed and ready to go when my daughter arrived at 10 am. She was wearing shorts and sandals, I was dressed in a black fine net dress and pearls. Clearly, there was a disconnect here:)tailgating supplies

Having never been to a tailgate party I had no idea what to expect. My daughter assumed I’d know what to wear. Clearly, I didn’t. Although there was Champagne, it was chilled in a plastic pail and served in plastic cups. The chips were served out of their own bags and the plates were paper.

tailgating attire
linen shirtwhite jeans

I quickly changed into sandals, white jeans, a linen shirt and the largest sunhat I own.

dressed for a tailgate party
 hat (similar) –  linen shirt 

I’d have looked pretty asinine sitting in a camp chair on the asphalt wearing a black dress and platform sandals. When it was time for the ceremony, we dashed back to our trailer to switch our clothes.

dressed for a graduation
tankskirtshoes (now on sale)hat (similar)sweater (similar)

Since it was hovering in the high 80’s I nixed the black dress idea and opted for a cotton tank top over a casual pencil skirt and topped with a cotton sweater.

MBA graduation attire

It was exciting to see my daughter walk up to receive her degree. She worked full-time while taking classes at night to earn this MBA and we couldn’t be more proud of her!

graduation style

The lesson here for me was eye-opening. I shouldn’t assume I know what the dress code is for every event or occasion. While I always prefer to be over than underdressed, there is a fine line between inappropriate and dumb looking. If I’m unfamiliar with an event, googling it can provide valuable tips.

Have you made a mistake like I did? Please share so I don’t feel like a total idiot:)



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Thanks for reading and have a great day!



Affiliate links in this post may generate income for AWSL.




  1. I joined your blog after reading your post on elegance. I have the tendency to be more casual. I have mostly a signature look, v-neck nice t-shirts and capris with sandals. I never wear short anything anymore except one skirt that is adorable. I’m hoping to learn all I can about what is appropriate within my price range. The only jewelry I wear is a replica of a gold locket my husband gave me before we were married. I get compliments on it all of the time. My body type is “linebacker” and I always have difficulty finding dresses or sets that fit my upside-down triangle. Thank you for your blog. I’m excited to learn more. Congratulations on your daughter’s graduation.

    1. Thank you, Peggy. She’s a wonderful young woman! I have an inverted triangle shape too, very large shoulders and narrow hips. I show outfits with all price points for my readers and I’m glad you’re here to join the conversation.

  2. I also would rather be overdressed but not too much! You did a great job adapting! We tail-gate a bit more “dressed” than the students which is ok with me. I would just look sloppy & silly in some of the outfits they can pull off. There are some tailgates that your dress & pearls would have been fine…I’m thinking Ol’ Miss! You and your daughter are beautiful…congratulations to her on the advanced degree!

    1. I totally agree, Cheryl Ann. I could pull off their looks 40 years ago but wouldn’t even attempt them now. Thanks so much, she’s an amazing young woman.

  3. Congratulations on your beautiful daughter’s achievement! I enjoyed seeing, and loved both of your outfits. Thank you for sharing this interesting story. It really was interesting — and helpful!

  4. My youngest daughter graduated from SFU a couple of years ago. Most mother types wore a nice summer dress. It can be difficult if you need to go to two events with very different dress expectations. Always windy up on the mountain.

    I had an experience on a Cunard cruise a couple of years ago. They have theme nights which I thought most/all participated in. One theme was Victorian so I packed the makings of a maid outfit complete with white cap. To my chagrin half way into the dining room I realized almost no one was dressed up. I got lots of stares (and smiles) but felt very conspicuous.

    1. Small world! Oh my, that would have felt awkward. The other gals just didn’t have the confidence or creativity to put an outfit together. And Cunard, needs to update their program if most guests aren’t participating. I’d have written to the cruise line and expressed my concern. I’d probably have also made phone calls to express my disappointment in their organizational arrangements

  5. Like you, I would prefer to overdress than underdress. It doesn’t seem to be getting any easier to decipher dress codes. Invitations don’t always specify whether the event is indoors or out, and while I used to depend on the tone of the invitation as a hint to how dressy an event might be, that’s not working for me consistently any longer!

    1. I agree, Judy. I’m at the point where I ask people that I know are going, what they’re planning to wear! I will also call a host and ask but that seldom is enough.

  6. You are certainly NOT an idiot…Love it when someone I admire has an oops like the rest of us! Congradulations on your beautiful daughters’ great step forward❣️

    1. Thank you, Donna! She is fabulous and we are beyond proud. I make plenty of mistakes and am always happy to share so we can all learn:)

  7. I always try to err on the side of being over-dressed rather than under-dressed. Thank goodness you had great choices to fall back on. And, this blog today is making me look ahead to August when our daughter will receive the first of her advanced degrees. (She is doing a combined MS-MBA program between two universities.). Congratulations to your daughter AND her proud parents! Love your blog!!!

  8. Congratulations to your lovely daughter! My fashion faux pas was my son’s destination wedding in Costa Rica. It was a small gathering of immediate family on each side, but little did I realize just how casual it would be and how inappropriate my after-5 green Satin sleeveless dress would be. Not so much in it’s look, but that material and high humidity at a beach wedding are not a good combination! I regretfully showed my “sweating” abilities to both families! That was an embarrassment! BTW – you looked lovely for both the tailgate party and the ceremony!!

    1. Thank you, Deborah! She is amazing. Ouch, that sounds so uncomfortable, physically and mentally. I hate the humid weather, to begin with, but in satin, it would be unbearable. Thanks for sharing.

  9. YES! I went to an afternoon wedding in a “long dresses everywhere” period wearing, of course, a long dress. Everyone wore short sundresses except me. This was also the beginning of the shedding stockings trend and, of course, I was wearing stockings. In the car going to the reception, I got rid of the stockings (and never wore them again!). If I had had a pair of scissors on me, I would have cut the bottom half of my dress off right in the car. At the reception, the bride graciously told me she loved my dress. My husband lovingly pointed out that everyone was focused on the bride, not me, and that I was freaking out over nothing! After a couple of glasses of wine, I decided it wasn’t such a big deal after all and had a great time.

    1. You’re hilarious, Connie although I know it wasn’t funny at the time. I’ve felt like cutting my sleeves off in brutal temperatures but never the bottom of a dress! A few glasses of wine does change one’s perspective:)

  10. Congratulations to your daughter (and her parents – no doubt you and your husband have played an integral role in her accomplishments). Simon Fraser is an outstanding university. She’s set!

    It looks like a gorgeous day, which means the mountains would have been in full and glorious view. Sounds like a perfect day, wardrobe reset notwithstanding.

    1. Thank you, Lianne, she is an amazing young woman. The weather was gorgeous and the view stunning. I’d never been up Burnaby Mountain and was blown away by the magnificence.

  11. You looked great. Glad you had packed that outfit. It is hard to know what to wear. It seems as if so much has gotten casual especially here in Texas. Graduations, plays, etc there is always someone especially men in shorts. You both looked great for the graduation ceremony. On Saturday I will be at home but going to a dance recital in the morning and brunch before. So I am going in white ankle pants, cute shirt and big jewels. In the evening we are going to a Distillery so I am going more casual either white capris or jeans.

    1. I agree, Elizabeth, people are dressing more and more casually. I see people wearing shorts and flip flops everywhere these days. Your outfit sounds perfect! I love the addition of big jewels:)

  12. Congratulations to your daughter! I was so pleased to see how much she looks like you. You must be very proud.

  13. Congratulations to her! She’ll be successful in an venture she pursues with a work ethic (and a smile) like that! Wonderful moments for any parent, indeed. So, I’m curious, what were the other “tailgaters” wearing that made you feel you’d made such wrong choice???

    1. They were in very casual clothes. My linen shirt and jeans were fine but the dress I’d originally worn would have looked totally out of place.

  14. Although I like to think that I have something for every occasion, I have never been to a tailgate party. I don’t think that they are so common in Canada. Like you, I prefer to be “overdressed” a bit. My most challenging situations are when my husband plays music in bars or legions. I don’t usually frequent such venues and I am usually (hopefully) sitting with younger “band wives’. It is possible that I will just feel old and “uncool”.

    1. That would be a tough venue, Joanne. Cool is in the eye of the beholder but it’s no fun to feel that way. I find wearing pieces with a bit of drama or edginess helps me feel “cool” 🙂

  15. Hi Jennifer — Several years ago my husband and I were invited to an outdoor summer wedding. We weren’t able to make the ceremony — just the reception. I was horrified (and angry) to find that it was casual dress (as in shorts, flip flops, etc.). My husband was in a suit and I was in a long black dress with pearls. I felt ridiculous. I wish we had be informed ahead of time as to the “dress code” — although most of the guests were in casual dress. Since then, I always double-check on what the attire is!

    You were lucky that you were able to change clothes at the last minute!!

    1. Oh Beth, I feel your pain on that one! I always assume weddings are dressy so that would have been my mistake too! Thanks for sharing:)

  16. Jennifer, I so love your sensitivity to aging and enjoy your sense of color and style. I believe no matter what you wear you would be elegant but perhaps not comfortable. Once invited to a White Tie Benefit, I wore a black velvet Ralph Lauren knee length dress with a diamond choker. I felt like I looked great until I arrived at the Ballroom and was literally the only woman not in a long dress (there was one pair of sequin pants). Decided there was nothing I could do about it, so just decided to enjoy the evening:D. Should have done my homework–live and learn.

    1. That was a wise decision, Dawn. It would have ruined the event for you to worry. It’s like arriving at a small event and seeing a woman wearing the exact dress you are. Rolling with it is the best policy:) Thanks for your kind words.

      1. Hi Jennifer – I once had the opposite problem to Dawn. Years ago, before we were married, I went with my husband to a function at the officers’ mess. I asked him about the dress code, and if I could wear an evening dress that I had worn before (he had just been moved to another unit, so no one would have seen it). He said, yes, sure, so I did. (He was wearing his mess kit.) When we got there I was the only one in a long dress, all the other women were in short cocktail dresses. That’s when I realized how many different levels of dress code there are in the military, and it’s the last time I relied solely on my husband’s advice re. dress! :0)

        Congratulations to your daughter, you and your husband have so much to be proud of.

      2. Ouch, that was awkward, I’m sure. I haven’t relied on my husband’s fashion advice for longer than I can remember:) Thank you, we are so proud of her.

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