Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Appropriate Attire Requested

Dear Grace,
We have invited my cousin's family for Thanksgiving. In years past, when she has visited, she has brought sweatshirts, jeans, and nothing remotely dressy. I am a celebratory soul; I dress up for holidays and festivities. Invariably, when I descend in my finery, she reacts in such a way that I feel almost guilty for sprucing up. In addition to our Thanksgiving dinner, we will attend at least one slightly formal event, to which cousin and husband are invited. We had this same situation once before and had to cancel at the last minute because they did not bring appropriate attire. (There is no possibility of her borrowing something of mine; we are completely different sizes.) Should I suggest that she bring a dressy outfit this year or is that rude?

Grace Says:

First of all, kudos to you for hosting. Secondly, I am sorry that Raggedy Ann cramps your style. As far as addressing this awkward situation, here's your strategy:

Well in advance of the visit (like today), send Cuz an email detailing the goings on for Thanksgiving weekend. Give her some guidance on the events, and offer her the chance to join in the festivities or not. Here's a prototype:

"Ellen, We are so looking forward to you and your family's visit over TG. Here's an overview of the weekend: Wednesday evening is very casual-- pizza at home. Thursday morning is the homecoming football game--be sure to bundle up! After the game, we'll head home for Turkey Day; it will be us, you and yours, my parents, and Uncle Joe. Since it's a holiday, I'll probably wear a skirt, but whatever you like is fine. Friday we have been invited to the xyz event. It's sort of dressy--I will wear my LBD and pumps, Evan will be in a coat and tie. We have tickets for you and Pete to attend and hope you will; it's really fun. If you prefer to give it a miss, that's fine, too. There'll be plenty of leftovers in the fridge, we have a good selection of dvd's and we shouldn't be out too late. [This statement makes it clear that you will go regardless, and gives her the out if she is uncomfortable joining you]. As far as everything else, casual lounge-y clothes are fine."

There are countless reasons why your cousin does not pack dressy clothes--limited wardrobe, weight/appearance issues, shyness, cluelessness, disorganization or laziness--but the why doesn't really matter. As a Gracious Hostess, you are charged with making your guests feel comfortable and, as much as you possibly can, making sure the weekend is enjoyable. Just because she looks like she is on her way to clean out your garage does not mean that your holiday is on the line.

Giving Cuz the information ahead of time is the best you can do, but this is not foolproof and she may still show up unprepared. It sounds like your cousin may some demons, and you are not going to exercise them by pointing out her wardrobe errata. Be patient, be kind, be understanding. Be glad you don't have said demons.

And remember, even celebs with staffs of stylists occasionally misstep on fashion choices.....

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