On Dressing for Dinner

hostessIt is a sad fact that the custom of changing for dinner has become near extinct. I find this a grave error. Although formal, opulent dinner dresses are not compatible with the interior of most homes, a slightly dressed up look, something that differs from work clothes or casual clothes creates a pleasant, festive atmosphere, something peculiar to dinner. Elegance in one’s table manners as well as one’s expressions are naturally and effortlessly acquired with the correct dress. Specific dinner clothes elevate the evening meal from a mere practical nourishment to a celebration of Earth’s gifts and good company. It need not be formal, or lavish, if you prefer intimate and cosy. But it should be special.
While lunch often is just a necessary fueling stop amidst rush and hurry – although it can be as sophisticated as one cares to make it for those who enjoy leisure – dinner should always, always be a pleasant climax to the evening, a delightful ritual, a high point of the day! Clothes create mood and atmosphere, and the right atmosphere is one of the most important things in the World.
In times past, many people could not dress for dinner because they had so few clothes, but who of the readers does not own at least two dresses? Material scarcity can hardly be cited as the reason for not changing for dinner – the reason is a skewed vision of the order of importance of things. One should always respect her home and her family and companions, and the occasion of meal by looking as nice as possible. The idea of wearing sloppy clothes at home, even sloppier than those worn publicly, is so corrupt I don’t really know what to make of it.
dinnerPersonally I enjoy slipping into a long hostess gown or robe d’interieur for dinner, and occasionally wear a lace fanchon to complete the hairstyle (but leave it off if there are visitors, since it seems to confuse many people excessively). Since these clothes never cross the threshold outside, they can be luxuriously feminine and slightly whimsical, colour chosen to enhance your charm and deliciously match or contrast with the interior of your house, and trims and lace can – if it suits your style – be lavished upon them. Dinner dresses should be prettier, more charming and more individual than clothes worn out of home, if not for any other reason then just because they can. People would stare, and not without reason, if you appeared on city street in floor-length purple chiffon kaftan with flecks of gold embroidery, or a concotion of tulle and washable silk with puff sleeves and rosettes of ribbon here and there, or even a voluminous wrap dress made from slinky rayon with a wild print. At home, when sitting around the dinner table, they are right in their element. Neat, pretty dresses of any description are perfectly fine – extravagance is not a requisite, merely a possibility for dinner wear. Any change of clothes befoer dinner helps to get into a pleasant, appreciative mood.
If a distinct dinner dress is for some reason preposterous in your situation or causes so much unnecessary commentary from your living companions that you simply can not bear it, at least comb your hair, arrange your collar and straighten your hem before dinner. Even the coarsest vulgarians can’t object to that – and who knows, perhaps your unobtrusive but constant attention to neatness and prettiness will in time inspire others to raise their standard of home wear and cunningly improve the dinner-time atmosphere.

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