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What to Wear, What to Wear? Appropriate Civilian Dress

What to Wear, What to Wear? Appropriate Civilian Dress

Source: By Arlene H. Hull for LIFELines

In the mail you find a beautifully engraved formal invitation to dinner at the base commander's home. Your first thought is "Oh boy! This will be fun!" But then you read on and find yourself in a quandary — what should you wear? This will be simple for your spouse — it's spelled out plain and simple: "Military Personnel — Dinner Dress Uniform." Just below that is the puzzler: "Civilian Personnel — Evening Formal Wear." Now what exactly does that mean?

The following guidelines will help you determine the appropriate civilian dress for social functions where military personnel will be in uniform.

Very Formal Evening Wear, White Tie (after 6 p.m.)

  • military — formal dress uniform

  • civilian men — tuxedo with tails and white tie

  • civilian women — long formal evening gown

Evening Formal Wear, Black Tie (after 6 p.m.)

  • military — seasonally appropriate dinner dress jacket uniform

  • civilian men — tuxedo or dinner jacket

  • civilian women — long formal evening attire

Daytime Formal Wear

  • military — seasonally appropriate service dress uniform</FONT>

  • civilian men — cutaway jacket

  • civilian women — street-length or long dresses or suits (pant or skirt)

Evening Informal Wear

  • military — seasonally appropriate service dress uniform

  • civilian men — business suit, or coat and tie

  • civilian women — street-length or long seasonal dress, or skirt/pant ensemble

Casual Wear

  • military — seasonally appropriate working class uniform

  • civilian men — open collar shirt with slacks or shorts

  • civilian women — street-length skirt or dress, or appropriate walking-length shorts

Watch What Others Wear
What is appropriate to wear sometimes depends on where you live. Formal attire in the Washington, D.C., area is very different from formal attire in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Take a look around you, think about the lifestyle of people where you live, and do a little research. Keep in mind the changing trends of fashion, and apply the appropriate fashion sense.

If you still have doubts about the proper attire for any occasion, ask a fellow spouse in the command who has been there for a while. Or you can stop by the Fleet and Family Service Center or Marine Corps Community Service office and pick up a copy of the FamilyLine publication, Social Customs and Traditions of the Sea Services for advice and guidelines.

If you are stationed overseas, pay special attention to the customs and traditions of the country you're in. Some cultures consider it rude to wear open-toed shoes to formal functions or sleeveless shirts inside certain buildings. 

When attending a social function on base with your spouse who will be wearing a military uniform, you should always avoid wearing inappropriate clothing. Shirts with offensive ethnic or vulgar slogans or prints, for example, are inappropriate.

The military teaches service people to project an example to be emulated. One of the most important factors in creating this image is appearance, which should be immaculate and above reproach at all times. As a military spouse, part of your job is to dress appropriately, too. With a little preparation, you will always be properly attired for any occasion.

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