Invitation Consternation

What to wear?

This is the universal question every woman asks upon receipt of an invitation.

Usually the dress code is straightforward:  e.g. black tie or cocktail attire.  Our recent invitation to attend the opening of the Chelsea Flower Show really confounded me.  What do you make of this?

The order of dress for the evening is lounge suits and allowances should be made for inclement weather

First, I love the bit about “inclement weather”, as if there were any other kind of weather in England!  Does that mean that Wellies should replace heels?  An umbrella should replace a clutch? Hmmm.

Second, “Lounge suits”?!  For some reason the word “lounge” always conjures images of velvet track suits or those garish leisure suits from the ’70s.


I decided to do a UK Google search for “lounge suits”, and this is what turned up:


Clearly, there is a disparity between my first impression and reality!

With further research, I learned that the Royal Wedding invitations noted proper dress attire as “Uniform, Morning Coat, or Lounge Suit.”  Apparently, this is a chiefly British term defined as “a man’s suit consisting of trousers, a waistcoast or vest, and jacket appropriate for informal occasions”.

Still, I wonder: What is the proper accompaniment to the lounge suit?  A cocktail dress, I assume.  With a hat?  With a fascinator?  This is another one of my favorite British terms for a beautiful hair accessory, head piece, or cocktail hat arrangement of feathers, flowers, ribbons and jewels.  The ever-stylish Kate often wears one.


On another note, I love the way English invitations typically denote the end of the evening:

Carriages at Midnight

How fabulously old fashioned!!  The reference to “carriages” makes me feel like I am back in Jane Austen’s era, awaiting a horse-drawn carriage to pull me away across the cobbled streets at the end of a fabulous evening at the ball.


  I’m still not sure what I will wear to the Chelsea Flower Show,

but I know that while there, literally and figuratively,

I “won’t forget to stop and smell the roses”.

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