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Garden Party dress code dilemma

An odd side-effect of Keir's late-onset acceptability to the Scottish educational establishment was the arrival last week of an invitation to the garden party at the Palace of Holyroodhouse on 13 July. For years, of course, he dished these out to people at Clackmannanshire Council but would never have thought of taking one for himself. This one, however, is different: it is a personal invitation to him. And it includes me: and there lies the rub.

The last time I had such an invitation I was a teenager. I declined, not just because I was rebellious, but also because I had a prior commitment that I valued more: my mother never forgave me. This time, I'm rather tempted to accept, and am guessing that Keir is too. But am I prepared to conform to the dress code? Straightforward for men, the verbatim wording for "Ladies", complete with arcane punctuation and capitalisation reads thus:

Day Dress with Hat or Uniform (No medals). Trouser Suit may be worn.

I am struggling to disentangle what this means. I don't wear hats except at extreme altitude, while ski-ing or sailing. I doubt if my scarlet Paramo ski hat would complement an otherwise respectable summery outfit. Does the separate "Trouser Suit" sentence mean that I can dodge the hat by wearing Trouser Suit instead? Or does it merely mean that you may wear a Trouser Suit instead of Day Dress, or even as well, if it's cold? (And could I wear my medals if wearing Trouser Suit instead of Day Dress, or indeed both?)

I searched for fashion advice from Google: my search for "trouser suit hat" returned this wonderful eBay item as top hit. Would Her Majesty find this acceptable?


Let's try some analysis of the text. "No medals" appears to qualify "Uniform" but the "or" after Hat provides limited grounds for hope. "Day Dress with Uniform" is therefore OK, isn't it, or is that only if the uniform in question includes a hat? Or did they mean either "Day Dress with Hat" or "Uniform (No medals)"? Could somebody please introduce conjunctions, and perhaps commas, into these abstruse instructions? Do they, like the Building the Curriculum series, need to be rewritten in clearer language?

A later sentence states that "National Dress may be worn" (apparently by either gender), but doesn't say which nation. This makes it tempting to find some deeply unsuitable national dress (with or without headgear) thus dodging the hat problem? Or a fascinator??

Gentlemen are clearly not expected to wear hats. Considering that ladies don't go bald, I don't understand why such discrimination is thought necessary. But in a 21st century invitation package that explains clearly about the two forms of ID required, no cameras or mobiles to be used, DVD order form (£16 to BCA Ltd: that must be a nice little earner) why can't they say what they mean about dress code?

Comments (1)


Have just come across your comments re the garden party hat dilemma, and can sympathise as I am currently online trying to find shoes to go with the dress, which will then have to be taken to the hat shop to find suitable head-gear for a similarly hat-phobic individual whose husband has also been invited to a garden party (Buckingham Palace) in July. Nice to know I'm not the only one!!


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