≡ Menu

The Under Dressed Guest

Recently I bought and renovated my first house. It was a foreclosure and needed a lot of work. Renovating a house had been a life-long dream of mine and I felt very blessed to have the dream come true at a fairly young age. Along for the ride was my former co-worker and friend – my realtor. He was fairly new to the industry and trying to get into the game.

When the six month renovation was complete, I threw a huge Open House (*not* a housewarming) party. I was fortunate to have lots of friends that came and assisted me in painting or one way or another during the renovation (many painting parties were had!). I wanted them to come and celebrate the completion with me. I am a decorator and party planner, so all of this is my forte. I pulled out all the stops for the party. I hired a bartender and a d.j. I had it catered with the finest food. I hired professional cleaners to have the house looking absolutely spotless. I wanted it to be an elegant evening, with approximately 60 guests attending. Because of this, on the invitation I mentioned that it was cocktail dress.

I made a before and after board and made sure to mention all of the professionals that had done work on my house (in the industry connections are everything!). I wanted them to have a chance to showcase their work and maybe even get some business at the party. This included my realtor. I made sure to have a special section on my board that talked about him and his experience and how great of a realtor he had been. I told him if he wanted to bring business cards to the party, I could have a special place for them for guests to pick up.

About an hour before the party is going to begin, there is a lot of chaos in the house. The bartender had arrived late and was hurriedly setting up. My caterer had forgotten some items and was rushing back to the restaurant to get the items. I was doing last minute touch-ups and getting everything looking perfect before the guests arrive, along with getting myself ready. I’m getting texts left and right from friends asking for directions, etc. It was frustrating, as I was trying to focus, but I dutifully answered the texts.

One particular text left me with my mouth agape. My realtor texted me and stated the following:

“I know the invitation says dressy, but I just want to come in jeans and a t-shirt and be comfy. Is that ok?”

I didn’t respond because I simply didn’t know what to say. The invitation had stated the dress code, however I am not your mother and you can dress as you please. However, I would have imagined that because this was somewhat of a professional event for him, in which he could possibly get some business from young people looking to buy homes, you would think he would want to look professional.

This seems to be a trend among my generation to ask to break a faux paus in advance, as if that excuses it.

What are your thoughts on how to handle these types of situations??   1001-13

While you can suggest the level of dress formality on invitations, you have no control over what guests ultimately do wear to a function.    Mom stopped doing that at about age 10 and host(esses) do not get to dictate how people should be dressing.   You did the right thing in avoiding answering the question because you are not this guest’s parental unit and you cannot give him permission to appear uncouth and under dressed  to other guests.  That is a decision he must make alone and the consequences of which he must accept.

You cannot stop people from discrediting themselves with inappropriate behavior or attire.   You set the parameters for the party and he wants to disregard those boundaries.   Sometimes it is no mystery to me why certain businesses and professionals fail.   By dressing down, your realtor presents himself as unprofessional and therefore not likely to snag business from more professional clients.   You tried to help, OP, but let it go and let him damage himself.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • The OP October 4, 2013, 11:40 am

    Update on this event: The party was an absolute smash and it is still talked about among my peers! We all had tons of fun! Plenty of those that had worked on my house got business from that party. However, my realtor – who did show up and showed up in jeans, a t-shirt and sandals – did not get any business or referrals from that party. He also looked really silly in the pictures. I hired a professional photographer, so the picures are gorgeous. There he is, in the middle of a bunch of beautifully dressed guests. He looks very out of place. The last I heard he got a 9-5 job and is doing realty on the side now. I can’t say I’m surprised that his business hasn’t grown, with an attitude like that. As a realtor, you really have to sell yourself when getting new clients. It’s apparent that isn’t his forte.

    Another side note about him: He got married last year and I attended the wedding. His wife comes from lots of money and they had a big, very fancy and expensive event. It was a black-tie event – even for all of the guests – with all the men in tuxes and the women in floor length gowns. Can I tell you that I was shocked to see him at the altar in a too-big, wrinkled suit and SNEAKERS? His bride very obviously didn’t know about his wardrobe choices and was furious (and didn’t hide it well).

    I live in Austin, Texas and the vibe here is very “Texas casual”. It’s disheartening at times, because as a hostess you really do put a LOT of work into an event and when guests completely ignore the type of event that it is, it kind of takes away from the event. I went to a formal dress Christmas party last year at a very fancy location. I dressed in a floor length black gown and heels and beautiful jewelry. I was so excited to dance the night away and see everyone all dressed up and taking beautiful pictures. Instead, I arrived to find more than 50% of the guests in jeans and work clothes. I looked around at the very fancy surroundings that the hostess had painstakenly worked on, the string quartet, the exquisite and expensive food and thought to myself – “wow, she must be really disappointed”…..And she was. It’s kind of a slap in the face of the host/hostess to not at least make some attempt to participate in the party that he or she has prepared. If it says fancy dress/black-tie, and you don’t want to dress in a tux or a gown, then don’t come. And certainly don’t contact the hostess to ask for an exception 🙂

  • Kimstu October 4, 2013, 1:34 pm

    @secretrebel: “I’m afraid the OP sounds rather controlling and too invested in the party being perfect.”

    Nonsense, IMO. The OP generously hosted a lavish fancy party and quite properly informed her guests of the attire she considered appropriate for the style of party she was throwing. And when one of those guests whined that he wanted to avail himself of her generous hospitality while rudely ignoring the appropriate-attire specification, the OP politely ignored his rudeness. How do you get “controlling” out of that?

    @secretrebel: “Maybe the Realtor friend just wanted to attend the party and didn’t feel the need to tout for business. Maybe he thought it was inappropriate to use a social setting to shill for clients.”

    Irrelevant. The primary reason he should have dressed up, as I noted above, is NOT for the sake of his own career interests but because that was part of the party he was invited to.

    If you don’t like the style of party you’re invited to, you don’t have to accept the invitation. But if you DO accept the invitation, you should respect the hosts’ stated wishes about the style of the party. Anybody who considers that elementary etiquette requirement too “controlling” should by all means stay home.

    @secretrebel: “So the man wants to wear jeans – does that make the house any less nice or his services any less professional?”

    Of course not. But if he complains to his hostess that he wants to wear jeans to her party for which she specifically stated “cocktail dress”, that makes him a RUDE GUEST.

    And @Jazzgirl205, I third the admiration for your party-throwing chops! As well as for your husband’s graceful yet firm handling of the rude guests who responded to your “dress-up” party invitation with a selfish and lazy “we’ll be there but we don’t dress up”.

  • cdubz October 4, 2013, 2:55 pm

    Thanks, OP! It sounds like it was a wonderful time and now I wish I know you so I could have come!

    Now that this guy has gotten married to a woman who sounds like she has class she can teach him a thing or two about appropriate dress.

  • Nina J. Hodgson October 5, 2013, 5:19 pm

    If you are going to give a party, give a party. If you are holding a job fair, hold a job fair. But note that if you are giving a party, you must accept your guests graciously, whether they meet the dress code or not.

  • Vrinda October 5, 2013, 11:59 pm


    The OP did accept the realor graciously. She didn’t yell at him or kick him out. That still doesn’t excuse his behavior. It is possible for a party to also serve as a “job fair” as is the case here. The guests were not all people who knew one another. They were all in similar professions, where networking like one would do at a job fair is possible.

  • MichelleP October 6, 2013, 3:18 pm

    @sylviatexas, there’s no excuse for showing up dressed like he did. That excuse you offered doesn’t hold water. If he didn’t have time to dress appropriately he shouldn’t have gone. The post clearly states that he asked permission to do it because he wanted to “be comfy”, not that he didn’t have time or any other excuse.

    I was raised to dress appropriately. The only time I go out in public in shorts and a t-shirt are to do yard work or run to the store, and even then they are clean (going to the store) and I’m groomed. I’ll never forget the guy who showed up at my wedding (uninvited) in a dirty t-shirt and jeans. It never ceases to amaze me what I see people out in public wearing.

    My grandmother wouldn’t take the trash to the curb without dressing neatly and having makeup on and her hair done.

  • sylviatexas October 7, 2013, 3:44 pm

    sorry, I must have miscommunicated;
    I didn’t intend to offer an excuse.
    As I said, I was just floored & was puzzling ‘out loud’ as to what could have happened to have caused someone to ask ‘can I come in my jeans?’

    OP’s update clears it up:
    Her Realtor friend is clueless;
    he showed up at his own wedding in sneakers.

  • MichelleP October 8, 2013, 8:55 am

    @sylviatexas, rereading my post, I come off rather harsh. That was unintentional and I apologize.

  • Redwitch May 18, 2016, 7:40 am

    I suspect the underdressed realtor wasn’t as comfy as he thought he would be. If the invite said “cocktail/formal” on the dress code, then that is the dress code. Even big name celebs have been told to leave when they don’t meet the standard. If he didn’t like the idea of being dressy, hard luck, he knew in advance he’d have to dress up. When the host/tess has made the all the effort of having the party, the guests can make the tiny little barely-there bunny hop of looking nice. If I seem angry, I am. It’s just plain disrespectful to show up in jeans and tee when you know it’s black-tie.

Next post:

Previous post: