Mar. 23rd, 2017

oh, help

Mar. 23rd, 2017 11:43 pm
calimac: (Default)
It's a day before I leave for my father's funeral, and my brothers and I get an e-mail from our stepmother with this in it:
I am sorry to emphasise this again but men attending the funeral will be formally dressed in either suit, or pants and jacket but all with shirt and black tie. I am sure you would all like to show the same respect to Robert.
I have to say this threw me totally for a loop. I'm well aware that "black tie" in an invitation is code for formal evening wear, what in Britain is called a dinner jacket and in America a tuxedo. And as Britain is already a more formal country than America, the word "formally" carries special weight there.

On the other hand, could she possibly expect men to wear a tux to a funeral? In the afternoon? Nobody would do that in the US, but I have no idea what British funeral customs are. And the "but all with" last part sounds as if we could wear the bow tie and fancy white shirt of a tux (why mention a shirt at all - it's not as if we'd attend topless - unless she meant a specific kind of shirt?) with other clothes for the rest. That would make no sense whatever.

My younger brother, the law professor, whose judgment I trust, says I'm overthinking this, and it means just wear a dark and sober tie. B. agrees with him, and thinks it's addressed at my middle brother, the engineering technician, who's apt to wear an open-neck shirt and lounge jacket even to a wedding. I already talked to him a few days ago and persuaded him that for this he needs to go out and buy a dress jacket and sober tie, which I gather he didn't already own.

But I just don't know. I mean, mistaking "black tie" on an invitation as meaning "wear a tie that's black" is one of the classic fashion faux pas. I don't even have a black tie, unless you count one with white checks all over it, though I do have a couple dark monocolored ones. My younger brother, who has better diplomatic skills than I, has agreed to query for a clarification, but he may not hear back before I leave. I'm thinking of staying up late enough to phone the Cardiff office of Debenham's when they open and asking them what they think, and whether it'd be even possible to hire evening-wear in my unusual size and shape on two business days' notice. But in the meantime, I can use any advice I can get.

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