abendAt the opera house some weeks ago, my husband and I watched the audience and were struck by how little most of the women dressed up. Mind you, it’s easier for the men: Wear a dark suit, a pale shirt and a tie, and you’re set. As for the women, the great majority wore black trousers and a colored jacket, some a black or silver jacket, with a blouse or top underneath. A few women wore a suit, either with pants or a skirt. Even fewer (I among them) wore a knee-length dress. One lady wore a floor-length dirndl. She was easily the best-dressed woman present, but she stuck out quite a bit. This got me thinking about what occasions I (and other women) actually dress up for.

I own two ball gowns, but actually I never wear them except for very formal occasions like graduations balls. I also own two long evening dresses (one of which still fits), but again, I wear them very rarely – for balls and for evenings at the big opera houses in Vienna or Munich. I have worn them at weddings, too, but it gets rarer and rarer here in Germany for female wedding guests to wear long gowns, and most women turn up in cocktail dresses or short party dresses.

I also own one cocktail dress, which I only got recently and plan to wear for the opera at smaller places and for Christmas. If there’s a wedding in the near future, that would be my dress of choice, too.

For all other occasions – graduation ceremony, christenings, birthdays and other parties, I just pick my best daywear. I have a lot of dresses and skirts, so I always find something nice. It’s easier in the summer, as many summer dresses look very charming anyway, and are often perfectly suitable for a party if accessorized correspondingly.

I still think it’s a pity so many of the opera visitors just settle on black pants and a jacket. It’s obviously become a uniform by now, and a boring one at that.

My question now to you: For what occasions do women dress up in your country, and what do they wear?

– Rike Horstmann

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High school teacher. Soccer fan (Werder Bremen, yeah!). Knitter and book-binder. Devotee of mathematical puzzles. German.