Heed them or weep
The last time that I joined a boyfriend home for the holidays, I agonized over what to wear before finally settling on a plain black blouse and cardigan paired with a gray wool skirt that hit my knees.
I felt pretty comfortable with it standing up—but sitting down was a different story, I learned as soon as I sat down! On the couch, I felt like the hem of the skirt was threatening to creep up my legs until I was involuntarily treating a dozen unsuspecting strangers to a Yom Kippur peep show.
I reassured myself that no one would notice as soon as we sat down to eat and my legs were safely under the dinner table—until he introduced me to his grandmother. I cheerfully said hello. She said, “Why is her skirt so short? I can see her belly button!”
I burst into flames.
My boyfriend and his parents reassured me that my skirt was fine—and in retrospect, it really was! (C'mon, it was gray wool!) But I learned my lesson about dressing to meet the family.
Here are my rules, heed them or weep:
1. It's dinner, not a runway show.
Your boyfriend's 90-year-old grandmother won't understand your harem pants, she'll just wonder—perhaps out loud—why your backside is hanging down to your knees.
2. When in doubt, err on the conservative side.
If there's any question as to whether you're showing too much skin—whether it's cleavage or a naked elbow or a tattoo—cover it up, even if it goes against your personal fashion taste. This goes double if you know that his family, or members of it, are unreasonably conservative.
"But I have to be myself!" Is it worth the risking an hour lecture from his grandfather on how your tattoo is the marking of the devil? Be yourself the other 364 days a year.
3. Be prepared.
If you're spending any extended amount of time with his family—whether just a long evening or a few days—dress comfortably enough that you can go with the flow if the occasion calls for it. An after-dinner walk with his 'rents will be even more uncomfortable in sky-high heels. And a lively game of charades? His little brother doesn't need to see your crack wriggling out of your low-rise jeans.
4. Dress for bed like a nun.
If you're spending the night, bring sleepwear you would be comfortable wearing around any member of his family. Of course, you'll likely change into regular clothes before breakfast, but a middle-of-the-night tip-toe to the bathroom can quickly turn traumatic if your girls are out and about.
5. No cleavage at the table.
Everyone has a creepy uncle and you don't want him staring a hole through your chest as you say grace.
What are your rules for dressing to meet the family? Share them in the comments!