Should dress codes be strictly enforced?

After the heelgate debacle at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, we ask, is it appropriate for event planners to turn away guests due to them not strictly adhering to a specified dress code?

“NO” says Mehdi Mabrouk, Journalist, Mediaquest Corp

MedhiMabrook“Nobody should have the right to dictate what you should wear, even if it’s just for one night”

Certain dress codes are quite restrictive and unpractical, from heels to colours or even the entire theme of an event. As an event planner or even a host, you want people to attend your function, have fun and talk about it. So turning away guests if they do not follow a set dress code is a risky business. Unless they are explained item-by-item, in social functions, dress codes can be vague and interpreted differently by each person, depending on their background and sense of style. For example, summer chic can mean one thing to one person, and something completely different to someone else.

Dress standards are also different for men and women. At a formal or gala event, men are expected to wear a suit or tuxedo and the only difference between male guests are the colours of their ties and the style of their cufflinks. Women, on the other hand, are told that they can go with the traditional little black dress and a pair of stylish ballerinas; but in reality, they are expected to rock their best gown with their highest pair of Louboutins, and to be honest, this is just not fair. In the end, everyone should be able to enjoy an event without constantly thinking about how they look and how the rest of the guests, or the organisers to be more precise, perceive them.

But there are many other factors to why a dress code can sometimes be a bad idea. As a journalist, I get invited to a lot of events after working hours and I do not always have the time to change beforehand. In my opinion, hosting an event at 7pm is not a smart idea when people tend to finish work around 6pm. Traffic jams, fatigue and strict dress codes are only a few of the reasons why people tend to bail on certain events that take place at this hour. As a host, you want your guests to come as they are and express their identity through their style. But dress codes are about uniformity, which can alienate certain people because they feel like they do not fit into the glamorous image our society is enforcing. Not everyone is a model and not everyone looks good in a three-piece suit.

Style is about being able to express yourself through clothes and accessories; it is about showing your uniqueness and standing out. Nobody should have the right to dictate what you should wear, even if it’s just for one night.

Allowing everyone to wear comfortable and appropriate clothes is something event planners should seriously think about, because after all, the more creative the outfits, the more publicity the event will get. 

“YES” says Ellie Rebecca Keene, PR & Communications Manager, Pragma

EllieKeene“The dress code is put in place for a reason and that reason should be respected”

Working in the nightlife industry, I can see both sides of this argument. But let’s take one issue out of the equation before I explain why I agree – there has to be some leeway if someone genuinely can’t comply with the rules – if they had a medical condition, for example. Obviously door staff need to have a certain amount of flexibility rather than just seeing things in black and white, and dress codes need to offer a certain level of practicality so that they don’t alienate our audience – we don’t want to annoy our guests before they’ve even left the queue at the door. There were some older ladies involved in ‘Heel- gate’ in Cannes this year who were wearing fashionable flat shoes, this is acceptable in my opinion – turning up in Havaianas, however, is not!

Generally speaking, the dress code is put in place for a reason and that reason should be respected. The purpose of a dress code is to set a venue or event up with a general feel or theme. An event organiser has decided this for a purpose, whether it is to keep the event formal or have a themed night, such as Ahlan’s recent White Party, for example. It’s important for guests to feel comfortable of course, but going to a formal event and standing with someone in flip flops and a pair of shorts would make me feel uncomfortable for them.

No matter what the venue – a club, a restaurant, a boat – it’s just an empty shell with some pretty lights and fashionable décor. It’s the guests who provide the ambiance – so if they turn up less than engaged with what you’re trying to achieve, it has a knock on effect on the night as a whole. As organisers we put a huge amount of effort into every last detail, not to mention a large amount of money into great quality hospitality for our guests. If you do RSVP, it’s surely a sign of respect to abide by the rules.

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