Ed Pratt: Dressing for party proves big challenge

I understand theme attire parties. Folks want to have fun and make a statement.

I’ve gone to several 1970s-themed parties because, well, that was my era. I remember getting my print shirt, my elephant-leg pants and platform shoes. For several years, that was the way I dressed most days.

To be honest, I wore a leisure suit and platform shoes to my first interview for a job at this newspaper. I got a second interview, but was told by a friend not to wear that outfit again and especially not to the next job interview.

Several weeks ago, my wife said we were invited to a birthday party and that it was a white linen party.

Generally, when the sentence starts with “We are invited,” it means that absent sickness or a really debilitating injury, I’m going, too.

I’m not opposed to parties. I love them. But, what, exactly, did “white linen” mean?

The explanation was that everyone would be wearing clothing made of white linen.

What? Why would you do that? And then I had to ask myself, “Do I have white linen anything?”

If you have to ask, then I guess you don’t.

She explained that white linen parties are very popular, and that people like them because it makes for a great setting, and photographs taken at these parties look good.

I was ready to rebel. Where I grew up, all you needed was Swedish meatballs, finger sandwiches, drummettes, drinks, loud music, and you had a great party. Your outfit was your creation.

To make matters worse, several days later, a good friend invited me to his birthday party. Guess what? He said it was a white linen party and it was the same night as the other party. Darn it.

So I had to find a white linen outfit. I was miserable.

While this was going on, I had to take my nephew to get fitted for a tuxedo. As I waited for him, I discovered a section of white clothes. Could they be linen, too?

A friendly clerk tried to find something that both fit and made sense for me. There was nothing, and besides, I was confused by the many shades of white.

But I was energized, so I made my nephew go with me to another store. And, as it turned out, the Navy veteran knew something about white linen and white linen parties.

We walked around a few minutes in the store until a clerk pointed us in the direction of a sea of white men’s clothes.

As my nephew began to show me various kinds of linen and other fabrics, I noticed a female clerk looking askance at us. She would avert her eyes when I looked her way. I think I know what she was thinking — not that there is anything wrong with that.

After I was sold on a combination, I went to the dressing room to try on my white linen outfit. I went to a mirror, where a woman was waiting for her child to come out. I asked what she thought. She smiled and said it looked “wonderful.”

Really? Did she say “wonderful”? If she had said “fabulous,” I would have left. That is not the response I sought.

I brought the clothes to the counter with my nephew in tow. The female clerk asked, “Will that be all for you all?”

What was that supposed to mean? Not that there is anything wrong with that, but there was only one outfit on the counter.

As painful as purchasing and wearing the linen outfit was for me, I managed to have a great time at both parties while ducking and dodging food and drink spills.

For all of my complaining, my wife and I took some pretty handsome pictures that night, white linen and all.

Ed Pratt is a former Advocate editor. He is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is epratt1972@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter at @epratt1972.