Tween Talk with Eugenia Tachie-Menson: What not to wear…

Tween Talk with Eugenia Tachie Menson: It’s Ok to stop…

“Mama, I have been invited to a birthday lunch party!” She could barely get the words out of her mouth in one breath.  Nhyira is an 11-year-old who loves to be with her friends any time she had the opportunity; it was her friend’s birthday and it promised to be a fun day.

“Here’s the invitation card.  It’s this Saturday at 1pm, Mama,” she read off the card.  “And where is it being held?”, her mother inquired.  “It’s at a restaurant in the Airport area”, she gushed.

“Let me take a look at the card?” Her mother wanted further details, obviously.  She took one look at it and went: “This seems like a formal, sit-down kind of lunch, Nhyira. What would you wear?”

“I will wear my jean-overalls and a t-shirt with my trainers,” she suggested.  “That doesn’t sound appropriate, judging from the ‘feel’ and tone of the invitation”, her mother countered. “The venue is a dead-giveaway, Nhyira. And for such an event, what you’re suggesting to wear is not appropriate”, her mother stressed.

The way you turn up to events and/or places we’re expected, speaks volumes of

  • your attention to detail,
  • respect for the place, or person who has invited you
  • your personal brand

There are written and unwritten rules (normally in social spaces) which we must adhere to as members of a society.

In school, there is a dress code and all students are expected to adhere to it; this is usually spelt out in very clear terms and there will be a penalty for not sticking to it.  But in social gatherings, such as parties, the rules are not hard and fast as we have them in school.  For instance, in the case of Nhyira’s friend’s lunch, there was no given dress code but her mother was able to instinctively tell that it was a formal event, based on the location of the event.

So how are you able to tell what you should wear to which place?  For now, you may need to continue to confer with an adult or a parent about the appropriateness of what you choose to wear to a function.

In some cases, you need to be conscious of the traditions and sensibilities of your host. I remember when I was first invited to Manhyia Palace (the office and residence of the Asantehene) to meet the Asantehene; I was elated and honoured in equal measure. I had planned my wardrobe; on the day, I wore a kente skirt suit (and the skirt has to go past your knees in length) and teamed it with a pair of our traditional sandals, ahenema.

I got to the Palace and went to the office to register my presence; I got there and was being taken through the extra protocols to be observed in the presence of the Asantehene.  The aide to Asantehene’s eyes caught my ahenema; “ahenema sandals are the preserve of royalty. If you are not royalty, you cannot wear these sandals before the King”, he explained clearly.  Fortunately, I had arrived 2hours ahead of my appointed time, so I was able to arrange for a more appropriate pair of shoes. Close shave!

The other time I almost erred (along lines) was when I was in Qatar; I bought one of their men’s attire; white, long sleeved ankle-length tailored shirt with the red and white checkered rectangle headscarf along with a rope band to fasten it in place. I love how it looks when it’s worn and so thought to put mine on and step out.

At the reception of the hotel I was staying in, I was stopped (nicely) by the hotel staff and told that it was a sign of disrespect for a woman to wear what was the preserve of Muslim men. With my tail between my legs, and thankful for their timely intervention, I went back to my room to change.

In the case of my personal two examples, there were hard and fast rules about what to wear and who wears what.  That I didn’t know was no excuse because I could always have checked thoroughly.

But in Nhyira’s case which was a very social event (therefore unspoken rules about dressing), some kind of dress-sense will be required.  As her mother pointed out, the venue suggests it’s a formal setting, so something a bit smart casual would do nicely.  What would you wear, were you Nhyira?


Leave a Reply