According to the 2009 Presidential Inauguration Committee, the dress code for the 10 official inaugural balls set to take place on Tuesday night is black tie. Traditionally, for men that entails a fingertip-length dinner jacket with grosgrain- or satin-faced lapels, black trousers with a side stripe that matches the lapels, a cummerbund, black bow tie, black socks and black patent-leather shoes. Women have a bit more latitude with either a formal, floor-length evening gown or a short, dressy cocktail dress deemed acceptable. For members of the military — such as those celebrating at the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball — an acceptable alternative is the dress-blue uniform with black bow tie. (According to U.S. Army spokesman Paul Boyce, officers who really want to put on the dog can accessorize with a dress cape lined in the color of their branch, such as orange for the signal corps or green for military police.)
But the first inauguration since the rules of black tie went a la carte has brought some creative twists among the dozens of official and unofficial inaugural balls on tap. Among the more noteworthy dress codes for a handful of the unofficial parties in and around D.C.:
Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball
Host: Texas State Society of Washington, D.C.
Venue: Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center
Crowd: The outgoing administration and friends get together on the last full day of the George W. Bush presidency (the ball will be held Monday).
Dress code: “Texas black tie”
Which means: Nicely pressed Western jeans, cowboy boots and a tuxedo jacket for guys, formal gowns or cocktail dresses — with boots — for women
Quote of note: “A lot of times you’ll see men with tuxedos where the vest is a Texas flag. I’ve seen women in sequined dresses that are the Texas flag. Sometimes there can be some pretty hideous fashion too — lots of feathers and fur and hot pink, because the people in Texas like to do it up right.” — Jenifer Sarver, Texas State Society historian
Hawaii State Society Inaugural Ball
Host: Hawaii State Society of Washington, D.C.
Venue: Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Crowd: Officials, supporters and home-state ohana(family) hoping for a presidential pop-in
Dress code: Black tie or “formal ethnic attire”
Which means: Holoku gowns, lava-lava, kimonos or accenting that tuxedo with an aloha-print bow tie and matching cummerbund. Guests can accessorize with the floral leis provided.
Quote of note: “We came to the conclusion black tie would be the most appropriate so it’s not perceived as a party or a luau but as a very formal, elegant affair to honor the president.” — Ball chairman Micah Kohono Mossman
Lincoln 2.0 Inaugural Ball
Host: Destination DC
Venue: Smithsonian American Art Museum
Crowd: Professional period re-enactors, history buffs, steampunk aficionados
Dress code: “Black tie preferred, Victorian attire welcome”
Which means: Bust out the beaver toppers, spats, corsets, hoop skirts and assorted laces.
Quote of note: “There are a bunch of professional Abraham Lincoln re-enactors out there, and we expect that a handful of them will show up in the full outfit with the beard and the top hat and everything.” — Carla Barry-Austin, media relations manager for Destination DC
Obama Pajama Party
Host: Carrie Fisher and friends
Venue: Ronald Reagan Building
Crowd: Supporters of a nonprofit group that gives sleep togs to needy kids
Dress code: “Pajamas or black tie / nightgown or ball gown”
Which means: Pinstriped pj’s, bunny slippers under ball gowns, adult-sized footed jammies, and for the more fashion forward, may we suggest Dolce & Gabbana’s spring 2009 pajama-party collection?
Quote of note: “Absolutely I’m wearing pajamas [to the party]! I wish I could wear pajamas everywhere. I spend a lot of my life in bed, which sounds a lot more sensual than it is. . . . I’ll probably wear this sort of pale green nightgown that I got from a store in Paris called Sabbia Rosa — on the Left Bank — slippers and maybe even a velvet robe.” — Actress, author and event host Carrie Fisher
State Society of Arizona Inaugural Ball
Host: State Society of Arizona
Venue: The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Crowd: Expatriates of the Grand Canyon State and a handful of unhappy John McCain supporters
Dress code: Black tie or bolo tie
Which means: Feel free to swap out a traditional bow tie for the Western-style shoelace tie that’s been the state’s official neckwear since 1971.
Quote of note: “A suit is OK if you don’t have a tux. We really don’t want people to show up in jeans and khakis, but at this point, unless you show up nude, we’ll probably let you in.” — Katie Vlietstra, inaugural ball chairwoman
Host: Chris “Ludacris” Bridges
Venue: Thurgood Marshall Ballroom, Marriott Wardman Hotel
Crowd: Millennials, first-time voters and hip-hop music fans
Dress code: “Dress to impress; but no jeans, no hoodies, no sneakers or ball caps will be allowed.”
Which means: Dressy wear from Sean John to Juicy Couture, four-button suits, diamond ear studs.
Quote of note: “This is definitely a formal ball. I think Ludacris will be wearing a tuxedo, for example, but the young kids who voted for the first time take more risks in their attire. We expect they’ll come out wearing their finest in their own way.” — Komeka Freeman, associate producer, American Music Inaugural Balls
Second Life Capitol Hill Inaugural Ball
Host: Clear Ink
Venue: Your computer
Crowd: Silicon Valley poli-sci wonks, RPG programmers and former D&D gamers
Dress code: “White tie”
Which means: White vest, white bow tie and black tailcoat for men, floor-length evening gowns for women.
Quote of note: “In Second Life [an on-line virtual community] it’s just as easy to conjure up a white tie as black tie and it’s after 6 p.m. so we de- cided to go fancy.. .. .. . If we really have a problem with someone [dressed inappropriately] on the dance floor, we can always click on their avatar and reject them.” — Steve Nelson, co-founder and sponsor of Capitol Hill Second Life.