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About The Dress Code

The importance of appropriate attire for any activity cannot be overstated. Tuxedos on the beach or swimwear in the ballroom evoke a sense of the ridiculous and illustrate the point. In between these examples, we all find our own shades of gray.


It is important for the members to understand that what we decide to wear not only says something about ourselves, but also says something to the people we are going to be with. We can either complement them by dressing with care and appropriateness, or slight them with the impression that we didn't care enough to put effort into our appearance. We show how important and worthwhile an activity is by the level of formality we choose to display. The appropriateness or inappropriateness of our attire broadcasts a message for everyone to see.


Parents and family members are encouraged to stay during Cotillion to watch all the fun. Since Cotillion is a dressed-up affair, your own choice of attire can help reinforce the manners and behavior the children are practicing. Thus we ask audience members to observe a Business Casual or Country Club level of attire. (See descriptions here.) Children observers should be appropriately attired according to age. When the children see you get dressed up more than you usually might for a children's activity, it shows them how much you value the experience of Cotillion for them.

Parents who are scheduled to act as Hosts and Hostesses for the evening are asked to dress in accordance with the level of formality the children are required to observe: a suit and tie for gentlemen and a dress or skirted suit for the ladies.

"Thank you so very much for your comments regarding the dress code.  I so appreciate your strict guidelines and your concern in this area.  Our children are used to such a casual lifestyle in Southern California, yet need to be taught what is appropriate and when." 

The Dress Code

Our dress code rules are designed to enhance the comfort and success off all our members, and to prepare them for the myriad social and business events they will attend during their lives. Thus, we promote a traditional appearance, avoiding fads and trends in both attire and hairstyles. Adherence to these rules is required for full participation.

For Young Ladies


Age appropriate, modest party dresses that meet the descriptions below.  (No leggings, pants, shorts or split skirts or rompers)

Dresses should be short to mid-length (not mini) - hem no more than 4 inches above knee with arms raised overhead. 

2-Inch Rule:  Sleeveless dresses must have a minimum of a two inches width of fabric over each shoulder. If less, a bolero, shrug or cardigan must be worn. No shawls.

Dresses should have a modest front and fully covered back.  No plunging necklines or cut-outs.

Dresses should not be tight fitting.  (Tight dresses ride up while dancing.)

Tights or dressy socks through 5th grade.

Stockings grades 6 and up.  No bare legs.

Shoes should be appropriately dressy, age-appropriate, party shoes with a closed toe. (No mules, sandals, slides, platforms, high heels or boots.)


Traditional neat hairstyles. No hats - they are not appropriate for formal events.

Full -fingered short White Gloves.
(Why?  See Tips and Tools, below.)

For Young Gentlemen


A traditional dark suit. Sport coat and dark slacks permitted. (No novelty print or holiday-themed suits.)


Long-sleeved collared white dress shirt.

Gentleman’s standard tie. Bow ties permitted.

Traditional dark leather oxfords or slip on shoes such as penny loafers, with black thin, smooth soles. (Rubber soles are not practical for dancing, nor appropriate in formal settings.)


No athletic shoes, deck shoes, or boots.

Traditional gentlemen’s jewelry, only.

Traditional neat hairstyles. Please tie long hair back for a more formal appearance. No hats.

Tips and Tools

Sometimes it can be tricky finding just what you need. Here are some helpful hints and suggestions.


Suits and Dresses

Nordstrom, Land’s End, Burlington Coat Factory have offerings for both boys and girls. Often, the Petite department might be your best bet for sizing your in-between young lady.


The “Bare” Essentials

Here are some ideas for dresses that don’t meet the “2-Inch Rule.”


Bolero Jackets and Shrugs:

A variety of boleros and shrugs are widely available since they are in fashion, especially in junior’s stores.  Now would be a good time to think ahead to dresses you might have in the future, picking up an extra pretty shrug or light sweater in both black and white.

Sometimes “strappy” dresses come with a matching shawl which can be used as material to make fluttery sleeves or to make shirred straps. Just cut the shawl using it’s full finished width into pieces the length of each shoulder strap. Gather at each end and sew to the front and back of the dress over the strap making a new wider ruched strap out of the shawl material.  Voila!  Another way to use that material is to make an easy flutter cap sleeve out of each finished end of the shawl, again, attached to the narrow shoulder strap. 


If the dress doesn’t come with a shawl, two and a half inch wide opaque satin ribbon can do the trick in a pinch.


Why Gloves? Gloves may seem old-fashioned but they are actually very practical in this setting.  They help keep hands dry and comfortable while dancing for both boys and girls. They also serve as a prop for the young ladies and gentlemen to use in practicing certain thoughtful courtesies. Ladies may find short white gloves at bridal stores, dance stores or drill team supplies. Some department stores are aware of the needs of Cotillion shoppers. You can also find gloves online at Gloves Online, David's Bridal, Party City, and Amazon, among others. 



Little Girls: Mary Janes are perfect and easy to find.


Older Girls: Stick to traditional shoes. “Cool” shoes look silly at Cotillion. Dressy flats or plain pumps with a low heel are best. Sling backs are fine. Add a shoe bow for more style. Remember - no mules, slides or sandals! Mules and slides fall off, and we don’t want any crunched toes!

Gentlemen:  Kohls, Nordstrom and other departments stores carry smooth soled dress shoes.

Young ladies waiting to meet their first partners of the evening.
7th and 8th Graders dancing the Waltz.
Young gentlemen looking very dapper!
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