I can get us to the Inaugural, but do I have a thing to wear?!
January 12, 2009 8:43 AM   Subscribe

[I-know-you're-not-my-mom-filter] So what should I wear to the Inauguration? I know, it seems like a ridiculously simple question.

I 've seen this question, and while it's useful, it's not really addressing my question. In short, what is appropriate wear to the Inaugural Swearing-In ceremony?

We managed to win the "lottery" at my House Rep's. office (thus insuring that I will ALWAYS vote for my current H.R., but that's neither here nor there), and so, two of us will be going to watch the President-Elect take the oath of office and deliver his Inaugural Speech (which seems to be one of the most anticipated rhetorical events in a generation, but again, that's not my question).

Judging from the official site, I know enough to dress for weather, and not to bring any weapons or umbrellas, but my question is really more about etiquette (and therefore, maybe a bit anachronistic?): in short, should I wear a tie to the ceremony? Should I get dressed up? FYI, this is two men going: one 40-something and one teenager (I'm sure he'll wear what he likes, which is fine with me).

I'm planning on wearing my trench coat, which is warm and will keep me dry . . . but will the norm be for men to wear suits (or sports coats) and ties? Or is it wear whatever?

I'm planning on dressing comfortably (I don't mind wearing a tie, as I regularly do so for work), so I'm not going to be wearing a tux or anything like that. And we're not going to any of the other events, just the Swearing-In. But what will most folks be wearing? And should that make a difference?

For what it's worth, this is personally an important event to me, and I'd like to think that what I wear would reflect the respect I'd like to show to our next president, as well as our system of government; even though it's imperfect, there are some times when we get it right, which is one of the reasons I'm excited to go. I'm hoping that the green can offer some thoughtful responses to what should be a simple question . . .
posted by deejay jaydee to Law & Government (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it's going to be so packed that the only part of you that will be seen by anyone, including the people standing right next to, is your head and shoulders, and, given the weather, all anyone expects to see on your head and shoulders is a hat and your warmest coat.
posted by HotToddy at 8:52 AM on January 12, 2009

You. Right next to you.
posted by HotToddy at 8:53 AM on January 12, 2009

I do think a lot of folks will dress up. Any military guy will likely be in full dress, for sure. DC tends to be a bit more formal than other cities, and this is a big huge-deal event, so I think a tie would not be out of place.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:55 AM on January 12, 2009

If you're lucky enough to be a part of this historical event then dress the part. If I were going I'd be "dressed to the nines" with the most comfortable dress shoes I could find.
Congrats and have a great time!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 8:58 AM on January 12, 2009

I don't think, though, that a suit or jacket would be necessary. I mean, what HotToddy said--no one will see it, anyway, unless you hit a bar or something afterwards. But there will, definitely, be folks dressed that way. Put it this way--what if you're seated next to your governor, or your mayor, which is not at all unlikely, and you meet him and shake hands and make chit-chat--how would you want to be dressed in that case?
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:59 AM on January 12, 2009

Unless you're planning on meeting/seeing/having face time with the representative that ran the lottery which you won for the tickets, I wouldn't worry about dressing up - there will be eleventy bazillion people there, so unless you're going dressed in a large yellow chicken suit (NOTE: do not go dressed in a large yellow chicken suit) I think anything you want to wear would be fine.

That said, though, this does probably fall into the category of Big Damn Deal, so if you'd be comfortable wearing a suit all day, a suit would be a nice mark of respect.
posted by pdb at 9:01 AM on January 12, 2009

Maybe I'm a philistine but I'm going and I'm dressing strictly for comfort. It's supposed to be 38F out, there may be snow on the ground, and I'm expecting to be there for the better part of 8 hours. So I'm wearing a clean pair of sneakers, wool socks, nice jeans, a down coat and a wool hat. All with a wool sweater underneath.
posted by lunasol at 9:08 AM on January 12, 2009

Also, do be aware that 250,000 of us have swearing in tickets. I don't any of us not named Barack Obama will stand out much.
posted by lunasol at 9:09 AM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ugh, I mean "I don't THINK any of us.."
posted by lunasol at 9:09 AM on January 12, 2009

Sweaters, ear muffs, gloves, warm socks...bring an umbrella...
posted by anniecat at 9:18 AM on January 12, 2009

Honey, dress for the weather!

Hell, I was seated for the 1989 ceremony, and I sure didn't wear pumps and a skirt suit!

That day was an enormous big deal for me and my colleagues, and I do understand how you want to present your best face.

I would wear some bright, spirited colors to refect your mood!
posted by jgirl at 9:18 AM on January 12, 2009

And do whatever it takes to keep your feet warm!

Buy newspapers, bring them in the plastic shopping bag, and stand on them. They'll provide insulation from the cold ground, they're a bit of cushioning, and you can read a section while you wait.
posted by jgirl at 9:22 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could wear a (nice, conservative) sweater over shirt and tie. No jacket, so not overly formal, but still looks dressy and respectful.
posted by shadow vector at 9:41 AM on January 12, 2009

Here's what I think. I think it would be a shame if in twenty years you looked back on this momentous event and thought not "that was an inspiring and historically significant moment" but "good lord did my feet hurt." I'm not saying that you should wear sweats and sneakers, but I think that comfort should be at least as much of a consideration as formality. Wear layers and make sure that whatever shoes you choose are ones that you can comfortably walk and stand in for several hours. I'm not a man, but a sports coat over a sweater sounds good. It's going to be cold, but it's also going to be crowded, and it might be good to be able to take the sweater off if you get warm.
posted by craichead at 9:57 AM on January 12, 2009

You will want to wear long underwear.

And I am not kidding, but you can do a really old school trick of bringing two hot baked (or microwaved) potatoes wrapped in foil (don't microwave them in foil, though) and putting them in your coat pockets. They will warm your hands for a bit and you also have a snack (bring salt packets too). It will not be questionable as a weapon.
posted by spec80 at 10:05 AM on January 12, 2009

IANA secret service guy, but it would not be a great idea to bring potatoes wrapped in tinfoil.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:08 AM on January 12, 2009

BTW, I was at the 2001 inauguration and I was standing heel-deep in mud. A million people walking around on wet ground will do that. Wear boots.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:09 AM on January 12, 2009

I got tickets to Bush's last Inauguration (not much problem getting a ticket to that one! -g) and the only "dress up" I saw was a lot of cowboy hats from the good ole boys and girls from Texas. Definitely dress for warmth and comfort. If you're going to one of the Balls, then I'd dress up a bit.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:24 AM on January 12, 2009

Best answer: Mr Moonpie is right about the inherent formality of DC and the historic nature of the event suggesting tie. However like others, I really don't think you are taking the cold seriously enough. You will die in a trench coat. Wear a tie, but a ski parka over it.
This is a representative picture of sartorial attire on the bleacher seats.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:59 AM on January 12, 2009

I was there in 2005, along with the rest of Senior class and we wore an assortment of hoodies, ponchos, and parkas and were just fine and blended in normally, whereas our teacher wore a business suit and heels and was practically crawling by the end of the day. It is cold, muddy, and crowded. No one will remember you. Just make sure you're smiling a lot and wearing comfortable shoes.
posted by banannafish at 1:49 PM on January 12, 2009

Response by poster: Just as a follow up, I wanted to let anyone who might care know that we got some of the infamous Blue Tickets. As such, we were in the middle of the mob that did not get into our assigned standing area, because Capitol Police did not have a backup generator for the X-Ray machines they were to use to screen entrants' bags.

We saw nothing and we heard nothing until we got back home that night, where the lovely Mrs. jaydee had DVR'd the event for us.

But we were plenty warm! So in that sense, I guess this question is resolved.

posted by deejay jaydee at 12:34 PM on February 11, 2009

Thanks for posting a follow up. I wondered what happened to you guys.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:11 PM on February 11, 2009

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