Social policy

Black-tie? White-tie? Tie-dye? Party attire that thumbs its nose at tradition

Hollywood society could arrive at tonight’s annual Race to Erase MS charity bash with a burning question: Do I look ridiculous?

If event co-host Nancy Davis has her way, you bet your booty. The invite reads “Disco Fever to Erase MS” and requests: “Dress Disco.”

“I’m hoping the party is going to look like a scene out of ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ ” says Davis, who will be decked out in ’70s attire. “I don’t want it to be the usual ho-hum black-tie event.”

Typically, guests don’t go all out at the Race to Erase MS, but madcap dress codes at local events are back in vogue. A few of our favorites: Cowboy Up, Shabbat Chic and Ballroom Couture.

An upcoming invitation for the L.A. premiere of the new Cirque du Soleil requests Cirque Chic. What to wear? The oversized yellow shoes or the big red nose?

“People will call,” admits Marc Friedland of event branding agency Creative Intelligence, which is handling the Cirque event. “We try to walk the line between clever and confusing.”

Why dictate dress codes? First of all, it’s fun to play Truman Capote. At his legendary 1966 Black-and-White ball, guests were forbidden to wear anything but black or white.

It’s also a way to control even the event’s finest details. Sean Combs once required female guests get manicures and “wax” before coming to one of his parties.

At least Capote and Combs knew what they wanted. Weak directives like “black-tie optional” can cause even more attire angst.

“It’s dorky because the ones who wear a tux feel exceedingly overdressed,” sniffs etiquette expert Letitia Baldrige, who has no tolerance for theme parties. “When I see ‘Festive attire’, I think of a mariachi band.”

Theme parties can be thorny, too. Last week, Sarah Jessica Parker was royally reamed on tart fashion Web site for her outfit at the Anglomania ball, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She opted for an Alexander McQueen design that, depending on the angle, made her look like a bagpiper or a ballerina.

“It’s fun to have a theme, but it also lends itself to people looking nuts,” says Fug co-founder Jessica Morgan.

However, Race to Erase MS attendees needn’t worry about the wrath of Fug. “That sounds like fun,” says Morgan. “Go with Farrah Fawcett hair.”

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