-> ''"You are at Buckingham Palace -- the very heart of the British nation. Sherlock Holmes: PUT YOUR TROUSERS ON!"''
-->-- '''Mycroft''', ''Series/{{Sherlock}}'', "[[Recap/SherlockS02E01AScandalInBelgravia A Scandal in Belgravia]]"

What to wear, what to wear? Choosing the right outfit can be tricky, particularly when you're headed off to an important party, a FancyDinner, or a hot date. Sometimes, making the wrong decision can lead to public humiliation... especially if you failed to realize just how formal the event was going to be.

Showing up underdressed for a formal event can simply be played for comedy: it's frequently invoked in romantic comedies as part of a disastrous date. As such, it functions as a minor obstacle on the path to romance. However, being underdressed can also be used dramatically. Arriving underdressed to a party or other social event often signals that the underdressed character is in some way an outsider. Frequently, the underdressed character is of lower class status than the rest of the guests. A poverty-stricken character may be underdressed due to an inability to afford formal wear. Alternatively, failure to adhere to dress codes indicates ignorance of the social code. Especially when this is part of an InWithTheInCrowd situation, some of the humiliation stems from the way the character is displaying that he or she is not yet able to navigate these social waters. It's not uncommon for a more savvy (or simply wealthier) friend or LoveInterest to provide some assistance, because IWantMyBelovedToBeFashionable.

Sometimes invoked intentionally in implicit symbolic rejection of whatever group is being intruded upon. The James Dean effect is popular for this. ''Much'' easier [[DoubleStandard for men to pull off,]] especially if they are accompanied by a woman who ''does'' belong in the setting and is dressed like it.

Contrast with ItsACostumePartyISwear, where someone else deliberately tricks a party-goer into ''over''dressing (by arriving in costume when everyone else will be in normal party attire). See also DressCode, which tends to apply to work or school, but can also apply to restaurants or bars. ''Not'' to be confused with BirthdaySuitSurpriseParty.


* An ad for an Australian hotel chain has tennis player Pat Rafter being reminded that he is supposed to be at a particular hotel tomorrow. Thinking he is there for a break, he turns up in singlet, shorts and thongs, only to discover that he is supposed to be addressing a business council lunch. The ad then shows the lengths the hotel will go to for its guests by having the concierge loan Pat his suit and shoes, with him later being shown standing behind the desk in Pat's casual clothes.

[[folder:Anime And Manga]]
* In one episode of ''Anime/HanaYoriDango'', Tsukushi shows up under-dressed for a party at the Domyoji estate. In this case, her wearing an inappropriately informal dress is a reminder of the class difference between her family and the Domyoji family.
* In an episode of ''Manga/{{Monster}}'', Eva refuses to allow her bodyguard to come into a hotel with her because he doesn't meet the hotel's dress code. She subsequently takes him shopping for a suit and tie, which she forces him to wear when he accompanies her.
* In ''Anime/MyDaddyLongLegs'', this trope shows up in a nightmare Judy has in which she goes to New York to see Jervis Pendleton, only to be laughed at by his date, who tells her that she needs to change her clothes for the party. When Judy looks down, she's wearing her old orphan clothes from the first episode. It's a pretty good indicator of her anxieties about her socioeconomic class.
* In ''Manga/CandyCandy'', Candy once shows up in her uniform to class... but it's the ''wrong'' uniform, since her BoardingSchool has a normal white one ''and'' a black one for Sundays. She gets mocked by the other students, and the nuns punish her by not letting her go back to the dorms top change.

* In ''Film/AsGoodAsItGets'', Melvin Udall shows up inappropriately dressed for a restaurant with a dress code. It's not a matter of money here--he could afford a suit and tie--but his failure to realize that the restaurant had a dress code might serve as a reminder that he doesn't go out on dates all that often.
* ''Film/TheSting''. Henry Gondorff (going under the name "Shaw") shows up to join a poker game on a train.
-->'''Lonnegan:''' Mr. Shaw, we usually require a tie at this table. If you don't have one, we can get ya one.
* ''Film/TopSecret''. Nick Rivers arrives at a fancy restaurant for dinner.
-->'''Nick:''' A table for two, please. The name is Rivers.
-->'''Maitre d':''' Ah, yes. Mr Rivers. I have it right here, but we require a jacket and tie for the dining room. We will be very happy to provide you with one.
* Subverted in ''Film/{{Titanic|1997}}'', as Jack plans to shows up to an upper class dinner in his grungy clothes but a kind-hearted friend lends him some formal wear.
* ''Film/WhatAGirlWants'': Daphne Reynolds is convinced by her almost step-sister Clarissa Payne that the fashion show they are going to is informal, while its just the opposite. Much to Clarissa's dismay, everyone thinks that Daphne's one of the models, and she steals the show.
* ''Film/PulpFiction''. Vincent and Jules wear some very casual clothing to a meeting with their boss Marcellus, because they had to change out of what they were wearing due to the old clothes having [[spoiler:[[IJustShotMarvinInTheFace Marvin's brain matter]] splattered all over them]].
* ''Film/RealGenius'': Chris shows up to his job interview wearing deelyboppers and an "I Heart Toxic Waste" T-shirt. In this case, it's meant to establish the character as a BunnyEarsLawyer.
* In ''Film/IHeartHuckabees'', one of the weird coincidences that kick off the plot involves Albert finding a business card in the pocket of a jacket loaned to him by the restaurant where he tries to dine without one.
* In ''Film/FirstKid'' , Sinbad's character Sam Simms is refused entry to a black tie event.
-->'''Sam:''' I know, sir, and I've got it covered: I'm black and I'm wearing a tie.
* In ''Film/TwoThousandTwelve,'' the Chiwetel Ejiofor character arrives at a formal White House event in casual clothes (having rushed back from the other side of the world, discovering the world is going to end). He needs to speak to powerful government people there. At first he's not allowed in, but then he is, after someone finds a suit jacket for him to wear.

* Subverted in ''Literature/LittleWomen''. Meg makes a better impression at a gathering of wealthy socialites when she's wearing her own simple and rather worn out party dress than she does when she borrows a more expensive gown.
* In EFBenson's ''QueenLucia'', Lucia gives a party and raises the dress code to "Hitum," the highest possible level, at the last minute when she realizes that visiting opera singer Olga Bracely is going to be there. Olga herself, though, shows up in a simple blue dress that is barely "Scrub" (informal)--but she still comes off as more naturally sophisticated than Lucia and the other residents of Riseholme.
* The parable of the Wedding guest in [[Literature/TheBible Matthew 22:1-14]] makes this trope OlderThanFeudalism. The punishment for failing to come to the wedding feast in proper attire was unexpectedly harsh, too. Weeping and gnashing of teeth, indeed!
* In the later ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' City Watch novels Vimes deliberately tries to be under-dressed for social occasions. He feels the official dress uniform of his rank is both impractical and insulting to watchmen everywhere. Plus he likes to intimidate and upset the nobs by wearing a nice set of battered armour to remind them they aren't above the law (anymore).
* The ''Literature/RedDwarf'' novel, ''Last Human'' states that at some point before the accident, Lister was somehow invited to the officers' summer ball. The invitation told him to dress informally, so he turns up wearing football shorts. He is turned away by a suited officer. He laments that if they wanted him to dress like Creator/NoelCoward, they should have said so.
* [[InvertedTrope Inverted]] in ''Literature/TheChroniclesOfNarnia''--when [[BigGood Aslan]] magically summons soon-to-be-Queen Helen (a London cabbie's wife until that moment) to Narnia she is described as looking [[ModestRoyalty beautiful in her simple attire]]. The narrator informs us that if she had known this was going to happen and had put on her best outfit, she would have looked tacky.
* [[Literature/TheDresdenFiles Harry Dresden]] once went to a White Council meeting wearing a bathrobe because his cat decided to use his [[RobeAndWizardHat proper robe]] as a litter box. Given that the White Council was meeting to discuss [[spoiler:the war Harry started with the Red Court of vampires]] most of the assembled wizards believe he is deliberately insulting them.
* Once inverted by Creator/DaveBarry when on the subject of men and women's clothes: where women need several matching outfits for every occasion (and don't get started on the shoes), men only ever need one suit in their lives for work, church, formal events... and when they die they can be buried in it.
* In ''Literature/{{Cetaganda}}'', Miles and Ivan are told that the laws of Cetagandan court fashion are so complicated that it would be best if they just wear their uniforms to everything to avoid this trope -- it is almost always appropriate for a serving officer to wear his uniform to a formal occasion, and when it isn't, he can honestly claim that it isn't his fault.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/HowIMetYourMother'': The gang goes to a funeral, and Barney, who at all other times advocates wearing suits, shows up in sweats because he believes that a suit is only for happy occasions.
--> '''Barney:''' A suit is the sartorial equivalent of a baby's smile.
* On ''Series/{{Frasier}}'', Martin is humiliated when Frasier and Niles take him to a fancy restaurant and is rejected for not wearing a tie. He gets even by taking the boys to one of his favorite eateries, where the host cuts off Frasier's tie to enforce their casual dress code.
* Jennifer does this in ''Series/ExesAndOhs'', ending up staying through her ex's wedding wearing a sweat top. (In her defence, she hadn't meant to be there - the boat the wedding was on cast off before she could leave.)
* On ''Series/ItsAlwaysSunnyInPhiladelphia'' the gang shows up at a funeral in their everyday casual wear because Frank told them they were going to a barbecue.
** In another episode, in what seems to be based off of a ''Liaisons Dangereuses'' storyline, Mac and Dee show up underdressed at a formal party thrown by Dee's rich well-groomed love interest.
* An episode of the revamped ''Series/DoctorWho'' has the Doctor and Rose landing in 1879 at a house Queen Victoria will be staying at. Rose is wearing a denim miniskirt and a tight-fitting, low-cut shirt. Throughout the episode, she is described by the others as being naked. In fact, she gets called a ''feral child''.
** For reference, they were aiming to 1''9''79, when an outfit like that would be acceptable. The Doctor is infamous for rarely arriving where (and when) he means to.
* Played in reverse in an episode of ''Series/TheWizard'': the central characters are invited to an afternoon garden party, and Tilly (a working-class woman in her sixties) embarrasses herself by coming tricked out in full evening wear.
* In the "[[Recap/SherlockS02E01AScandalInBelgravia A Scandal in Belgravia]]" episode of ''Series/{{Sherlock}}'', the title character shows up at Buckingham Palace clad only in a ModestyBedsheet. Admittedly he was brought there in a hurry, but he declines to change into more appropriate clothes when they're offered. (Though that's at least partly [[SiblingRivalry to twit his brother]].)
-->''You are at Buckingham Palace - the very heart of the British nation. Sherlock Holmes: PUT YOUR TROUSERS ON!''
** Interestingly, the men in suits refused to tell him where he's being taken. Naturally, after a quick SherlockScan, he figures it out, but still refuses to dress for the occasion.
* Played with in ''Series/DowntonAbbey,'' where the distinctions between black tie, white tie, and merely "wearing a tie", are terribly important to the characters, but can seem opaque to the viewers. Tom can show up to dinner very well-dressed by 21st century standards, but is treated like he's in a t-shirt.
* In the pilot of ''Series/{{Bewitched}}'', the snobby RichBitch Sheila Summers pulled this on Samantha Stephens, telling her to dress casually for a formal party. This was subverted in another episode four years later when Sheila invited the Stephenses to another party, telling them again it was casual. Samantha dressed formally only to find out that it actually ''was'' casual.
-->'''Samantha:''' Oh, that -- that little double-crosser!\\
'''Darrin:''' She ''said'' casual.\\
'''Samantha:''' Well, she knew darn well I'd expect her to lie!
* In the ''Series/{{Firefly}}'' episode "Shindig", the local ladies treat Kaylee's store-bought dress like this, though it seems to be more a matter of latching onto an excuse to act bitchy than any fault in the garment.
* Inverted in an episode of ''Series/SabrinaTheTeenageWitch'' where Harvey is going out with Sabrina and her father. He shows up wearing a suit and tie with his hair slicked into a short-back-and-sides. Sabrina and her father are dressed casually.
* In the ''Series/{{Goosebumps}}'' episode "A Night In Terror Tower", Eddie and Sue aren't allowed to wait in the hotel restaurant because Eddie isn't wearing a dinner jacket, which is the dress code. The waiter does actually fetch one for him, though Sue is also wearing casual clothes [[DoubleStandard and they don't have a problem with hers]].
* In one episode of ''Series/{{Friends}}'', Rachel is wearing a skimpy nightgown in an attempt to seduce her LoveInterest. Said love interest walks into the room with his parents and tells her they've been invited to dinner. Rachel tries to play it off as a foreign dress.
* Inverted in the ''Series/NewTricks'' episode "The Rock, Part 1". An increasingly unstable Brian steals a tuxedo from a hotel to infiltrate a casino and confront a suspect. However, he is the only one wearing wearing a tuxedo and sticks out like a sore thumb.
* Alluded to in ''Series/{{Borgen}}'', where one of the ways that civil servants apparently undermined an unpopular working class minister was to let him keep thinking that "black tie" just meant "wear a black tie" and not "evening dress".
* An episode of ''Series/{{Seinfeld}}'' that had the gang going to the Opera had Kramer showing up in his usual casual wear, much to the tuxedo-clad Jerry's annoyance.
--> '''Jerry''': I thought you said people dress up for the Opera!
--> '''Kramer''': People do. I don't.
* This is also cited in an episode of ''Series/JustShootMe,'' where Nina gets genuinely ticked off about how more and more often she sees people dressed casually for fancy events--theater, church, etc.

* Used very seriously in [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEhRucEVzH8 this]] Casting Crowns video, around the 2:30 mark.
** Casting Crowns made a similar reference to being under-dressed in church in their song "If We are the Body."
* Music/GarthBrooks's "Friends in Low Places": "Blame it all on my roots/I showed up in boots/And ruined your black tie affair/The last one to know/The last one to show/I was the last one you thought you'd see there..."

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In the ''Mark of the Assassin'' DLC for ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII'', bringing Varric and [[spoiler:Circle!]]Bethany along as companions will result in Bethany lamenting her outfit as being this, since they're at a very formal party on a lavish estate with wealthy nobles. Varric puts her at ease by pointing out that she wasn't given a choice in what to wear, but it doesn't matter anyway, because "[[ShipTease you could make a burlap sack look good]]" and adds that if she had worn the height of fashion, other guests would have died from sheer envy.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* In ''Webcomic/{{Freefall}}'', [[http://freefall.purrsia.com/ff1100/fv01075.htm when Winston goes on his first date with Florence]], he's wearing a T-shirt with "Cyber-Rap and the Philharmonic Orchestra" on the back. Florence has booked them in on a fancy, French restaurant. When she sees the T-shirt, she (rather insistently) offers to buy him a new shirt, since she had to borrow one of his on their first meeting. Winston readily agrees, mentally commenting, "I don't know much about fashion, but when [[InterspeciesRomance a dog]] is [[EvenTheDogIsAshamed embarrassed to be seen with you]], it's time to change clothes."

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''WebVideo/MisadventuresOfAwkwardBlackGirl'', J wears a t-shirt and sweatpants on her first date with White Jay, because Cece told her that white people are very casual and they're probably going to go outdoors. Unfortunately, White Jay is wearing a button down shirt and khakis. He calls her out on her outfit at the end of the episode.
* A ''WebAnimation/BarbieLifeInTheDreamhouse'' short has Barbie's rival, Raquelle, trick Barbie and Nikki into wearing casual outfits to a formal dress party. Barbie and Nikki then reveal that their outfits can transform into ballgowns, so Raquelle has all the other guests put on bikinis to make those two seem ''overdressed''.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The opening of ''{{WesternAnimation/Daria}}'' features the family attending a wedding. Jake is in a tuxedo, Helen is wearing her work suit with a pillbox hat, and Quinn is wearing fancy dresse, and Daria is in her normal outfit.
* In the ''{{WesternAnimation/Animaniacs}}'' episode "The Party", Robert Patrick shows up to the titular event [[Film/Terminator2JudgmentDay in a cop uniform]]. When Ralph points out this is a "black tie affair", Patrick silently morphs T-1000 style into a tuxedo.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/SabrinaTheAnimatedSeries'' Gem tells Sabrina the event at her house has a country & western theme. Sabrina conjures up an appropriate outfit only to discover the event was actually a formal ball. Ironically before magicking herself the country outfit, she dismissed a red evening gown thinking it wouldn't be appropriate.
* On ''WesternAnimation/GravityFalls,'' [[DefrostingIceQueen Pacifica]]'s family allows [[SeekerArchetype Dipper]], [[CloudCuckoolander Mabel]], [[AsianAndNerdy Candy]] and [[HugeSchoolgirl Grenda]] to come to their fancy party in exchange for Dipper getting rid of a [[RoaringRampageOfRevenge troublesome]] [[OurGhostsAreDifferent ghost]]. While the girls are excited and dress up, Dipper is reluctant and comes in his normal clothes. Pacifica frets about people seeing him and gives him a formal outfit to change into.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* When [[Creator/MarxBrothers Harpo Marx]] and his future wife had their first date they went to a restaurant which required men to wear ties. Harpo wasn't wearing one, so he took off one of his socks and tied it around his neck as a tie. Every year on their anniversary he came down to breakfast wearing a sock-tie.
* A potential problem for service members due to the wide variety of uniforms one has to choose from. Showing up in the wrong uniform (say, camouflage fatigues for a formation requiring service dress uniform) at best shows that your chain of command is poor at communicating, and at worst that you didn't care to find out what uniform you ''should'' have been wearing. It gets better when certain uniform combinations involve ''mostly'' the same uniform, but with slight differences. The US Air Force Semi-Formal Dress Uniform is essentially the Service Dress Uniform, minus the name tape and cap, and with a white dress shirt instead of the blue uniform shirt worn underneath, and can be worn by enlisted men only (officers must pony up the cash to purchase a Mess Dress Uniform, which is a military tuxedo.)
* According to legend, Creator/EdgarAllanPoe was once invited to march in parade. The dress code simply stated "White cuffs and boots, under arms" - [[LiteralMinded and he showed up naked except for white cuffs and boots]]. He was kicked out.
* Australian comedian Charlie Pickering tells the story of how his father wound up in Hawaiian dress at a black tie event no, not merely "Hawaiian dress", but the most truly dreadful Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and ''hat'' imaginable. (In his book ''Impractical Jokes,'' he includes a picture, and Pickering's descriptions do not do justice to how mind-bendingly awful it is.) His unfortunate decision was the result of a prank.
* Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, invited to a "white tie" White House dinner, deliberately wore the black business suit he was wearing when he arrived in the US, to send a message that he wasn't elitist.
* In the early years of the Consulate and the Empire, wearing simple uniforms could be a Republican statement from generals who protested Napoleon's restoration of monarchic forms. General Saint-Cyr, whose austerity had made him one of the "Spartans of the Army of the Rhine", was especially famous for this.