I cruised through my youth and college years, blissfully unaware of the anvil ready to drop on my head when I aged into “real” adulthood.  For a girl who loves Miss Manners as much as I do, you wouldn’t think this particular phrase would cause me to break out in hives but boy, does it…

(Deep breath now.)  Dress code.

It’s a phrase that sounds deceptively like it’s going to make your life easier.  Going to an event of some sort and aren’t sure what to wear?  We’ll give you a dress code and voilà – done!

Talk about a cosmic joke on women.

This would be a clear example of a time when men have it so freaking easy I could scream.  I’m trying to find a generous way to look at this – they have to deal with hairy armpits, or it must bite to go through your teenage years sporting spontaneous boners – but I can’t seem to find anything to balance out this inequity between the sexes when it comes to clothes.

Truly, getting dressed is pretty much a no-brainer for men.

Totally casual – They can get away with shorts or jeans, t-shirts (everything from graphic to “nice”), or collared shirts (if they feel like punching it up a little).

Casual – This steps things up to nice shorts or khakis with a nice shirt (those collared golf shirts still qualify here).

Business casual – Still straightforward.  Wearing dress slacks and a dress shirt (no tie necessary) will get a guy by for this one.

Business dressy – Coat and tie.  Bam.

And that’s basically it.  Four categories that pretty much cover all the bases.  Let’s just say that BrightSide almost never struggles with knowing what to wear.

The really ironic thing is that even knowing what BS is wearing doesn’t actually help me. Because women get screwed when it comes to dress codes.

Totally casual – A state of dress that pretty much only occurs inside your home.  The few times I’ve run out for something while “totally casual” I end up running into one of those women (you know the ones) who always look put together from head to toe.  And that’s enough to send you home to eat ice cream from the carton.

Casual – This can mean so many things it makes my head spin.  If you’re kicking around the house then it’s dealer’s choice (which only gets dicey when those Jehovah’s Witnesses come calling); everything else is a big fat question mark.  Casual can mean a nice shorts and shirt outfit, capris, a skirt and top, or a casual dress.  And figuring out the shoes?  Forget about it.  Once you actually manage to choose what clothes you’re wearing you still have to decide between cute tennis shoes, flats, or dressing things up with wedges.

Business casual – The word “casual” is rather deceptive here since there’s nothing casual about business dress for women.  It’s the no-man’s-land of a woman’s dress code.  Sometimes dress slacks and a nice blouse falls in this range, though you do have to choose your shoes carefully.  A skirt will work, but it has to lean more toward dressy or you end up with a home-on-the-prairie vibe.  And dresses…good grief.  It’s a fine line between summertime casual dresses, business-like dresses, or too-fancy-for-this-category dresses.

Business dressy – If business casual blows my mind, then business dressy just plain old pisses me off. You mean men get away with a simple coat and tie but I’m still faced with guessing which clothes might be a good fit for my event?!  Dress slacks, silk blouse, nice jewelry, and heels?  That might work.  Or maybe we’re talking a church dress kind of dressy.  A cocktail dress with heels (stockings? or bare legs?).  Or maybe you’re looking at more of an evening cocktail dress, fancier and perhaps a bit flashier. You’re not even home free once you choose slacks or a dress!  There are still a dozen more decisions to make.

But men?  Coat and tie.  For the love.

So I’ve been thinking it would be really nice if someone could write a guide.  Not a generic guide like Miss Manners, but a truly helpful set of suggestions for real people that would take some of the guesswork out of a girl’s life when she’s getting dressed.  I don’t want to spend an hour stressing over what to wear to an event, and I sure don’t want to get there to find I’ve guessed completely wrong and face a half hour getting past my insecurities about it.

Anyone out there willing to take this one on?