DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it appropriate to request "Black Tie or Holiday Festive" dress on Christmas party invitations? It seems to me that either Black Tie OR Holiday Festive Attire would be better received. I feel like I am being told what to wear!
GENTLE READER: Be grateful when you are told what to wear. When hosts shirk this duty, they end up with an odd-looking assortment of guests, most of whom feel out of place.
The problem is that you are not being told precisely.
Miss Manners supposes that these instructions are a shillyshallying way of saying, "We'd really like you to be in evening clothes, but if you're going to make a fuss about black tie, at least try to dress up." However, for all she knows, "holiday festive attire" might mean draping mistletoe over your nose.