There are certain unassailable rules of dress that survived the rebellious '60s and the "Me Decade" of the '70s.
Now that things are simmering down in the more conservative '80s, some basic rules can be looking at as not confining, but liberating: They free us from having to think much about what is on our backs; we're bound to feel more self-confident; we don't have to worry about making a spectacle of ourselves. Appropriate dress can be considered a courtesy, a bow to the event, rather than a distraction.
At Tito's funeral, Lillian Carter and other members of the American delegations were chastised in the world press for dressing, as the London Observer put it, "as though for a golfing holiday." A distraction.
There are certain ground rules of dress for funerals (state and otherwise), for business, and for other special ocasions that shouldn't be tampered with. Altering other rules may simply raise an eyebrow or two. And some rules, once obligatory, have passed with time.
A note on Washington: Dress protocol is stodgier here than in most other American cities and official occasions stiffer. White tie may no longer be the dress , even for the White House, but black tie for official functions means black tie and no other color.
In answer to what seems to be an increasing number of questions about propriety of dress, here are: Basic Rules
For a funeral, wear a dark dress, or dark business suit with tie, along with dark shoes and socks.
Save such things as low necklines, bare shoulders and bare legs for social occasions; they are inappropriate for business.
Dark business suit with tie is proper for official business or other official occasions.
Women's pants costumes are inappropriate for a religious ceremony.
Shorts and sneakers should be confined to sports activities.
Women should not wear hair-rollers out of the house. Possible Eyebrow-Raisers
A white or black dress at a wedding. (The costume should be given a strong dose of color, such as a colorful scarf.)
Wearing dressy pants to the White House or to other official receptions. (Rosalynn Carter never wears pants to such occasions, so one assumes she finds them inappropriates.) Now Passe
Hats and gloves. (Worn today only if they please the wearer.)