A Gentleman’s Clothes and A Tricky Note, Vol. 4, Issue 13

Dear Etiquetteer: I favor the pocket square, and have always noted the "tips out after 6:00 PM" rule. I further favor proper attire on airplanes, in the perhaps foolish notion that one receives better regard and attention from the waiter. However, when one is crossing the Atlantic or otherwise shuffling time zones, when does "tips out" actually take effect? In other words, when is six o’clock in the evening really six o’clock in the evening? Is there a condition in which it is acceptable to have tips out prior to six o’clock, and thus spare oneself the spectacle of public readjustment?Dear Tipped Out:You will be interested to know – as Etiquetteer was when he found out – that during the day the pocket square is considered optional and not required with a suit or sport jacket. When you do wear one, make sure that it doesn’t bear the least suggestion of a spot or stain, and be careful it doesn’t look too perfect. Resembling a mannequin has never been Perfectly Proper.You may always spare yourself the spectacle of public readjustment of any portion of your apparel by retreating to the nearest men’s room, even on an airplane. Let’s not hear any more about that. As for timing, Etiquetteer will allow you to put your tips out when the stewardess brings the first rounds of evening martinis.

Dear Etiquetteer:Alas, is there no opportunity to wear one’s tuxedo to the theatre/symphony any longer? Not even to opening/closing night? I fear the only suitable venue left may be a party chez Etiquetteer - it is bittersweet.Dear Dressing:You will know it’s completely safe to wear your dinner clothes to the theatre or the symphony when you are invited to do so, either to the performance itself or to some madcap party afterward. Otherwise, Etiquetteer advises you to appear with a dark suit, an elegant tie, and a happy heart.

Dear Etiquetteer:A tragedy has struck our family and I'm at a loss to express my sympathy. A cousin's wife has just given birth to a baby diagnosed as Downs Syndrome. I'm told by those close to the couple that problems were foreseen prior to birth but they preferred not to share the information.Obviously, they have not had time to send birth announcements, etc., as the parents have been at the children's hospital where many tests are being performed. Those of us of the extended family want to show our support by the gifts bought months ago which, of course, we will send and by a note of love and concern. Etiquetteer, you have always been able to compose beautiful sensitive notes. Please give us some advice this time. Dear Concerned Cousin: Etiquetteer’s heart goes out to your cousin’s family. Children born with what are euphemistically termed "special needs" are welcomed with open arms and loving hearts into families all over the world, but they do present challenges to every family member. These new parents will certainly need your support in the years ahead.As you write to your cousins, please do not assume that they look on the birth of their child or its condition as a tragedy, especially since they were aware of the possibility that the baby might be born with this condition. In your note, say how pleased you are that the baby was delivered safely, that the mother is healthy, that you look forward to seeing the baby when they are home from the hospital, and that you are praying for each and all of them as they adjust to the new circumstances and responsibilities of parenthood. And please follow up again in a couple months with another note that you are still thinking of them. Etiquetteer knows it will be appreciated.

Find yourself at a manners crossroads and don't know where to go? Ask Etiquetteer at query@etiquetteer.com!

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