Today's important message from Etiquetteer is a simple one: Don't Upstage the Deceased.
If Etiquetteer learned anything observing the national scene in 2017, it's that women will no longer tolerate being told what to wear by men. Men can and will have opinions about what women wear, but women will no longer be told by men what they may and may not wear. Civilizations have been talking about and expressing a lot more interest in women's clothes than men's for centuries. Etiquetteer doubts very much that's going to change, but the way it happens is changing.
It seems like a lot of women on the internet are saying "A woman may wear anything she wants!" Well, she can, but that won't stop her getting called out for it (by women and/or men) if it's Not Suitable to the Occasion. Even more important, men are getting called out if they behave inappropriately with women (regardless of what the woman is wearing). And they should be. To Etiquetteer's astonishment, no less than Aretha Franklin's funeral brought us an Unfortunate Combination of these two trends.
Singer Ariana Grande was invited to perform at the funeral, to which she wore an extremely short sleeveless black dress that included a sheer panel to screen (ineffectively) her deep décolletage. The general consensus, with which Etiquetteer agrees, is that it's Perfectly Proper for a nightclub, but not for a church, and especially not for a funeral service for the Queen of Soul. The real purpose of mourning is not to call attention to oneself. That's counterintuitive for entertainers, as they depend on calling attention to themselves. A funeral is held to call attention to the deceased, and it is Most Unwise to take attention away from the Queen of Soul! In other words, we shouldn't even have to be talking about this because Ms. Grande (or her stylists) should have understood that Mourning is about more than just an Unadorned Black Dress, and being invited to participate in a funeral program - anyone's funeral program - is not about Hogging the Spotlight.
(At the other end of the spectrum is the Hat of Enormous Ruffles worn by Cicely Tyson, which has met with Sometimes Overheated Admiration worldwide. Her milliner must have absorbed the lesson Cecil Beaton wrote about in The Glass of Fashion, which is that Royalty needs to be seen by the public, and that enormous hat brims need to be anchored off the face. Etiquetteer reveres the tradition of the Sunday Best hat kept alive by churchgoing African-American women. But again, this adoration of Ms. Tyson's awe-inspiring hat is taking attention from the deceased.)
Now, whether or not Bishop Charles Ellis would have behaved differently had Ms. Grande worn something More Suitable doesn't matter. Bishop Ellis got called out for two things: touching or grabbing Ms. Grande's breast when he hugged her after her performance, and for trying to make a pun on her name as a menu item at Taco Bell. Ms. Grande's dress is not to blame for Bishop Ellis's behavior; he is. To his credit, the bishop apologized. Etiquetteer, who has had to emcee programs before, has a certain amount of sympathy for the bishop's predicament. As he expressed it "When you're doing a program for nine hours, you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there." But improvisations don't always work. This one did more than just that: it appeared culturally insensitive.
So to bring attention back where it belongs, Etiquetteer is going to leave you with "Eleanor Rigby," because really, when mourning a Great Artist, it is most Perfectly Proper to remember and magnify their Great Works. Rest in peace, Ms. Franklin.