“We got an invitation to something,” I said to my husband as I opened the elegant beige envelope with our names hand written in calligraphy.

“What is it?” he wondered.

I scanned the invitation. “It’s a dinner party for John and Cheryl’s anniversary,” I said. I read over the rest of the invite and groaned.

“What?”

“The dress is Fancy Casual.”

“What the heck is Fancy Casual?” he wondered. “You can’t be fancy and casual at the same time. That’s an oxymoron. It’s like jumbo shrimp.”

I shook my head. This was a new one to me, too. In the past, dress for events was usually either black tie, black tie optional, semi-formal, casual or business casual. But lately it seemed a whole new group of dress codes has cropped up that left us in a clothing stupor. We’d been invited to a destination wedding where the dress was Beachy Black Tie, a bridal shower where the dress was Fun and Flirty, and a 60th birthday party for a guy who liked to sail where the dress was Yacht Formal.

“I don’t get it,” my husband had asked me at the time. “Should I go rent a ship captain’s uniform?”

“Maybe a pirate costume,” I responded.

“That’s probably not formal enough,” he said.

“Well, you could wear a bow tie that matches your eye patch,” I had suggested.

Now we had the dilemma of Fancy Casual and I was no more certain of what to wear than the time we got an invitation and the dress code was Smart Casual. I assumed that meant, at the very least, that I had to wear my glasses.

“So for Fancy Casual do you think that means a Tuxedo top with Khakis?” my husband asked me.

“I was thinking a little black dress with sneakers for me,” I said. “I’m just not sure if I should go with standard or high-tops.”

“This is ridiculous,” he finally said. “I don’t understand why people have to make up these stupid dress codes. It’s so pretentious. If I get it wrong are they going to ban me from the party?”

I promised him that I would help him figure out something in his wardrobe that would work for Fancy Casual so we didn’t show up looking either unfancy or too casual.

“You know what, on second thought, I’m actually fine with all of this,” he said with a sudden change of heart.

“You are?”

“Yes. I just realized it could be a lot worse,” he replied.

“How?” I wondered.

“If the dress code was Clothing Optional.”

— For more Lost in Suburbia, follow Tracy Beckerman on Facebook at facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage or on Twitter at @TracyinSuburbia.