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Ladies, don't upstage the first lady, says etiquette expert

HONOLULU, HAWAII - JANUARY 5: US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet well wishers before boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on January 5, 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The president had to cut short his vacation to work in Washington on efforts to avert the recent fiscal cliff crisis and then returned to Hawaii to be with his family. (Photo by Kent Nishimura - Pool/Getty Images)

Etiquette expert Mary Crane realizes that there are very few hard and fast rules when it comes to fashion anymore, but does have some guidelines when it comes to attending this month's batch of inaugural parties.

For the guys, a tux is probably a must. "I think for the inauguration in particular, if they specify black-tie, people really ought to make the effort to get a tux," Crane told Yeas & Nays.

For the ladies, it's all about not upstaging first lady Michelle Obama. "I think the trick for lots of people, lots of attendees is that they should wear the prettiest gown they possibly can find, but their whole goal is to make sure they're not outshining the first lady," Crane explained. "It's kind of like, you don't want to draw more attention to yourself at a wedding," she continued.

It's OK to wear shorter-length dresses, but if it's a gala event, a long gown should be worn, Crane explained. She noted that sequins and glitter are fine, but women should not expose a lot of skin. "The famous Marilyn Monroe 'Happy Birthday Mr. President' -- that's not an appropriate dress to wear to the inaugural event," Crane said.

Despite the fact that transportation between inaugural events can often be tough, Crane suggested that ladies still wear heels. "The truth is we stand and we walk differently when we're in heels," Crane said. She also suggested that women bring a small purse. "You carry the smallest clutch that you possibly can, which allows you to really hold the clutch in one hand and get your beverage in another hand," Crane said.

Crane, who currently lives in New York City, spent years in Washington. She went to law school at George Washington University in the '80s, and then did a stint as a chef in the White House kitchen in the '90s.

Today she teaches young associates how to navigate networking events, which inauguration parties can also count as. "I'm a big proponent of always carrying your business cards with you because you never know who you're going to meet at any sort of an event," she said.