Tuesday, February 4, 2014

...attending a corporate black-tie function.

Believe it or not, I started this post a year ago, and figured I should finally get around to wrapping it up!  This weekend, I will join my husband for his company's annual 'black-tie optional' party.  It's usually fun and in a fabulous location (and the band last year ROCKED!).  And I LOVE to dress up.  Even though it's optional, most men wear black-tie to this event, which leads me to the point of this post:  what to wear to an event like this?  You never know when the company has a table at a black tie event and suddenly you're invited.  

Last year, I was fortunate to be able to 'reuse' a gown.  It's a Badgley Mischka gown I purchased on sale at Neimans 2 years ago; it's navy blue crepe with a cowl neckline and heavily beaded waistline.  It fit like a glove when I purchased it, and last year it still fit like a glove.  Phew.  This is the latest version of it, except mine is sleeveless and hangs straight to the ground.
Image from bloomingdales.com.
This year, I wanted a new gown as I really couldn't see myself re-wearing the above dress for 3 years running!  I hunted around, submitted frantic late-night orders on Saks online, but didn't find anything that made me look like I was in my 40s.  60s, great - tons out there!  20s - fabulous options.  But for us in the middle, it was a tough go.  I want to look appropriate, yet elegant, youthful and chic.

I have a couple of guidelines I like to follow:
  • If an event is 'black tie' wear a long dress.  Yes, you can probably get away with a short cocktail dress that's on the formal-side.  But if it's black-tie (not optional), long is a must.
  • When shopping for a dress for an event like this, ask yourself, do I look glamourous, elegant or sexy?  If 'sexy' is the answer, move on from the dress.  Sexy is the last thing you want to be at a corporate event or corporate-sponsored fund-raiser.  Think about what Catherine Middleton would wear.  Elegant is what you should aim for.
  • Skip a strapless gown.  See bullet above.  One shoulder dresses are fine.
  • Favor bold neutral colors (navy, black) and jeweled colors (emerald, plum) over loud ones (red, hot pink).
  • Make sure your dress is comfortable.  You don't want to be pulling at your dress or fidgeting in it, do you?  When you are in the dressing room (not at home), ask the sales person for a pair of heels to try with the dress/gown.  Walk around the dressing room.  Sit down.  Can you sit comfortably?  Does the dress bunch weirdly when you sit down?  Don't rely on Spanx to fix dress bunching.  However, rely on Spanx for everything else.
  • In fact, wear some kind of Spanx.  Simply put, they keep everything smooth and in place. 
  • Tailor your dress!  Wonder why the stars look fabulous on the red carpet?  Their gowns and dresses are fitted to them!  Not just hemmed, but nipped and tucked in at the waist, shoulders adjusted, you name it.  Make the dress your very own.
  • 5" stilettos are fabulous, but 3 1/2" heels are good here.  Think peau de soie as the material for your shoes rather than suede or leather.  If new, wear them around your house for a while before the event to break them in.  
  • Don't forget accessories.  It took me longer to find the right accessories for that Badgley Mischka dress than it took me to find the dress.  And the accessories can come from the most random places.  The earrings I wear with it came from Neiman Marcus, while the cuff bracelet came from J. Crew, on sale.
  • A manicure is mandatory.  A pedicure is too if your shoes have open toes.
  • Never, never, never wear stockings with open toe shoes.  
  • Clutch is necessary for your phone, lipstick, tissues, etc. and does not need to match your shoes.  
  • Outerwear:  If you have a fur, it's time to use it.  If not, make sure your best cashmere or wool long coat has been dry-cleaned recently.
This year, I set out to Saks to return 5 (yes, late-night gown shopping is trouble) gowns, ran into a fabulous lady named Claudine who has helped me before, and voila!  A new, fabulous gown in an hour.  
Images from Jennifer Houston.
I love it!  And I did have it hemmed and taken in at the waist.  Wearing with peau de soie black pumps, a silver cuff, and diamond hoop earrings. 
Image from nordstrom.com.
Image from bloomingdales.com.
And Claudine instructed me to have my hair blown out a la Meg Ryan; since the dress is sleek and straight, my hair should have texture.  And that I should have navy/black nail polish on.  I love all of her suggestions!  

Compared to a lot of other dresses I saw, this was fun rather than stiff.  To get further use of dress, Claudine said I should put tall, black, heeled boots on with it and a black leather jacket for a fun night out.  Don't think I haven't been thinking of a new black leather jacket since then! ~ JH

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