Sunday, November 24, 2013


They weren't there,
but they could have been

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the wedding celebration of two young friends (all reception as the actual wedding was months earlier). Because my husband and I really knew no one else, we enjoyed seeing their many relatives and friends (bride had been a bridesmaid 28 times), admiring the couple's prowess on the dance floor, eating some good food and settling in for a bit of observation.

As this event was so close to the holidays, it's safe to say the ladies were wearing their best 2013 party gear. And they were wearing... a lot of... B L A C K. Lots and lots of black, and it looked lovely. There is something about a young woman in black that ups the ante. Yes, I mostly observed women in their mid 20s - mid 30s because there were so many of them and I considered it product research. The Lovely Boutique Where I Work carries party dresses expressly for this demographic.

There is something very fresh about a young woman dressed party-perfect in a sophisticated manner. She stands a little straighter. She's really well groomed for the night. In this day and very casual age, she looks like she gave her outfit serious thought. What can we learn from these beautiful young things as we dress for our own parties and celebrations? We've been to a few in our time; maybe the trick is not to be so jaded.

I'll bet you have at least one "go to" party outfit that you wear over and over because it A) looks pretty good, B) fits most dressy-up occasions and C) is comfortable. I'll bet anything it involves black velvet.  

There is indeed something to be said for a classic "party look". No one will question Carolina Herrera's variation on a white shirt with a ball gown. Isabella Rossellini looks notable (though a tad Pearl Buck) in her Asian inspired evening looks. I've previously mused about the "opera coat". Throw it over anything to look Fabulous. You do still have to make these looks your own, and you are going to be recognized in your "statement" time and again. There will be no surprise, "How lovely you look tonight".

Paul Poiret circa 1912

But guess what? It's time to go out and see what's new. There are the most intriguing combinations of metallics and brocades and lace at not-break-the-bank prices. And you don't have to go black if you don't want too. I'm beginning to think the more color the better the older I get. Just don't let me get a red hat and wear purple! Here are some personal favorites from a fast sweep through the offerings:

Diane Von Furstenburg (above and below)

BCBG (above and below)

To bare or not to bare? And it's a question of legs or arms or both. My legs are okay so far, but if you still haven't come to terms with yours go for a high-waisted palazzo pant— maybe with a short lace bolero and silk shirt. Puts the emphasis above the waist plus makes your legs look long. Or go long— not too full because you'll feel silly but some draping at the waist or a trumpet shape. Just make sure it's really long. Save tea length for a tea dance. And when was the last time you went to one of those?

As far as your upper arms— if you want to go bare DO IT. Absolutely nobody cares if your arms are not as toned as Madonna's, I promise you. The main factor in going bare-armed is your level of confidence. If you are going to self-consciously slink around all night, then forget it. I would be far more troubled looking at your arm tattoos. I am sincerely hoping that's a generation gap thing and you don't have any.

Do you consider walking in heels a walk on the wild side? Many of us have gotten quite used to—if not sensible (perish the thought)— shoes at least comfortable ones. Much as I wish, for parties even Dorothy's ruby slippers won't cut it. And who could resist a beautiful pair of party pumps or sandals? So what you need to do is practice. Heels higher than your usual will make you walk differently. I know we've all seen a Galloping Gertie at a party or two. Let's try not to be her...

Gertie, is that you?

Yes you need a little evening bag. In time honored tradition your fella would carry your stuff in his jacket pocket. I don't know about you, but I need to have that lipstick or iPhone at the ready. And Sir Lancelot may not even be wearing a jacket. Nothing looks lamer than a party dress finished with a street handbag. So invest a few dollars in an evening bag. It needed be one of those Judith Lieber extravaganzas. It's pretty easy to find success at Forever 21. Just remember— the less gewgaws the better. All-over black satin perhaps. Don't forget a wrist handle or shoulder strap. Unless you are one of those trusting souls who leaves her handbag on the dinner table, you want to carry it with you, unobtrusively.

Chanel— nice but not necessary

Makeup is indeed your finishing touch. Please don't get lazy and "touch up" what you've been wearing all day, even if the party is only cocktails for a couple hours. Enjoy the moment. I'm reminded of something I witnessed many, many years ago. While still in high school I was a "nanny" briefly for the grandchildren of one of my mother's friends. Evidently the regular nanny was on vacation. I actually enjoyed spending a week in her daughter's luxurious home. I had my own room (with tv!) and private bath and did no housework. My job was just to watch over and entertain the kids. Most of the time the mother was even there. This young couple (and remember we're talking mid '50s) went out almost every night. After the kids' early dinner, a beautiful, long-legged creature not unlike Megan on "Mad Men" would somehow sit cross-legged IN her bathroom sink— with a cocktail and a cigarette— and apply her evening makeup. She didn't mind visitors. I was certainly there and sometimes the oldest girl popped in to see Mommy making up. It was part of her day— and her life— as easy and natural for her then as it sounds foreign to us today. I knew I would never be her (nor did I aspire to be), but it's a fascinating recollection of how (some of us) lived once upon a time.

Sorry, back to make-up. Evening lighting begs for a heavier hand with pots and pats. And isn't that nice? You can conceal and plaster to your heart's content with no fear of looking overdone in the cold light of day. This is when to pull out red lipstick (especially if you are wearing black). Experiment a bit, because all reds are not created equal. There are blue-reds, orange-reds and true reds. You will look best in one. Supposedly blue-reds are better if your pearly whites are less than pearly. Lipsticks don't look the same on your lips as they do in the tube. That's why I've never bought a Chanel lipstick. It would be sad to throw away upwards of $35 in one fell swoop. Another consideration is it's lips OR eyes, not both. So if you'd like to emphasize one, play down the other, "Those Lips! Those Eyes!" not withstanding.

Chanel— some enchanted evening

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