When the invite says formal or black tie many women consider not attending the event! So traumatized are they by the instruction to dress up! What they will wear becomes a huge issue and can take the enjoyment out of a wonderful event. It is also a reason why many men – and women refuse to cruise – they do not think they can hack the dress code!
As an image consultant of eighteen years, a confirmed cruiser of forty years and a lover of black tie events, I have seen many fashion faux pas among those who choose to do formal and this is my guide on how to do black tie with style.
It seems to me that some women lose all sense of reason when faced with party/evening wear and even though they spend the rest of life has a fair idea of what they look good in, for evening dress they hand the decision over to a shop assistant or any old passerby. The rules are still the same as for the rest of your clothes – pick a colour which looks wonderful on you, not one you’ve never worn before. IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE BLACK! In fact, if you want to make any sort of style statement it definitely needs to be in a color because everyone else will be in black – and I have news for you – black does not suit everyone!
As for style, black tie usually means long and if you generally go for simple styling stick to that when buying your evening dress or else you’ll feel like the fairy on the Christmas tree – as well as being uncomfortable. The trick is to look like you wear evening dress every week and carry yourself with pride. This is only possible if you have bought comfortable shoes to go with the dress. Silver or gold are usually good buys and can often be found in sales because there is not a huge call for them – and if you’re wearing a dress, they need to have some sort of heel even if it’s a small one. In fact, it’s a good idea to wear your new evening shoes around the house for a few hours a day before the event so that they feel comfortable on the night. Pain in your feet shows in your face, posture and walk and there’s no style to have had in hobbling around.
Make sure that you have the underwear to show your dress off to the best – and if you need to buy some, buy it! DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WEAR YOUR NORMAL DAYTIME STUFF. If the dress is low and you need a cleavage buy a bra that gives you one – padded if necessary. If your dress is smooth and clingy and every little line shows underneath it, buy a body with no seams to break the line – and if necessary wear no knickers – visible panty lines are not sexy or stylish. NEITHER ARE SUSPENDER BELTS – so wear sheer hold ups or 7 denier tights with a gusset. If you feel you need some figure assistance both bodies and tights can be of the magic “pull in” variety.
Consider whether you will need a coat or shawl with the dress and if you are having to .buy, try to go for a neutral item which will go with other evening wear in the future – a silver or gold shawl to match the shoes is a good idea and will not date. DO NOT USE A DAYTIME COAT WITH AN EVENING DRESS, beg, borrow or steal a large pashmina, fake fur or velvet evening wrap or coat.
When you have the basics, think jewellery – this is the opportunity for dangly earrings if you can wear them and more sparkle than normal. With necklaces, bracelets, earrings etc the same rules apply – if, in this time of recession, you want to get maximum value, buy a silver or gold set which can be worn with other things. Jewelry can make or break an outfit so choose with care and preferably try the dress with it. If you have an evening watch wear it – if you do not then DO NOT WEAR ONE!
DO NOT USE YOUR DAYTIME HANDBAG – Buy one to go with the dress – again silver or gold will match your shoes and shawl and can be used again and again. It needs to be reliably small and you do not need the kitchen sink in it – lipstick, tissues, a credit card, some change and your mobile.
DO NOT WEAR DAY-TIME SPECTACLES – Use contact lenses if you have the option, if you do a lot of evening does buy a pair of spectacles to go with evening dress and if not, carry some miniature specs (in several stores for about a tenner and with various levels of magnification) in your evening bag in order to read the menu.
And on the subject of make-up, your normal daytime application is not sufficient and you need to consider that this is a dressy event and your make-up will need to be stronger and more glamorous. If this intimidates you, get some makeup advice from a professional. I often get people coming along for special occasion make-up advice, and evening make-up is not something people have to do every day of the week so some advice on an application is invaluable. You could even take along a sample of the material or as in the case of many of my clients -the dress itself.
Finally the hair – again it’s nice to do something different – try using your straighteners or tongs and styling your hair differently or add a sparkly slide or comb – or if all else fails ask your hairdresser to style it for the event.
Remember if accepting the black-tie invitation – then you may need to spend money on your attire but if you keep my guide in mind it will be well spent – and better still you’ll feel wonderful! What price can you put on that?
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