Thanks! - J.
1. Don't dress down. A luncheon of any type calls for "dressy casual." An AWARD luncheon calls for a step up from that. For an event like this, I'd go with a dress, although the trousers and blouse combo would also work. Just no denim. Period.
You'll wear it someday, I promise, and it'll be worth every penny.
J. purchased the dress you see at the top. She might want something different for next year, so we're going to address the options.
- Think, "Neckline/Kneeline." Repeat this while you're shopping. Neckline/Kneeline. Neckline/Kneeline. Arms are the easiest thing to cover. If the neckline (including the back) and hemline work without modification then the dress is a definite possibility.
- Never wear a camisole or coverage tee under a formal dress. Never. A camisole under a formal gown is death!
- Use a SHRUG, not a cardigan, to cover your arms. A shrug - especially one with some shine, sparkle, texture, or beading to it - will not detract from the formality of your dress. If beading or satin isn't your thing, I once saw a black leather shrug that would give the COOLEST touch of toughness to a formal gown. I was so bummed it didn't come in my size. Definitely should have bought it since it would have fit me now. A shrug is also more useful than trying to keep a wrap around your shoulders and arms all evening. To dress down your cocktail dress (like the middle one on the bottom row) for a more casual event, add a colored cardigan.
- Buy neutral first. If your social life doesn't require you to attend formal events often, buy a neutral dress. Either a metallic (like the gold dress above or champagne dress below), black, navy, or gray. Prints age a dress more quickly. I bought the tiered dress above, bottom left, and pair it with a black shrug with sparkly silver threads all through it.
- Avoid "Mother of the Bride." You know the dress I mean. Skirt or gown with matching bolero in satin or taffeta.
- Avoid The Prom. When I say, "Age Appropriate" below, it's because these column or slightly flared gowns won't look like you're trying to be too young. They're figure flattering without aging you.
- It must be truly formal. That means in both shape and material. A simple straight black skirt that you would wear to church is not a formal skirt. Satin works here, a fit/flare shape, something with a train, fancy beading, full with a crinoline, etc. It has to carry the full weight of the formal requirement.
- You have to tuck. Leaving the shirt untucked kills the look. You don't have to tuck a twinset, but it should be form fitting to balance the fullness of the bottom. Teeter-totter!!
- Formal skirts can be hard to find outside the holiday party time of year, so start looking this fall and tuck it away if you find one.
J. says she's "not a fancy person" so I don't want to overwhelm her with jewelry options she might not be comfortable with but I still want her to have fun with it. And choose things she could use again and again.
For J.'s dress, I suggest long, sparkly earrings and a tennis bracelet or slim bangles. Maybe a fun cocktail ring. She has short hair, which will play nicely with the earrings. Chandelier earrings would be lovely. They'll also leave the neckline open and long, which will draw nice attention to the face.
I've also suggested she kick her shoes up a notch. The lower heel with this dress pitches toward frumpy. A higher heel in black or a neutral metallic will be a better option.
If she's not sure how to do evening-event appropriate makeup, I suggest booking an appointment at a makeup counter (Sephora or Nordstrom?) on your way to the event. Or at the very least, a few days before so they can give you a tutorial.
J. sent me a few pictures of last years gala. There was some sparkle, lots of under-dressed shirt/skirt combo's, several frumpy "Sunday Suits", even a few pants.
I'd have loved to fix up the whole group in a makeover suite!
I think the dress she chose will be appropriate for the room as well as for the occasion. We don't want her in floor-length sequins with a sweeping train if the rest of the room is in Sunday dress but we also don't want her dressing down just because others don't know the meaning of "Formal Gala Event." Under-dressed people should never dictate what's appropriate, but too often, it's the properly dressed folks who feel silly. Always dress for the occasion and then wear it with confidence! You'll own the room! And hopefully inspire someone else to dress better next time.
Good luck, J.! We're excited to hear when you win!