What to Wear: The Ambiguously Worded Invitation Edition

What to Wear

We’ve all received one.  The invitation to a birthday party, benefit, or holiday soiree with a cleverly worded dress code that leaves you confused and clueless?  I’ll never forget the first time I encountered one.   I was a college junior dating a man who had graduated, and we’d been invited to a dinner party where the invitation read “casual chic.”  As a student, the chicest things I owned were my grandmother’s pearls that I wore with an over-sized grey Champion sweatshirt baring my sorority letters (oftentimes with a peter pan collared blouse underneath – yikes) and the houndstooth blazer I had purchased for a summer internship interview.  Somehow I knew neither would work but I had no idea which direction to go.  I still remember what I ended up buying – a simple black shift, black pumps and a fuchsia blazer (and yes I wore the pearls).  The outfit was safe and I blended in with women ages twenty to seventy, but wow was it B-O-R-I-N-G.

Therein lies the problem: nebulous wording such as “casual chic” or “holiday festive” scares you into dressing like a sartorial wallflower.  Or even worse you end up guessing completely wrong.  As one friend commented, “what if you show up biker bad-ass to country club casual?”

Having a few decades of parties under my belt now, I’ve adopted a formula that seems to work fairly well and helps me avoid making the “what are you wearing?” call to the hostess.  If the event in question could lean either casual or dressy, I’ll base the outfit in classic pieces like a trim blazer and velvet pointy toe pumps and finish with more modern elements like leather pants and a chunky crystal necklace.  This not only helps create a balance between dressy and casual, but it also injects a healthy dose of personality into the look.

And if you have an occasion you know will be dressy but you are unsure of how dressy?  Always skew to the most formal level you think possible.  Trust me when I say being over-dressed is a far better fate.  The invitation to the benefit my husband and I are attending this weekend reads “cocktail attire: Hollywood Glamour encouraged”.  Old Hollywood?  New Hollywood?  Left of Audrey?  Right of Marilyn?  The possibilities are endless.  Just please no Kims or Chloes.

Packing for New York

Packing for New York

I am traveling to New York soon for a great friend’s 40th birthday celebration, so I thought it would be fun to put together a virtual packing list for inspiration.  This fantasy suitcase is filled with all things practical and fabulous.  Not possible, you say?  Read on.

  • When isn’t black cashmere appropriate?
  • Dark, undistressed skinnies go with just about everything.
  • Sleeveless outwear fends off chilly weather while preventing overheating when you are popping in and out of doors. The above Belstaff vest looks off-the-charts incredible.
  • A gold chain link necklace is substantial enough for heavier day pieces but it won’t compete for center stage in evening ensembles.
  • You need to travel with a cosmetics case, so why not choose this luxe version from Smythson?
  • Though I love a great heel, flat shoes are a must for walking the sidewalks, shops, and museum corridors of the city.
  • Dark polish on short nails is a fall/winter must, and this grey makes a perfect neutral.
  • The tweed peplum top with leather trim pairs beautifully with jeans and heels for a casual evening of drinks and dinner.  And it provides a bit of warmth. (You could even wear it over a slim, long sleeved top for an alternate day look.)
  • Satin and lace underpinnings feel amazing under anything.  Especially heavier fall layers.
  • The beauty of matte jersey is that it does not wrinkle, so this aubergine cocktail dress from Cut 25 is perfect for packing.  Who wants to mess with ironing, steaming, or sending your dress out with the chance it may not return?
  • A cross-body bag with dressed up details blends seamlessly with all pieces here.  During the day it allows for comfortable hands-free walking, and in the evening you can tuck away the strap for an over-sized clutch that will hold all of your essentials.
  • This Reed Krakoff leather cuff is sleek, sexy, and versatile.  It dresses up a white tee, cardigan and jeans and brings a dose of cool to cocktail attire.
  • These Jimmy Choo leopard print heels are absolute perfection.  Enough said.

Jersey dress
oxygenboutique.com

J Crew knit top
jcrew.com

Rebecca Taylor top
rebeccataylor.com

Belstaff
stylebop.com

J Brand j brand
amrag.com

Agent provocateur
net-a-porter.com

Agent provocateur
net-a-porter.com

Jimmy Choo high heel shoes
bergdorfgoodman.com

Reed krakoff
colette.fr

Smythson
barneys.com

Nars cosmetic
barneys.com