Holiday Dresses — The Long and the Short of It
By: Sharon Mosley
With holiday parties fast approaching, panic can set in when we think about what to wear. The dress code for the social scene is no longer “one dress fits all,” but that perfect party ensemble is easy to put together if you follow a few guidelines, according to the editors at Harper’s Bazaar magazine. They have put together a new book, “Harper’s Bazaar Fashion: Your Guide to Personal Style,” by Lisa Armstrong (Hearst Books, November 2010, $24.95).
“However rarely you’re required to dress up, it pays to be prepared,” says Armstrong. “A specific event provides an excellent bona fide excuse to buy something new, but there’s nothing like an imminent deadline to muddle the brain and miraculously empty the stores of anything remotely suitable.”
Instead, Armstrong suggests shopping early and sticking to a “tightly edited festive repertoire” that prevents impulse purchases. “Trends tend to come and go,” she says, “but for parties, they tend to sit tight.” Here are some of Armstrong’s tips on navigating the special-occasion dress wardrobe:
— Classics are classics for a reason. A choice among the little black dress, little navy-blue dress or little gray dress is your passport to most formal events. For day, just take the color down a few shades.
— Even if you choose a little black dress, don’t select a silhouette that is humdrum. Instead, look for a dress with subtle details, such as lace trim, panels, embroidery or pleating.
— Wearing intense color in a flattering shade can last for years, even though it might not go under the radar as easily as a neutral frock that easily bears frequent wearings.
— Shine casts a flattering glow on the face, but it also draws the eye to lumps and bumps. It’s better to use pearls, diamonds, diamante or a jeweled neck plate to light up your skin.
— While brocades and patterns have instant appeal, they can become all too familiar after a few outings.
— When the hostess stipulates floor-length dresses, it takes a brave soul to rebel, according to Armstrong. She suggests checking out labels in the market just below designer level or investigating some of the new dress-rental services. Going the vintage route is another tempting solution.
— Otherwise, find a short dress that is “so deliciously dramatic” that no one focuses on its length. Or hunt down a simply styled long dress in a laid-back fabric like cotton jersey or washed silk. “Having a long dress that you love in your closet will stop you from rushing out and splurging on an awful one through blind panic.”
— Showing off gleaming skin is important. “To a degree, the rule seems to be the skimpier the dress, the more festive,” says Armstrong, but even though necklines have continued to plunge since the 16th century, that’s no excuse for vulgarity. “Bare arms, legs and backs within reason, always look classier than cleavage as deep as the Grand Canyon.”
— Strapless gowns can be a supremely elegant statement, but not if they don’t fit and look as if they’re going to slip off. Visit a tailor beforehand to avoid that regrettable fate.
— A beautiful gown or dress doesn’t need much help, but you make a winning finish with a dazzling pair of shoes and one beautiful piece of jewelry.
Sharon Mosley is a former fashion editor of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock and executive director of the Fashion Editors and Reporters Association. To find out more about Sharon Mosley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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