By Julie Hackett Behr
NEW YORK, 23 FEBRUARY 2009 Styling
is always about confidence. When you put on a party dress, you state that
you believe the world is fun, that life will go on, that there is enough
money. The dress should tell everyone, "I'm having a good time. I'm not
afraid." It is a courageous point of view.
Party clothes are always extravagant. They are for
moments of celebration - especially for celebrating yourself. Sadly, many
people have so few of those moments in their lives, they adopt a contrary,
impoverished attitude about wearing party clothes. They look
uncomfortable, as if in costume. They refuse to buy quality, and the
clothes reflect an unwillingness to celebrate. They haven't embraced the
For the woman who wants to look her best at the party,
a brief styling session:
The same way good manners should feel effortless,
allure and excitement should come naturally from your clothes, but most
of all from you.
Very few individuals can go around in bad clothes
and still look interesting.
Whatever you wear, walk with attitude; the whole
point is to be yourself but in a more beautiful way.
Many American women have
one idea what evening clothes are: it's based loosely on what they wore
to the prom. Go back and look at your prom pictures. Enough said.
There is an X factor to great clothing: an
extraordinary dress on the person who wasn't meant to wear it won't be
extraordinary. Even fashionistas often have trouble explaining why
something works, but is easy for nearly everyone to say why something
Wear nothing cheap. If finances impose a
compromise choice, balance your inexpensive alternative with something
of quality, something that you love or something that makes you happy.
It will show on your face when you wear it.
Wear nothing generic. It is chicer to wear a black
T-shirt dress from Target with sensational Christian Louboutin pumps
than to wear a dull, one-piece dress along with matching shoes and purse
that, together, cost the same.
Be careful about the shape of the dress. Unless
you are a size 0 or 2, balance a narrow shape with something more
loose-fitting. Play up your best feature. If it is your bust, wear a
dress that displays cleavage or that has an unusual neckline. If it's
your derriÃ¨re-well, millions of people love J.Lo. If you have great
legs, forget what the experts tell you about hemlines this year. Make it
short and wear incredible shoes. It's not supposed to be practical. It's
supposed to be extreme, and you should love it.
Clothes on men reflect the same principles. Cary Grant
looked at home in his evening clothes. Many men these days look
uncomfortable when dressing up; they feel as if they are in costume and
let their clothes fit like costumes
Cary Grant wearing a
Prince of Wales checked jacket. Tailor Kilgour, French, and
Photo courtesy of Rizzoli
If you just don't feel comfortable unless you are
wearing jeans, avoid cocktail parties - but you're missing the chance to
expand yourself, to meet new people and to celebrate life in a new and,
for you, adventuresome way
New York Fashion Week
Fashion Week has just ended in New York City, and we
are all watching to see how fashion, which is about nothing if not
optimism, will fare in a city ever more on edge about the one thing that
people came here to find-money. The most coveted ticket is always Oscar de
la Renta. Getting an invitation to Oscar (the one-word title is enough)
brings season-long bragging rights. This year, with Oscar split into two
shows, the opportunity doubled. (Some blind optimism for uncertain times.)
Oscar de la Renta worn by Lily Donaldson
courtesy of Oscar de la Renta
In the fall Oscar de la Renta collection, a standout
was a belted gown with a halter neck with a surprise bustle. The
silhouette when viewed from the front is classic, and the solid color is
amethyst, which is perhaps this year's favorite. On the woman who can wear
it, the simple line can only read simple chic. But when the gown is seen
from the back, the bustle tosses in that note of whimsy that lets the
party girl come out.
Farther along on the fun scale is leopard-print wrap
gown, for that pinch-wasted hourglass look, with spots.
The belt, worn high, appears to hold the look
Oscar de la Renta worn by Chrissy Haldis
courtesy of Chrissy Haldis
Both dresses speak for the women who wear them, "I'm
not afraid to party." Indeed, Oscar de la Renta personifies the notion
that, somewhere in the world, someone is having a fabulous party and that
you should rightfully be there. With these dresses, you might just be
ushered in, even without an invitation.
Title photo: Oscar de la Renta worn by Ubah Hassan
courtesy of Oscar de la Renta
Julie Hackett Behr is a style consultant at
the New York flagship of a luxury department store. She
last wrote Dress Up: Choosing
the Perfectly Appropriate Party Dress and New York
Fashion Week Parties: Serious Pleasures
Dress Up: Choosing the Perfectly Appropriate Party
Navigating Savile Row: How to Order a Custom Tailored
Obituary: Yves Saint Laurent
Parisian Women, How Do They Do It?
June Wedding: Lanvin Solves the Bridal Gown
Karl Lagerfeld: "Confidential" or Just Plain
Fashion Collections: Fall 2008 in Paris and
Paris 1962: Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior, The Early
Haute Gossip From Fashion Week
Different Like Coco
The Golden Age of Couture
Vogue: The Illustrated History
New York Fashion Week Parties: Serious Pleasures
Ralph Lauren: Fashion For Most People
Cartier 1900 - 1939: Fine Jewelry Exhibit at the British
Chaumet, Two Centuries of Creation