Formal wear -- aaack! Advice, please...

awm03November 18, 2006

My husband is taking me to an exquisite, formal Christmas party in DC where company bigshots mix with important customers & politicos.

Sheesh, I never even went to my high school prom. Even my wedding was informal.

I'm 51, letting my hair go grey, tall, just lost 45 pounds so I'm not fat anymore, but not rail thin either. Looking at evening wear, it's all decolletage down to there, bare shoulders, & spiked heels. Looks great on a young shapely body...which I ain't got. Plus I don't want to break the bank on a dress I may never wear again.

Anybody have any advice? MUST I wear those ridiculous high heels? Can I wear separates or is a dress de rigueur? What about a jacket to get from the hotel to the party in?

What's a computer nerd suburban mom to do? I don't really know where to start. Any advice from you more clothes-savvy types will be greatly, greatly appreciated.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Shop at Ross. You don't need heels. Avoid the fancy stores and look for a bargain instead. And just keep trying on things until you find something comfortable. And don't even bother comparing yourself to the fence-post fashion models. Avoid even LOOKING at those fashion magazines. Those people live in a fantasy world!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2006 at 1:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Be true to yourself Awm -

Find something simple, elegant, 'grown up' and comfortable, with shoes you can last in comfortably all night. I'd suggest looking at Chico's or Talbot's and finding a dress that comes with a jacket. Have holiday sparkle and good taste instead of cleavage and slink.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2006 at 1:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The nicest formal outfit I saw on a friend was quite casual actually.

It was nice black pants with nice black scoop neck long sleeve fine knit sweater. What made it formal was a shantung silk (I think) wrap that was just a long rectangle (I remember thinking that I could make it in about 2 minutes). The silk was in a colour that really complemented this woman's colouring. It was stunning.

If you wear pants then flats are fine but make them something special - shiny silk or with some little gem detail.

Have fun!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2006 at 7:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You're lucky that it's holiday season. There are lots of things in the department stores with a little glitz now.

You can wear a pant suit in a dressy fabric- think velvet!
Wear it with a sparkly or lacey camisole.

Or wear a long black skirt and a fancy white shirt that wraps and ties or a top with some sequins.

A long sleeved velvet top with a V-neck would look good with a flowy skirt, too.
Black always works for parties and is flattering.

Think "understated elegance".
Jazz it up with dangling earrings or a sparkly necklace and enjoy!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2006 at 8:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Think elegant stunning jewels! Make them your statement items. I liked the idea budge mentions with black and a silk shawl.

As for heels... no matter how sexy, mandatory etc they are they will ruin your night if you are not a heels wearer. You will spend the night looking for places to sit down!

I am not sure how 'formal' formal is but I picture something like this looking very classy- possible with a long skirt if formal means long skirt.


Here is a link that might be useful: Nice classy outfit (well I think so..) : )

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 1:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, everybody, for your suggestions & encouragement. I'm starting to feel a little better about this.

What do you think of this skirt (it's French Blue, in case your monitor skews the color):

with this velvet top:

Too plain? Will the rhinestone brooch look cheap?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 8:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I know how you feel. We could be twins! I have let my hair go gray, I am losing weight but not all yet and I am 54 (almost 55!). We are on a budget too with living on only one income for 22 years. And I am definitely the causal type since we live way up in the Santa Cruz mts.

Each Christmas my DH's Silicon Valley company throws a formal party with lots of local big wigs. I dread it. I hate spending the money for something I will wear only once. And comfort is the key. No heels for me!

I look at thrift stores for designer labels. Nothing too flashy or fancy but well made in a nice material like velvet or silk. Sometimes I just buy a formal dress for the material and make a jacket and/or top out of it.

I have also learned not to care about what the people at the party think since I only see them once a year (and I doubt they remember me). And since none of them are friends, I do what I want, have a good time and forget the rest.

As to your question about the pictures. I think that top would look better with a darker color skirt, either black or a dark rich burgandy or deep midnight blue. And maybe a pearl necklace. You can never go wrong with pearls.

Have fun!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 9:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That skirt will be fine if your bottom & tummy are nice and firm. The shiny fabric would jiggle when I walk - unless I wore a very strong foundation garment. If you get that outfit, remove the brooch, wear simple jewels and let the skirt be your bling.

I usually wear a black suit or dress with sparkly shoes and earrings.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 9:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would get a fitted black jacket and flowing silk pants, dress it up with a shiny camisole and jewellery; at least you could wear the black jacket again with something else.

As for a coat to wear over all this, if yours is too casual you could borrow one or else a plain cloth coat could be dressed up slightly with a dressier scarf.

As for the blue skirt, I would not pair it with a black top, you'll be chopped up
in 2 and it's less elegant. Does it come in black ?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 5:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ditto the fitted black jacket and silk pants. You are tall, this would be simple and stunning. You don't see yourself as 'stunning'? HA! Think again.

Get a facial this week and another a week before the event. Go sans makeup to a GOOD makeup counter and tell them what you're doing/where you're going. Stress 'simple' but 'formal' and make sure they know you're wearing black. Do a trial run.
Expect to make a purchase (hey- everyone needs mascara!) or pay about $30. If you like the makeup- make an appointment to get it done the afternoon of the party. Even if you pay another $30, it's worth not stressing about doing it yourself. They'll probably use $300 worth of products on you- do the math.

Manicure and pedicure the day of. Make all appointments now. If you need a sitter for that evening, book him/her for early afternoon through evening.

We do a lot of this. Far more than I would like, as I am a sweats and tennies person and a real homebody. Early in our marriage, I would try to do all this myself, at the last minute, of course, since I had young children. When I finally wised up and realized that with advance planning and spending a little $ on myself, my DH had a much happier and more relaxed partner on his arm, I realized I'm really doing it for him, and it was easier to justify the expense. I am pretty cheap and hate paying for something I can do myself.

It's not just a party, it's business. You're part of the presentation package. (Before my Sisters throw tomatoes at the screen, remember these are HIS colleagues, and HE is the other part of the package.)

You will look classy and put-together, you're polite, intelligent and genuine and will be a lovely partner and guest.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 10:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Is the event black tie?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 11:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It's black tie optional.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 12:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Love the outfit pictured. Nice clean lines and looks very comfy too. With a skirt that long you should be able to get away with flats or a low heel.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 12:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How about shoes something like the ones linked below?
And I second looking at Talbots. Beautiful, classy, classic, simple, elegant clothes.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fancy flats

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 2:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That's good because you have a lot of options with black tie optional: a gown, a cocktail dress, or dressy evening separates are all okay. I just love the skirt and black top you picked above - but since it's a holiday party, it might be nice to get the skirt in red - just to make the outfit a bit festive. You definitely don't need high heels - I have a pair of satin shoes with a short stacked heel that I always wear for formal. I personally have found some great dresses at Marshall's and Syms at excellent prices.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 3:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Boy, you people have helped more than you know. I live in a very male household, and fashion savoir faire just isn't on the radar around here.

I'm partial to the blue skirt because it matches my eye color (that's good, right?), looks good with my light brown & silver hair, & because I figure everyone else will be wearing either all black, black & red, or maybe some gold. I'm pretty trim after exercising faithfully to help with the weight loss, but still broader in the beam than the model. But hey, at my age, who's gonna be checking out my rear end?

I'd love, love, love to wear some silky pajama type black pants with a cropped velvet top. But I wore nice pants to events all those years I was, ahem, HEAVY, and I think my dear husband is tired of the Pat Summitt look:
(even if she does wear the nicest pant suits in all of women's basketball). I think DH would like something femme...

Holy cow, I forgot about make-up! Now THERE'S a problem I'll need to throw money at. I normally don't wear any make-up. Yes, a trip to a salon or some department store make-up counter is a must. Thanks so much for the good tips, pecanpie. I will book appointments tomorrow.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 7:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Regarding the color... if the blue was the color of a top, it would match your eyes or hair or whatever. But as a skirt it doesn't matter whatsoever. I agree with others that a more solid look would be dressier. And a lighter color skirt would draw ***attention*** to your rear end.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 8:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How about switching it and have a black skirt and blue top? I think that would look much better and definitely more elegant. And a black skirt is something you'll probably get more use out of. I do like the shape of the skirt you pictured. As for the top, I would keep it something simple. Bateau necklines are flattering, very lovely and elegant. Be careful of the material you choose for the top, not too much "weight" in either the fabric or on top around the neckline. That would give the outfit an 'unbalanced' appearance. If you chooses a velvet top, the skirt material should be of a substantial weight, as well. Just another 2 cents here ;o)

    Bookmark   November 21, 2006 at 10:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

shoes: plain black flat pumps (heels are not required)

I REALLY like that top.

I like all mrsmarv's ideas--go w/ a black skirt, it can be worn anywhere anytime.

also try not to have a heavy fabric for the top over a really light skirt.

Chadwick's has nice formalwear that's not too expensive.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2006 at 4:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My sister Photoshopped the pictures:

And if the picture doesn't show up, here's the link:
Holiday Outfit

The skirt comes in a black/wine color and also a very nice bronze. The black/wine looks a bit too purple to my eye. But I love the black & silvery blue together. I've ordered the outfit online. It should come this week. If it doesn't look as good as I hope it will, I'll exchange the skirt for the black/wine color. And I'll be sure to post a "you were right/I was wrong" post so you can all have the satisfaction of saying I Told You So -- LOL!

Rollin' the fashion dice,

    Bookmark   November 21, 2006 at 5:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

For your shoes I would suggest getting something with a kitten heel instead of flats. Kitten heels are only 1 or 1 1/2 inches and have a scuptured elegant look to the heel. They should be fairly comfortable for all evening wear, no worse than wearing 1 1/2 wide heeled shoes.

Flats do not give a woman a graceful walk but more of a 'waddle'. Wearing flats to a formal event may make one feel "dumpy" while walking.

Go with a more pointed toe for a dressier looking shoe, rather than a rounded bump toe shoe which looks more casual.

Nice black 1" kitten heel pumps in black velvet:

I Googled *kitten heels* and found tons of nice styles with 1 or 1 1/4 inch heels in all prices ranges:

Since your skirt is going to be french blue satin, you can get satin shoes dyed to match at any bridal shop. They will have a selection of both heels, flats and kitten heels to chose from. Avoid getting the Mary Jane style flats or heels, as the look is too 'adolescent'.

A matte finish top and a shiney skirt is going to attract attention to your hips and not every woman can look good in a shiney skirt, expecially if the skirt is a lighter color than the top. Go with and all over color if you can. One color from head to toe will make you look taller and leaner.

What was wrong with the light colored top that is shown with the light colored skirt? It looks like it matches perfectly. If you need long sleeves maybe a black taffeta bolero jacket that exposes most of the embroidered top and covers the arms?

Don't forget to pay atttention to your hosiery. Around the holidays you can find nude hose with a shimmer sheer look. Small details like this will look more elegant. Don't wear black hose with a long skirt. Black hose should only be worn with short skirts. And do not wear closed toe hosiery with open toe sandels. Get the open toe hosiery.

As far as make-up if you do chose to go to have it done at a salon counter have it done once before hand to make sure you and the cosmetologist are on the same wavelength or at least talk to them ahead of time so that you both know what look you want.

If you are going to get your hair done at a salon for the event, have the stylist put in a sparkley hair accessory rather than wear the rhinestone pin attached to the sweater. Maybe the sweater pin can be converted to a hair accessory or you can find one at the department stores? The stylist will know how to anchor a hair pin or barrett so that it stays put.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 12:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You said, "at my age who's gonna be checking out my rear end". I'll be 52 Dec.10th and I have people still checking out my rear end. LOL Don't think 51 or even 61 is too old to still be sexy. Christy Brinkley (the former covergirl) is 52 and she is better looking now than when she was young. Having said that....
You are on the right track with the outfit you chose. If it turns out that you don't like it, you may want to actually go to the stores and try things on. Clothes look so different on our bodies than they do in a picture. Anything black would work. Velvet is really nice for the holidays. As far as makeup, keep it simple. You can do it yourself. The best money spent would be to go to a salon and get your eyebrows professionally shaped. Go easy on the eyeshadow, a very light warm brown would do. Mac carries nice shadows. Of course some mascara, under eye concealer, a little blush, and some really nice lipstick. I love Sephora's lipstick. It's inexpensive and they let you try it on in the store. I don't wear any base makeup.
As far as your hair, gray hair has a different texture, so make sure if you don't want to color it you have a great cut and style. I had dark brown hair my whole life and recently went to a dirty blond color with plenty of highlights and lowlights. Gray is beautiful too!
The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your "look". Dress in something that suits your style and personality.
Have FUN and laugh a lot. Have a glass of champagne for me.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 3:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

And a glass for me, too!

One word of caution about having makeup professionally done. If you wouldn't want to look like the makeup artist, walk on by.

Going to a young woman with a quasi-goth appearance will not get you the tasteful, elegant look you're seeking, 99 times out of 100.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 6:06PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Do upper super Susan shelves obstruct view?
The 42" tall upper corner cabinet was drilled...
Kitchen colors....need something happy and vintage :)
I want to try to go a bit vintage with my low-dollar...
New build Kitchen – layout for this space?
So, hi! Popping out of lurk mode because I’d really...
Barker cabinets?
So who has Barker cabinets and would be willing to...
Please help with Kitchen floorplan
Hello everyone, My husband and I are building a new...
Sponsored Products
Outdoor Market Patio Umbrella in Sunbrella Multicolored - Bronze Aluminum, 9'
$199.00 | FRONTGATE
Hydro Systems Rachael 6636 Tub
Modern Bathroom
Home Decorators Accent Rug: WIndsor Black 1' 9" x 2' 9"
$29.00 | Home Depot
Camfora 3 Piece Outdoor Patio Sectional Set in Espresso Orange
$799.00 | LexMod
Arteriors Home - Kerr Large Mirror - 4338Art
Great Furniture Deal
Oval Knob Narrow Plate Set - Privacy, Passage and Dummy
Signature Hardware
Callita Dining Chair
Italy Design
Set of 4 Victoria Style Ghost Dining Chair Black Color
eModern Decor
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™