Sur­viv­ing a party-dress­ing worst-case sce­nario.

The per­ils and pit­falls of not dress­ing the part.

Elle (Canada) - - Insider - ByJaneBoyd

there’s noth­ing like a last-minute in­vite to a hotticket hol­i­day party to get your heart rac­ing—and that’s just think­ing about what to wear. What do you have that will wow friends and strangers, still fits and shows no (okay, hardly any) traces of Chardon­nay and shrimp sauce? You don’t want to be in the sit­u­a­tion I was in a few years ago when my friend Grace called me one late-fall after­noon. Did I have plans that night? (Other than watch­ing TV?) Would I like to go with her to a work event—a high-pro­file hol­i­day din­ner at a lux­ury re­tail store?

“Pick you up at six,” she said as I scanned my closet: one LBD crum­pled in a bag ready for the clean­ers and a satin skirt need­ing a top. That’s all, folks! “I have noth­ing to wear! And that’s not an overused cliché,” I com­plained. Why hadn’t I learned from my mother, whose wardrobe of par­tyready silk cock­tail dresses and shiny evening skirts could out­fit the en­tire fash­ion show I pro­duced in Grade 5—the first, and likely only, time 11-year-old kids pa­raded in evening­wear across the stage of June Av­enue Public School.

“Non­sense!” said Grace, sug­gest­ing my ex­pen­sive de­signer pantsuit, a pin­striped char­coal wool num­ber I hauled out for busi­ness meet­ings when I wanted peo­ple to think I was far more qual­i­fied and suc­cess­ful than I was. She of­fered some makeup ad­vice—“Put on red lip­stick, and wear mas­cara and eye­liner for a change!”—and hung up.

Grace works in fash­ion and has in­cred­i­ble style, so when she picked me up I was sur­prised to see her quite ca­su­ally dressed in lux­ury sports­wear: a cream cash­mere turtle­neck and cream ribbed jeans. She had to wear some­thing from the de­signer brand she worked for, she ex­plained, and they didn’t do evening­wear. I’d been re­ly­ing on her to be the dressed-up half of our din­ner-date duo, but she looked ready for après-ski—al­beit at a ritzy re­sort. “What’s the dress code?” I stam­mered.

“They’ll be wear­ing ev­ery­thing! It’ll be fine!” she said, step­ping on the gas with her cream suede bootie.

As we walked to­ward the store en­trance, it was clear that it would not be fine. Hello, TV hosts in smart de­signer tuxes. Hey there, el­e­gant It girls in jew­els and “just had a blowout” hair. And then—what’s that col­umn of daz­zling light by the door? A fash­ion in­sider in a floor-length se­quined gown! Why didn’t I at least wear ear­rings? “This is black tie,” I gasped. “Just keep walk­ing,” hissed Grace, smil­ing with pursed lips. “And act con­fi­dent.”

“But I’m dressed for a share­hold­ers meet­ing—and you’re wear­ing a sweater and cords!”

“It’s two-ply cash­mere,” she said, grab­bing my arm and pulling me to­ward my doom. “This out­fit costs as much as any­thing here, maybe more.”

There’s a lot to be said for con­fi­dence—but, alas, not in this story. In a small room with only 40 or so guests, there was no place to hide; we stood in a cor­ner as if we’d been bad. And we had—we were part­ners in fash­ion crime, serv­ing a three-hour sen­tence over a five-course meal.

“At least they can just barely see us from the waist up,” I noted as we sat down to din­ner—thank­fully, a can­dlelit af­fair. “Don’t drink any more wa­ter!” warned Grace, her lips stuck in a perma-pursed-lip smile, her con­fi­dence clearly fal­ter­ing, as I fought the urge to get up and go—to the loo. Re­signed to our fate, we could only hope they didn’t dally with the dessert. Hmm. Does vi­su­al­iza­tion re­ally work? Let’s see! I look amaz­ing in a Lan­vin dress, Louboutin pumps and a vin­tage jew­elled bracelet with a—

“Ex­cuse me,” said the woman sit­ting to my right. “I think you dropped this.” She placed a nap­kin on my lap, glanc­ing down at my scratchy wool pants. “Er, thanks—a lot! Grace! Sit down! We can’t leave first...or can we?”

Les­son learned. These days, you can find me in my closet play­ing dress-up with my al­ways-clean LBD, satin skirt (with blouse), slouchy evening pants (with jacket) and glam pumps. Call me...I’m ready for any­thing any­time. And don’t you love my vin­tage jew­elled bracelet? n

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