Will you be attending the swankiest party in the East Bay this spring? If so, check out the do’s and don’ts from DiabloMag.com. I think the experts’ advice is spot on! I’ll be there…hope to see you, too!
How To: Dress for the Neiman Marcus Gala
Turn heads at the opening party for Walnut Creek’s newest high-fashion outpost.
Still scrambling to snag a head-turning gown for Neiman Marcus’ March 8 gala? Ken Downing, fashion director for the store, and Danville-based pro stylist Carolyn Rovner offer sure-fire tips for ensuring you rank among the best dressed when Neiman Marcus opens its doors. Even if you’ve waited until the last minute to finalize your look, you can still grab a form-fitting dress in an eye-catching hue, find a fashion steal, and ensure your guy can take creative liberty without looking clownish.
Carolyn Rovner, the winner of the Diablo’s Best Personal Shopper title in 2011, offers valuable advice for dressing for the big night. First off: decoding the ambiguous “creative black tie” suggestion. “Technically, black tie means a gown and tux, but you can be creative and add more fun and flair,” she suggests. “The vibe is fun and festive. You’re not going to wear the same dress here as you’d wear to a White House dinner or to meet the queen. The key is to have fun and not be too somber or stuffy. It’s a fashion thing. Think more red carpet.”
Or pink carpet, as the case may be. Ken Downing, Fashion Director for Neiman Marcus, is most excited for spring’s pinks, right down to the pink carpet at the opening gala. From hot and shocking to the palest blush tones, he recommends different varying the saturation to avoid looking like Barbie.
“Go short in flirty and feminine hot pink with a pale blush shoe,” he recommends. “Add a clutch and a dramatic earring with colorful stones in more shades of pink to embrace the season’s shade.” He also appreciates pairing it with a pop of color. “I love the bright accent of a yellow accessory with Pink. Yellow is the new neutral!”
If pink isn’t your shade and yellow makes you cringe, Rovner urges you to still consider a colorful frock. Vibrant spring colors like purple, Kelly green, turquoise, and orange are always unexpected. And you can break into color with a muted hue. “Designers showed a lot of pastels on runway, in jellybean colors like peach and misty green. If that’s your style you’d be right on trend.”
Updating the LBD
Add pops of color to the classic LBD. “Black is a constant and always sophisticated,” says Downing. “A bold and brilliant color for a shoe and clutch is daring and dramatic.”
Rovner also offers easy ways to update the timeless staple. “While a black dress is appropriate 99.9% of the time, this is your opportunity to have a bit of fun. My personal philosophy: wear black with purpose, not by default. If you’re going to wear black dress, wear a rocking black dress—with sequins, an interesting design, or embellishments.”
She also recognizes accessories can be an easy way to introduce color. “If you’re going to wear black, at least do a strong, colorful shoe, whether it’s pink or cobalt. Really add a fun pop of color, but then that’s it. Everything else is played down.”
If you’re looking for length, Downing suggests prints and florals to keep it playful. “I love a dress cut close to the body that celebrates a women’s curves. Prints, a major trend, make wearing a long dress all the more fun. Floral patterns are also everywhere and super romantic in flowing chiffon.”
Flatter Your Figure
Rovner turns to a fitted bodice and full skirt to accentuate the waist and flatter most figures. Sheath styles with ruching on the side either create a waistline for someone who doesn’t have one, or gives someone curves and looks a bit more feminine on less curvy frames.
Halter styles can be flattering on women with broad shoulders and good arms. “Dress your strengths,” she recommends. “If you love your legs you can wear short dresses, remain more covered elsewhere. If you don’t love them, feature your bust line or waist. In terms of silhouette, go with what works.”
Don’t skimp on the accessories. “Dramatic earrings make every night out one to remember, and will bring attention to your gorgeous smile,” says Downing. “This season, bigger is definitely better when it comes to choosing earrings.” If you shy away from chandeliers, make a statement elsewhere. “A great diamond stud is always in style, just be sure to wear a wrist full of bangles bracelets and cuffs.” Downing isn’t shy about his love of bold gems. “I adore the glitter of jewelry! More is more! Less is a bore!”
Rovner also advises only drawing focus to one accessory. “You can’t pop with the bag and the shoes and the earrings. If you’re going to accessorize with jewelry like a statement necklace, quiet the earrings and quiet the rest.” Jewelry choice also depends on the dress. “Don’t compete with what the dress has going on. With a halter, I’d do an earring and bracelet or ring. A cocktail ring has a lot of opportunity and potential to make an outfit. Do something really bold.”
For the Guys
As for the fellas, Downing recommends keeping it traditional, with a twist. “Gentlemen always look sharp in a tux, classic with a bowtie (bowties are a major trend this season).” Or go alternative. “Wear your tuxedo jacket with a dark denim jean and a narrow black tie—super cool.” And menswear doesn’t just belong to the guys. “Tuxedo dressing, or ‘Le Smoking’ as the late, great Yve Saint Laurent referred to it, is a chic alternative. A woman in a sexy take on the tuxedo is always in style.”
For Rovner, execution is key. “The key is no clip on bow ties. If you don’t know how to tie a tie, stop by a men’s store and have someone tie it for you. It’s just way too ‘prom-y’ to have a clip on.” But she also welcomes creativity. “I would say, if a gentleman has an interesting tuxedo jacket, whether in midnight blue or black watch plaid, go for it. If you want to go with fun necktie or bowtie, just don’t make it too gimmicky and steer away from looking too wedding.
Dressing for a black tie affair doesn’t require shelling out a chunk of cash. Places like Dress: Luxury Attire for Less, in Oakland, can be a great place to score enviable finds, like the floor length, gold-sequined dress with a mermaid bottom that Rovner scored for $75 on sale. Also, Rent the Runway is a valuable online resource for designer styles you can rent for a night, but you need to be more flexible when unsure of sizing.