The Little (Not) Black Dress

I am clearly in the throes of a dress phase. I’ve rarely worn them for day, because I’ve always thought of them as special-occasion garb. That’s completely wrong, of course, and I’m happy to have come around. There are so many fabulous day dresses just ripe for the plucking…and pluck I do.

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This drop-waist dress from Banana Republic is a perfect example. For starters, let me say that it is not nearly as short as it appears in the photo. I left behind thigh-revealers in the ’70s, and I’m not about to revisit them at my…ahem…age. This hits just above the knee, and with a pair of black opaque tights, it’s perfectly suitable for a woman of a certain age. Add heels to dress it up…flats to dress it down…tall boots or booties…and you’re set.

Even though it’s a black-and-white tweed (with a hint of silvery thread), it serves as the ideal basic. It looks great paired with a blazer or cardigan in ever-reliable black, or in a bright color, such as red or royal. I teamed it with the orangey-red Anna cardigan, which I bought in petite so it hits just a few inches below the waist and enhances the line of the dress. Also, the silver buttons play off the lurex quite nicely.

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65th Primetime Emmys

One of the most fascinating things about red-carpet events is that opinions on what’s great and what’s not vary dramatically. One fashion critic or stylist loves a dress, while another hates it. It’s all subjective, folks, and there are no criteria to make one person’s opinion more valid than another.

In my case, style is a lot like art and wine: I know what I like and what I don’t. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on the dresses at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards.

HITS

Mindy Kaling: Gorgeous color, just enough bling, looks great on her

Mindy Kaling

Linda Cardellini: Everything about all these ruffles screams that I should hate it…but I love it.

Linda Cardellini

 

Sufe Bradshaw: stunning color, fabulous fit

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Allison Janney: I’m not crazy about the shoes, but the dress is elegant.

65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Arrivals

MISSES

Zosia Mamet: It’s good to see her smile for a change, but why is she wearing a black mask over her boobs?

Zosia Mamet

Amanda Peet: The red-carpet shower curtain, horribly baggy sleeves

Amanda Peet

Aubrey Plaza: “Big Love”…with the merest suggestion of nudity

Aubrey Plaza

Jessica Pare: Way too low, way too fussy, goofy hemline

Jessica Pare

Lena Headey: Another shower curtain, this one over granny panties…and what’s with the white shoes?

Lena Headey

 

Is it time for boots yet?

One of the few downsides of living in California is that summer can hang around for way too long. I can already sense the rotten tomatoes being hurled my way by those who disagree, but as a former Jersey Girl (in truth, one is always a Jersey girl), I like autumn to kick in by mid-September.

My way of combating this issue is to dress for fall as soon as the temperatures even hint at dropping. While it may still be too warm for a sweater, it’s not too warm for boots.

Pikolinos Le Mans

After searching…ordering…returning…agonizing…I found this Pikolinos Le Mans boot on the Nordstrom site. This particular style has since disappeared, but it’s available on Amazon.

The heel gives just the right height boost, and the comfort level is second to none. The boots looks great with skinny jeans tucked in, which is likely to be my fall/winter casual uniform this year.

 

A Woman’s Guide to Dressing Up

Black Tie

A safe rule of thumb when deciding what to wear to a black-tie affair is this: The greater the effort put into hosting an event, the more formal the guests should be. Using this as a guide, you would dress up more for a wedding reception (drinks, dinner, dancing, and assorted festivities) than for a cocktail party (drinks and hors d’oeuvres).

Floor-length, tea-length, and short dresses are all appropriate. The length of a dress depends on your age and your legs…for obvious reasons. How much skin you show also hinges on how old you are and what shape your body is in. Since this blog is geared to women of a certain age, we’ll focus on that.

If you want a more covered-up look:

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If you have show-off arms and legs:

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If your arms aren’t as toned as you’d like:

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Sparkly jewelry can help elevate a simple dress, but should be avoided if the dress itself has a lot of bling. Depending on the style of the dress, wear either a statement necklace or statement earrings—not both—and a bracelet. A dress for a black-tie celebration need not be black, but it’s always a safe choice.

White Tie

White-tie events are super formal, so a glorious floor-length gown is the way to go. Evening sandals or pumps, a dressy evening bag, and elegant jewelry are the perfect complement.

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As we get older, dressing up becomes more of a challenge. The decision to show skin is more calculated. Plus sizes are difficult to find. (A recent search on a major department store website indicated 1214 evening dresses…only three of which were “special sizes.”) It’s wise to work with a personal shopper or savvy salesperson when making a purchase for a dressy event. She knows the store’s stock, and if she’s a pro, she’ll know what works best for you.

The Black-Tie Wedding Dilemma…Solved

My nephew is getting married in New York next month, and I bought a very pretty aubergine-colored sheath to wear to the ceremony and reception. I was very proud of myself for being prepared so far in advance. In fact, the dress was already in my closet within days of receiving the save-the-date in the mail.

But then it happened. The official invitation arrived, bearing the words: “black tie reception.” Not “black tie optional.” The real deal. And let’s face it: not even the most California-casual auntie would dare to show up at a black-tie event in New York in anything less than cocktail attire. So I did what any self-respecting fashion lover would do. I went online shopping.

The first dress I found was this one on the Neiman Marcus site:

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Elegant, right? Gorgeous Italian fabric, yes? But what I failed to pay attention to is the fact that the model in the photograph is very tall and very lean. While I’m only a size 4, that is not my body type. After waiting not-so-patiently for FedEx to deliver the dress, I was dismayed to discover that it made me look like Spongebob Squarepants. On top. Go figure.

So the dress went back and the quest continued. Trusting in Neiman’s, I returned to the website and found this:

Neiman dress

Success! The skirt is the most beautiful part, reminiscent of layer upon layer of flower petals. Now if I could just figure out how to transport it on the plane without crushing it to pieces….