Survival of the Fabulous: Black Tie Basics

I am headed to a black tie event on Saturday night. I average about two black tie events per year, so over the past decade I would say I have a couple dozen under my belt. My first few were probably fraught more than one faux pas. There are a few things I have learned along the years to make the events go more smoothly, and it goes beyond checking your heels for trailing toiler paper as you leave the powder room.

The Greeting

Have you ever encountered this scenario?

You: “SO nice to meet you!”
Person to whom you have just been introduced: “Well, we actually met about a year ago at that wine tasting…”
You, having no clue and not remembering this person because you can barely recall the wine “tasting” where you um…over-tasted much less this seemingly offended stranger: “Riiiight! Of course I remember you!” Cringe.

Repeat after me: “Nice to see you!”

It covers all manner of sins. Did I just meet you? Who knows! I am telling you it is nice to see you, whether for the first time or the fiftieth.

It also helps to have a wing person, a la Elaine in that episode of Seinfeld. If you know you have met someone, have your wing person immediately offer their hand and offer their name. The person of mystery should follow suit and let you off the introductory hook.

Water, Water Everywhere…

If your soiree includes dinner, this can be a potential minefield. When you are parched from all of the cocktail hour small talk and sit down for dinner, immediately grabbing the first water glass you see isn’t your best bet. Have you ever been faced with a crowded table in search of your water glass, only to be completely confused about whether your glass is the one to the left or right? Here is a no-fail trick that I learned from a family member (she knows who she is!).

Take a look at the photo below. I wouldn’t make these gestures on top of your dinner plate, but you can surreptitiously sneak a peak under the table if necessary. Your left hand makes the letter “b” for bread and your right hand makes the letter “d” for drink. Bread plate is to the left, water is to the right.

The Pashmina

I ALWAYS carry a pashmina to any black tie event. Why? Let me give you all of the examples of how this scrap of fabric has saved my life.

1. Three years ago, I was at a company black tie event and my friend’s dress split down the side. My solution? Wrap my pashmina around her waist to create a color-block patch.
2. I was pregnant and attended a lovely, amazing wedding at the Drake. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that my burgeoning bust was popping out of my dress. My solution? Pashmina cover up to the rescue.
3. I was the guest at a culinary dream of an event years ago. I thought it was going to be black tie because of all the celebrity chefs in attendance (Gale Gand…LOVE her!). Unfortunately for me, it turned out to be snappy casual and I was stuck in a halter dress, killer heels and an up do. My solution? Take down the hair, wrap the pashmina around my shoulders to give the illusion that I actually had sleeves, and carry on.
4. Have you ever sat under an air conditioning vent? Yeah, I am a magnet for that.
5. Martini glasses are NOT meant for walking with in high heels, especially cosmos. Mine dripped all down my gorgeous gown. What to do…what to do…no napkin in sight…blot immediately with pashmina to control the spill. Sometimes a sacrifice is in order.

If the dress does not fit, call it quits.

Vivian: If I forget to tell you later, I had a really good time tonight. 
Edward: Thank you. When you’re not fidgeting, you look very beautiful…and very tall.

Look beautiful. And tall. If your dress doesn’t fit without you pulling it up, tugging it down or generally wiggling around, do not wear it. Your confidence is what makes you beautiful, and nothing is more of a confidence killer than an ill-fitting garment.