24 December 2006

Trial Run

20 December 2006
Upscale DC Hotel
Corporate Holiday Party

Age: early-to-mid 20s
Height: 5'6" with heels
Size: 4-6
Hair: dark brown, just below the shoulder

I must admit, this is not one of my favorite Diane von Furstenberg dresses. Not only is it not a signature wrap-dress (I'm a purist with DVF), but it's also a highly busy pattern that when coupled with shiny satin, unfortunately makes it look a little cheap. Which it most certainly isn't. Or wasn't when it first hit the stores. That it's been 2/3 off at a half-dozen retailers since late October is a sign this dress is either an ill-fitting garment or, more likely, it's just not that fabulous.

At the same time, the young woman wearing it was one of maybe 4 in the entire John Jay Room wearing a color other than black, grey, and pinstripe navy - colors I adore but grow weary of at DC Christmas parties. Her bold choice was enough to make me take notice of her right away and pop her an I-get-what-you're-sellin' smile from across the crudites tray.

Let's say she loved this dress for some reason. It happens. There are plenty of tops, mod jumpers, and Mary Janes my very fashionable friends own and adore that I don't quite get, but because they've proven themselves time and again, I attribute the confusion to my ignorance, not their bad taste. Had there not been so many obvious missteps in the rest of her ensemble, I might have been convinced this woman knew something I didn't, but even my male companion that night said to me this wasn't the case. Primary among the offenses were her black leather knee-high square-toed boots with silver buckle detailing in not one but two places. Like I said, I'm a DVF purist, and if you've ever seen a picture of Ms. Diane, you'd know she's the definition of femininity in her sky-high, skinny-heeled pumps, done-up hair, and wrap-dress. Her prints may be retro, her color palette vibrant, but her fabrics, which consist mainly of functional silks (velvet and chiffon for her evening collections) are always lightweight and uncomplicatedly cut. They swing when you move and hug every woman's hips in a sexy, non-salicious way. The whole rocker boot look, while an ironic twist, is never in my opinion a good complement to a DVF design. In fact, I consider it fashion sacrilege.

You may point out that only a few weeks ago Carmen Electra paired the two (let's be fair - her boots weren't square-toed) and was lauded in US Weekly for her unconventional choice. You know what, though, Carmen is Carmen, and this woman wasn't Carmen. She wasn't anywhere near Carmen. Celebrities and models can get away with a lot more than we regular folk can, either because they have better bodies or prettier faces (or both) and regardless of what they wear, they're going to look camera-ready. The sooner we acknowledge and accept this immutable fact, the sooner we can start dressing ourselves in a more flattering manner.

Back to the young woman. Her boots, independent of the dress, were still not okay. A square-toed shoe of any sort is never okay. No exceptions. If the boots were a way of hiding cankles, then I'm more willing to accept her footwear choice, but let's assume she has a reasonable ankle to calf ratio. I'd suggest she swap the boot for a classy but trendy Steven pump (left, $152.95 at zappos.com) or maybe a cute Kate Spade d'orsay (below, $258.95 at zappos.com), though I'm hesitant to recommend the latter, because a girl with boots like she had on probably doesn't have her pedicurist on-call. On this particular night in DC, it was in the high 40 degree range. Translation: leave the hose and opaque tights at home. For those who haven't followed a year-round moisturizing regime and/or wear a dress cut more than 2 inches above the knee, covering up may, however, be in everyone's best interest.

A side note: it is more acceptable to be bare-legged if it is a Happy Hour night, most usually a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

The other major distraction about this woman's ensemble was her hair: it was limp, style-free, and a very shallow shade of blah-brown. Were I she last week, I would have gone to Rodney at Andre Chreky (his rates start at $75) for a consultation and cut. I personally think we should embrace our natural color (there are better ways to spend money than maintaining highlights), but indulging in a pricey cut to get the right look for your face and for your hair-type is totally worth bailing on the aperitifs and watermelon-tinis at Cafe Citron you had planned for Saturday. I won't pretend to know about the right cut for the right face, but I will steer you to a person who does. Rodney is a master, especially if you want to transition to sideswept or full-fringe bangs.

Were I this woman a half-hour before the party, I would have swept my hair back in a low ponytail and topped it off with a subtle black headband like the one at right ($12 at urbanoutfitters.com) so as to let the dress's oversized silk tie be the centerpiece of her look. This is a rule all women should live by. If your blouse or your dress has a dramatic neck (deep plunges are exempt), don't do anything to distract from or complicate it. This means no down-'dos, no drop-earrings, and above all, no necklaces.

Had she done any or all of these things, perhaps that Josh Hartnett-cute Vice President for Asset Management she kept eyeing would have talked to her instead of yours truly.