27 February 2008

I'm gonna have to borrow that

It was seven years ago this past Sunday when a then more Angelina Angelina Jolie snubbed Oscar's evening gown tradition and stole one of the night's top style slots with her unexpected white Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo and slicked back chignon.

Now, I don't much remember the acrylic French tips or Uncle Eddie slip-ons, but I choose to chalk those egads up to a combination of just having left the '90s and Miss Thing probably kicking off her heels in the limo during her and Billy Bob's "good luck" ritual only to accidentally grab his albino eelskin kicks by mistake on her way out.

But anyway, back to that unorthodox red carpet selection we were discussing...

I loved it then, I love it now, and I really love that at an Oscar after-party this year, Sharon Stone took a day off from torturing the people at PETA (rat paw brooches don't count, right?) to honor a look we see far too infrequently on the red carpet.

As I've professed too many times to link you to, whether it be January or June, Tuesday afternoon or Saturday night, with my parents in Michigan or out with my ladies in the District, I am a skirt and dress only kinda girl. Aside from the three pairs of jeans in red, black and blue hanging neatly in the back of my closet that are liberated really only when the dry-cleaning schedule and my wardrobe rotation hit an unforeseen snag, the only two-legged items in my non-workout wardrobe are the many, many pairs of opaque tights clogging the top three drawers of my poor, dickered dresser.

You'll share in my surprise, then, when I discovered that the singular trend, color, collection, piece or person that has most influenced me this past month was none other than the dramatic dress trouser (DDT).

To be honest, the reason why I spent the majority of my shopping time in New York two weekends ago fruitlessly trying on pair after pair of high-waisted black tuxedo trousers is more rooted in my being attracted to the drama a DDT entrance offers its wearer than anything else.

I know, I know, many of you are probably reading this and thinking, "Wow, dress pants. That's exciting," but believe me when I tell you how rare it is to find a woman, celebrity or otherwise, who is willing to go this route in a formal situation. Rarer still is to find one who does so and executes it well. Designers and boutique owners recognize this reticence among women and design and stock accordingly each season. I didn't draw up metrics on this, but I'm confident in asserting that after clicking through nearly every designer's most recent RTW collection and squinting through every "Look of the Day" thumbnail from InStyle from today back through last July, there is at most one pair of black-tie worthy dress trousers for every 15-20 similarly formal gowns.

These odds don't mean, however, any woman wearing any ol' pair of black pants at a formal event is destined to make it into the ranks of the best-dressed simply by virtue of her having taken a risk. In fact, in my opinion, it is much more difficult to assemble a great outfit of this sort than it is to choose a great dress. With the former, one has to worry about the blouse and/or jacket, the super tall heel (don't even think about wearing flats here) and choosing an equally dramatic hair and makeup palette around which the final product will be tied. With a dress, really what it comes down to for most women is (1) is it pretty? (2) is it comfortable? and (3) will it make me look thinner?

After summoning the courage to set the skirt aside at the next social function on your calendar, the first challenge is to find the right pair of DDTs, a task I now know is a whole lot easier in theory than it is in practice. If you're an online shopper like I almost exclusively am, the process becomes frustrating fast. Typical mid-priced dress trouser haunts like J. Crew, Banana Republic and Club Monaco are much more often misses than hits because nothing in their inventories qualifies as anything dressier than office-wear. Your best bet to find the cuts and fabrics meant for fancy evenings out are in boutiques, department stores and high-end vintage stores. If money were no object, I'd shoo you over to Relish in Cady's Alley or Nordstrom in Tysons Galleria.

In my current recuperative state, I don't foresee any opportunity in the near future to debut the dress trousers of my (adjusted for financial situation) dreams, which is probably a good thing, considering I haven't cut enough budget corners in the past two months to appropriate them.

In the meantime, if I might tempt some of you into ditching the cocktail dress you planned to wear to your next best friend's wedding for something a bit more unconventional...

Oscar de la Renta RTW
Fall 2008
Barbara Tfank RTW
Spring 2008
Bill Blass RTW
Spring 2008

Givenchy Haute Couture
Spring 2008
Charlize Theron
Hedi Slimane for Dior Homme


The Princess & The Pea said...

When you get around to rocking these, can you please post pictures so that we can see what you ended up doing with them?? (i.e. top, heels, makeup, etc.) Let me be the first to say that I am really excited about this choice. A bit surprised but excited. Hope you're feeling better!!

Susanna said...

Found your blog via DC Goodwill and I'm really enjoying it.

I'm also a skirt-and-dress kinda girl, but I do have one pair of black dress pants that I love. They're from DKNY and they're a sort of grosgrain fabric. They're straight-legged, medium rise, with slit pockets and they are the perfect thing to wear to events where I want to look nice but not overdressed.

brown rowergirl said...

I think the 103 degree fever flipped J's Tilda switch! Can't wait to see this look next time you're in the city.

keri lee said...

It's so funny to look back at Angelina's outfit and notice those elements that aren't quite as nice as we thought they were. She still looked hot and rocked the DDT well but those shoes are really unforgivable.

so glad you're feeling better!!!

etcetera said...

bravo! i love women's tuxedo pants! glad to see that your fever-induced coma led to this lovely contribution.

call me traditional said...

I prefer to leave the pants to men at formal events thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

Is it a coincidence you always choose trends that only tall super thin women can pull off?

Catherine said...

I love the Bill Blass look.

I think you're spot on when you note that the dress trouser wearer must also consider the relative drama of her hair/makeup/accessories/proportions. A great dress can usually stand by itself even if it could be *enhanced* with great accessories and makeup. Pants, not so much. Dressy slacks + shirt of the wrong proportions = fug.

jersey girl said...

"Uncle Eddie slip-ons"

girl, this is why I love you.

Anonymous said...

first, thank goodness you're feeling better and back to posting!

second, i'm also really pleasantly surprised by this post! i don't know that i would ever wear this look to a wedding or a black tie event, but you've definitely planted a seed. maybe after i master the 4 inch heel and drop a good 5-10, i'll grow the figurative cajones to do it.

third, don't relapse!


N said...

I love the idea of dress trousers. I don't think it's a coincidence that many of the looks you chose have neck-eating ruffles on top.

Glad you're feeling better.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on feeling better. Going to weigh in with my own personal two cents, which is this: Personally, this blog has gone a looooong way towards breaking me out of formal trousers and into skirts/dresses (for formal and informal). So, 1) my boyfriend and I thank you on that front (oh, and also for providing the peer pressure I needed to wear 3 inch up heels) and 2) It's a bit weird to see you recommending trousers over skirts/dresses, but I'm definitely all about being able to wear all three. So good for you!

olivia said...

I don't think this is at all a move away from anything dressy or feminine. I think J is encouraging women not to rely so heavily on a frilly dress or showing cleavage to be feminine but instead channel those wiles through more subtle means with an attitude. I love this, and I too am going to have to borrow it next time I have a fancy event!

Alexandra said...

I've been experimenting with pants at formal events for the past year or so with some successes along the way. I do have a pair of satin-y, very thin cut black trousers that look fabulous with very high heels and statement-making tops for evening wear. Love them!...and wear them maybe a bit too much (i.e. literally at every single one of the holiday parties I attended in December) with different tops,shoes, accesories of course.

from a guy's perspective said...

nothing sexier

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you've already seen this, but the Sartorialist exhibit is coming to DC! Can't wait.

blackpencilskirt said...

I agree about the figure-related comments here. It really does seem to be a look suited for the slimmer set. However, Jo once posted Katherine Heigl (not anorexic but certainly not overly curvy!) wearing a white pants suit and she looked amazing.

It really does depend on the woman, not just the dress size I suppose.

Anonymous said...

The last outfit (on charlize theron) is actually Dior Homme by Hedi Slimane.

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