An "Ask Belle" Roundup

Apr 15, 2010

I get a lot of questions for the Ask Belle column, and I try to answer as many of them as I can but some of them don’t provide enough substance for a full post.  So I thought I would take some of these smaller questions and combine them into one post.  Let’s play.

Belle:  

I recently got an invite to an engagement party.  Cocktails and dinner at the Watergate.  The dress was listed as “DC Cocktail”. What could this possibly mean?  

Is “DC Cocktail” an actual thing?  My first guess is business attire with a cocktail flair, but would really appreciate some guidance.  The party is in 2 weeks, any advice you can give (and fast!) would be appreciated! 

Thanks, Mandie

First off, “D.C. Cocktail” is not a real dress code.  Instead, like so many other dress codes (classy casual, Southern business attire, etc.), this guideline was created by an event planner who thought their event was important enough to deserve a special designation.  Frankly, it’s silly.  

The bottom line is that whenever you dress for an event, say a cocktail event, you should take into account location, day and time, anticipated crowd and event type when planning your outfit.  For example, you would not wear the same attire to a cocktail event held outdoors during a horse race in May as you would to a wedding held at a posh hotel in December.  There is plenty of flexibility within the existing attire recommendations that we don’t need to create dozens of new categories because the event planner wants everyone dressing to suit their vision.

That being said, this guideline could be interpreted a couple of ways. 1) If this is an event hosted by a preppy group of folks, this could mean that the men will be in critter pants and navy blazers and the ladies in Lilly Pulitzer.  2) If this event is being hosted during the week, it could mean that the men will be in business attire but the women will be expected to wear cocktail dresses.  3) It could simply be trying to guide you toward a slightly more casual cocktail attire with less black.  But like I said, this isn’t a firm guideline.  The event planner has an idea in their head of how everyone attending the event should look, and they wrote a new descriptor to match that vision.

Belle,

I need your help!  I’m totally inept when it comes to putting outfits together and accessorizing, and I just bought this dress for Gold Cup and I want to dress it up and make it look a little more fun.  Any suggestions for a belt (?), shoes, hat, jewelry, etc?  I’m really afraid of looking boring (as usual), or worse – little girl-ish!

Thanks! Amanda

Next week, CHS will be doing several posts on Gold Cup fashions.  As a precursor, let me say this: Sweetheart, “girl-ish” is the whole point of Gold Cup.  So, embrace it.  

As for shoes and accessories, because the print is so vibrant, you should try to keep everything else more muted.  I would try a taupe-colored low-wedge so that you will be able to walk on the grass.  I would also wear neutral colored jewelry and a wide-brimmed straw hat.  If you want to add a bit more color, find a color in the print that you like (green, purple, etc.) and choose a clutch in that color.

Hi Belle, 

I know you typically write about work-appropriate attire, but I wanted to see if you had any strong opinions regarding the boyfriend jean trend. I’ve read about your hatred toward capri pants and your dislike of unnecessarily-distressed items; since boyfriend jeans are usually worn rolled up and torn up, I doubt you will have much positive to say about them. I have decided I kind of love them though, and I wanted to see if you approved of this trend at all if they are worn in strictly-casual situations, paired with a top (and maybe blazer?) that would contrast their dressed-down feel, and with heels to counteract the stump-ifying effects of the rolled cuffs?

Thanks! Rachel

While I usually focus on professional fashions, my sometime co-writer and close friend Miss M covered boyfriend jeans last year in her column The Floor Report.  She provided lots of excellent information on how to wear boyfriend jeans and what to wear them with to avoid looking like a middle-aged soccer mom.  Also, I don’t think you need high heels just a cute sandal or a kitten heel should do just fine.  

If you need a few more tips, check out this article from College Fashion.

“Ask Belle” is Capitol Hill Style’s advice column.  If you have a question for Belle or her male-fashion counterpart “Ask Beau,” please send an e-mail to capitolhillstyle (at) gmail (dot) com.

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