Last week was Paris Fall 2014 Couture and I’ve been consistently floating off to fashion heaven at the jaw-dropping and glamourous gowns shown on the runway. As they are still ingrained in my fashion-psyche, I thought it’s the perfect time to provide CharityDOs’ readers with some style advice and tips on how to choose that perfect dress to wear to one of the many charity balls and galas advertised on the CharityDOs website.
A ball, gala or black-tie event is the perfect occasion for you to have your ‘Cinderella moment’ and wear a beautiful ground-sweeping gown, fairy-tale shoes, dazzling jewels and glamourous hair and makeup. It’s the time for you to sparkle and be red-carpet worthy just like your favourite celebrity.
Whether you’re attending the Hear and Say Annual Thiess Fundraising Ball in Brisbane, the Ronald McDonald House Charity Ball in Melbourne or the Christmas in July Black Tie Fundraiser in Geraldton, Western Australia, by following a few hard and fast style rules you can be as dazzling and glamourous as the celebrities who walk the Oscars red carpet.
Comfort and Fit
What’s the most important style-rule in choosing a gown for your gala event? Comfort – absolutely, unequivocally, non-negotiable. If you’re starting point for your gown is not comfort and ease-of-wear then hang up your frock and sit this one out. Your gown should be an extension of your daily personal style and right for your body, shape and age. It’s not about choosing the most outlandish, extravagant, un-wearable gown – it’s about choosing a fit and style that works for you because what’s the point of wearing something that might look great but is uncomfortable and almost impossible to wear?
This is not to say you can’t add a little ‘make-believe’ glamour to your black-tie style, just start from a point of fit and comfort and you’re not just going to LOOK like a princess you’re going to FEEL like one.
Elegant and shapely is the optimal style to choose for your ball gown – garish, over-the-top and showing WAY too much skin (anywhere on the body) banishes you straight to style-exile never to return. If you’re young with a body like Rosie Huntington-Whitely, then show off your curves with a body-skimming sheath style and if you’re not then highlight your good points and hide the rest.
Some general style rules for various body shapes include an A-line or full-skirted gown to conceal bigger hips and thighs with a fitted bodice to balance out proportion. Empire lines are generally good to hide tummy areas and for those with a smaller bust. If you’re shapely you could choose a mermaid style that is fitted and flares out at the knees. If you have a beautiful décolletage, show off your assets with a strapless gown.
Fabric and Colour
So very important. Shiny, stiff or cheap fabric is your worst enemy and will highlight every lump, bump and flaw and will not encourage the paparazzi to photograph your journey down the red carpet. Sumptuous and quality silks, chiffons and velvets (for cooler months) are the best and most elegant options.
Don’t overdo the sparkle with over-done embellishments or sequins which will only scream ‘Liberace’ rather than Naomi and avoid too much fabric, i.e. a huge-skirted gown will make you look like a bad version of Scarlett O’Hara. The colour of your gown should be flattering to your skin tone and age and for ladies over 40, avoid harsh, bright colours or trend-driven patterns. Often a soft pastel shade is a flattering option.
Beware overkill and apply the KISS rule to accessories.
If your dress is highly embellished, keep accessories elegant and minimal and opt for a ‘style duo’, e.g. earrings and a cocktail ring. Gowns that are simpler in style can be paired with statement-style accessories such as chandelier earrings and a jeweled cuff or crystal bangles. If you’re feeling a little bling-heavy, perhaps try Coco Chanel’s rule – take one piece off before you go.
Shoes and Bags
Gala events call for Cinderella-style shoes so add a little sparkle and embellishment, using the KISS rule of course. Elegant and classic styles such as sexy strappy sandals (think Jimmy Choo), elegant peep-toes or sling-backs with stiletto heels work best. If sparkly is not for you, tone your shoe with your frock or go for nude to complement rather than detract. Under no circumstance does one wear chunky or closed-in shoes, boots or summer-inspired wedges!
There is only one bag to choose to complement your ball gown and that is an elegant hand-held clutch. Whether the finish is embellished, metallic or unadorned, this is the only option.
There is a fine line between glamour and overdone when it comes to hair and makeup.
For hair, choose elegant and softer looks such as a tousled up-do or natural wavy tresses. Always! If you do want to try a more elaborate up-do, then please leave it in the hands of a professional and book yourself into your hairdresser.
Your choice of makeup is dependent upon age and skin tone however a well-blended smoky eye and soft blush is a fabulous choice. A common error is to pile on heavy foundation which is instantly aging and unflattering. A dewy, natural finish will always enhance and flatter your look.
Finish off gala beauty routine with a natural sun-kissed glow – provided by favourite tanning salon of course.
Red carpet perfection!
Finally, look to the runway or red carpet for style inspiration when choosing your ball gown. Celebrities such as Rosie, Kate, Naomi, Julianne and Helen consistently tick all the right style-boxes and deliver red-carpet looks in an age-appropriate and uber-stylish way.
With the advent of hyper-styling and an almost ‘anything goes’ attitude towards fashion, a few occasions remain where certain style edicts still apply, one being the high tea.
High teas conjure images of flowers, frocks and femininity and your look must accompany the occasion and your surrounds and above all choose a style that says ‘elegant chic’.
A high tea provides you with the perfect opportunity to bring on 'the pretty' and the ultimate style accoutrement to champagne and delicate nibbles is a gorgeous frock in a pretty and feminine style. No other outfit fits the occasion more appropriately and if you choose a ladylike frock with a nipped-in waist, a fitted ‘pencil’ or flowing skirt, delicate neckline and pretty sleeve, you may enter Best Dressed with confidence.
Soft fabrics of silk, chiffon and lace are best as are beautiful brocades and polished cottons in floral or delicate graphic patterns or pretty pastel hues. For a little extra chic you may wish to add a few subtle embellishments such as sequins (but beware overkill).
If a 2-piece ensemble is more your style, then apply all the style rules above to your top and skirt and you will be sitting perfectly pretty whilst sipping your Perrier-Jouet.
Pants are also suitable option but strict rules apply, i.e. soft tailoring in fabrics that flow in wider leg or 'palazzo' styles.
Vintage-fashion is also a popular style for high-teas (think Mad Men) in full-skirted 50's style frocks or figure-hugging “Lana Turner-esque’ styles. Complete the vintage-look with a string of pearls, dainty gloves and a pretty hat.
High-tea accessories should be elegant; 'delicate' jewellery such as pearls, crystals or fine silver or gold and please leave all chunky, ethnic or boho styles at home. A hand-held clutch or small envelope-style bag in metallic or embellished finishes add a pretty statement.
For winter high-teas a classic pump is the perfect piece de resistance or for summer soirees opt for an elegant sandal.
Beauty rules for high teas are strict; aim for radiance with soft contouring and subtle illumination in soft shades such as nude, pink and apricot. Finish off high-tea beauty with soft red lips and lots of fluttery lashes. Avoid overdone makeup and save the glitter and winged eyes for Friday night clubbing.
Hairstyles should be elegant and groomed; a lovely chignon, Veronica Lake waves, or a fashionable pony-tail are perfect choices.
So what are the fashion faux pas for high teas? Sharp tailoring, mini skirts, garish satin and too much skin.
Two lovely handbags - just above a white handbag and above right a cream handbag.
Which one to choose?
It depends on your outfit....
See more Handbags on CharityDOs PINTEREST
The handbag above looks more dressy and better matched with an evening or cocktail dress. The first handbag may be better with a day dress, such as the racing dress above.
However, both handbags need a closer look for me to decide!
What do you think?
See more Handbags on CharityDOs PINTEREST
Years ago I had a gold satin evening gown - so this J. Mendel gown (Neiman Marcus Website) caught my eye.
It's colour and shape are divine! Simply elegant with fine gold jewellery, handbag and shoes - nothing too chunky.
A lovely fluffy evening stole? Although, understated often looks more elegant.
However, this colour will not suit everyone. It does looks good on the blond model.
Would you wear this evening gown? See more Evening Gowns on CharityDOs PINTEREST
The I saw this black fascinator on the David Jones Website. I like it with some dresses above.
I need both the red and black fascinators, but also need a cream and a white fascinator...to have a choice
Do you prefer hats or fascinators?
See more Hats and Fascinators on CharityDOs PINTEREST
These snazzy shoes caught my eye on the Neiman Marcus Website. I thought... I could wear those ritzy shoes with so many outfits.
They do look a bit Gold Coast, but would probably go anywhere. Not that the Gold Coast has dibs on ritzy and elegant fashions.
I could wear them with a long gown or short cocktail dress. These shoes would do wonders for a ball, party, dinner or cocktail Do outfit.
See more Women's Shoes on CharityDOs PINTEREST