A Formal Dinner Outfit: Ladylike Glamour Lends a Sexy Sophistication

by - Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Prologue: A Formal Dinner Dress is Not Equivalent to a Bridesmaid's Gown

A dress meant to wear to a formal dinner -- there's going to be more than two forks at your setting -- need not resemble a bridesmaid's gown or one of the season's prom dresses. In fact, your outfit need not be a dress at all, but could consist of a chic pantsuit with softened touches for the evening's soiree. Where this fashion misimpression first raised its ugly head or why it continues to persist is beyond me. Perhaps it arose from the temporary revolt of grunge when formal dress was the appropriate choice. A sadder explanation is that people aren't attending special dinners out as often and look to Jennifer Lopez's dresses meant for clubbing in celebrity magazines as the look they need to copy. Let's lose these two utterly wrong misinterpretations once and for all: neither a prom dress nor a 2 AM-arrival clubbing dress is an appropriate choice to wear for a formal dinner.

To Those of You Who Have Already Protested, "But Wait, But..."

I've heard it before and can anticipate your responses. First, I'll concede that you've seen an awful lot of those prom-like dresses at fancy restaurants. I'm not psychic, but I'll wager that you noted all these gowns in the spring sitting across the table from a young man in a tuxedo. These are high school children dressed for prom who attend a fancy dinner before the dance in order to lend some semblance of culture to their revelry. In other words, they are dressed for the prom, not for the dinner, and I can't help that you have confused correlation with causation.

An Outfit of Ladylike Glamour

The lacey pieces have adopted a wonderful intermittent metallic glitter and smart designers have added sewn-in silk slips so that all appropriate parts of covered. These dresses usually hang above the knee or a few inches below the knee and I find the longer dress more sophisticated and less likely to be confused with party attire. The texture, color and cut of the dress are what make the outfit. Although hugely popular, wedge heels are too "clunky" for such a dress that seems peek-a-boo, but isn’t. Instead, I'd suggest either Gucci's black and gold sandals from the spring collection or a pair of the very high and very minimal "pumps" of late.

Accessorizing This Outfit

Again, the main focus is on the cut and texture of the dress. Most have high necklines to emphasize the "ladylike" aspect of the lace over skin. A deep neckline or a too short cut on this type of fabric overwhelms the subtle sexiness possible with the right dress. Thus, you need not worry about a necklace. Anything that interferes with the smooth transition of neck to dress is just unnecessary distraction. Bracelets -- even very thin ones -- are iffy and may again compete with the dress for attention. A gold-colored chandelier bracelet ring chain might be just the answer: A ring is connected to one wrist bracelet with a small, understated fishnet braid that lies lightly on the top of the hand. Forgo dangling or hoop earrings for simple gold studs with a slightly metallic finish to add a hint of sparkle above the dress.


Sometimes, less is more. This outfit is eye-catching, yet sophisticated; ladylike, yet sexy. Bon appétit!

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