I am in the one month countdown to a 'black tie' event - the 'Hidden Gems' photography auction at the new St Pancras Renaissance hotel - and it fills me with buckets of icy cold dread. I literally shiver at the thought.
I am neither skinny, nor rich. These are both problems in the pursuit of appropriate 'black tie' attire. Not to mention the fact that I live in leggings (nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is more comfortable or practical) and move between my affectionately named 'dyke boots' (flat military lace ups) and my appropriately named 'whore boots' (huge great stonking platform zip ups) depending on day or night or indeed, road surfaces. All of the above are exclusively worn in black.
Well that's good then, right? I've got 50% of this 'black tie' thing down. Or have I? No, it would far too simple in the world of fashion etiquette to make the title of the dress code literal. Plus, you wouldn't see me dead in a black tie, (actually, I did once wear one, but I was 14 and going through an angsty stage in and around Camden with a boy who took me to see Cradle of Filth when I was more of an Aqua's 'Barbie Girl' at heart...but I digress) because a black tie suggests a suit, and the only women that can wear suits and look good are high-earning City gals, models and celebrities.
Black tie is at its heart, a dress code. But for many people, men and woman alike, 'black tie' is a perjorative term. One that conjures up images of awkward evening events and posh social functions. The kind of occasions where you get chatted up by a pervy old rich man with a bulbous red nose whilst desperately seeking another trout mousse canape (who knows when you'll get morsels so tasty again!)
For a man, the main component is a black suit or tuxedo. And of course, dress shoes. Quite simple actually, don't know what they're complaining about. Women's dress, however, is a bit more tricky. There are no hard and fast rules. Cocktail dresses can be acceptable, as can full length gowns. But the difference between a cocktail dress and a full length gown is more than just a length of fabric. A cocktail dress is fun and flirty, but the ones you own are probably too short and the ones you can afford are probably crap. The length is one thing, but the label is another. Don't even try and walk into a black tie event wearing Dorothy Perkins. They'd spot you a mile off from the fabric alone.
And if you go full length, you can forget about public transport. To go out, and always at a typically early hour (because 'black tie' somehow always also means 'dinner') wearing your silkiest finery, feels as unnatural as dancing a salsa naked, on the tube.
In a gown, I feel too dressed up and inevitably, in the flourescent strip lights of the underground, I will catch a glimpse of my (sweaty with nerves) face and think, "Argh! Drag Queen", resulting in a bout of self consciousness that will ruin not only my evening, but my entire week.
'Black tie' = Black Cab.
There are approximately two occasions in a normal girl's life when she will ever be expected to wear full length. One is at her wedding - and on that day, she's the princess of the world and full length or not she feels fabulous - and the other is a 'black tie' event. But a wedding gown doesn't work on multiple occasions and a maxi (like that floral one you wear in the summer) won't cut it, so unless you're with Addison Lee and own a pashmina, forget the full length thing. You'll only go out and buy one (it will be expensive, if it's not, you will think you look cheap) and you will only ever wear it on that one night, for a few short hours, all the while feeling uncomfortable because you've got on some seriously tight spanks and you aren't used to stilettos.
Let's not even get started on shoes at a 'black tie' event. The idea is to be elegant...Ladylike. So to be teetering along like an elephant walking on knitting needles is NOT a good look. And 'whore boots' are definitely not on the guest list at a 'black tie' event.
Basically, as soon as you read 'black tie' on an invite, you're simultaneously excited and ultimately, screwed. With only four weeks to go and the promise of a night of heady decadence ('black tie' means free champagne, it's one of the perks), it's break the bank time. It's YouTube tutorial a new hair style time. And it's most certainly upper lip threading time. Because regardless of whether I'm thin, or rich, or famous with a stylist to call in bags of designer garb and tell me how to dress, I'm going to look gorgeous.
When it comes down to it, I hate almost everything I ever see dress-wise. I probably buy two a year, max, and these aren't even evening dresses. So unless I strike gold on a strenuous afternoon of internet shopping this weekend, I'll probably just make something myself. Lucky for me, my mum can sew and I have a strong opinion on what style suits me. I'm thinking black. I'm thinking an almost-floor length shirt dress, with buttons up the front that are undone from the thigh. Black tights (essential) and hey, I might even try and sneak in some 'slut shoes,' (patent and slightly smaller shoe cousins to my 'whore boots').
Oh, and if I get stuck on the dress, I'll make sure that i'm wearing the best damn lingerie in the room.
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