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Upcoming Gala Season Comments and Thoughts by Elinor Coleman


For an important special event such as a gala, your whole person- from head to toe is your look, and therefore unique. Think of this look as a series of questions for you yourself, which when answered, will focus your style, address your comfort zone of dressing, make a specific bold statement using color, texture, accessories.


Basic Outfit Outline- Full length dress (or sparkling top and skirt or wide or beaded pant or tuxedo- tuxedo jacket and pant) usually the fabrics are shimmery to catch the light, strappy and sparkling shoes, purse (usually clutch), fingerless or over the elbow gloves, jewelry including hair ornaments, earrings, bracelet, possible necklace, rings. Then a jacket, wrap, shawl, opera coat for outerwear.

Fur is often worn as a wrap since it is elegant and super warm. If you are uncomfortable with real fur, there are now many faux fur jackets and coats available. Opera coats from the late 1800-1940’s were often velvet, sometimes with stand up collars, or wide collars or hoods, often fur along the collar and down the front. These coats usually had only one button at the throat- nicknamed Gay 90’s, extra large with intricate detail and real gem stones or fake gem stones as decoration.

There is a history for this type of dressing, which comes from the formal presentations and ceremonies of royalty or court attendance. Now you have the opportunity to modify and mix elements but make careful and thoughtful choices to insure your physical comfort and ability to dance and mingle with your escort without a major wardrobe snag.

Plan ahead!!!!!! When going shopping, wear or bring your very best bra, merry widow garment, spanx, underwear, and also carry a sample comfortable pair of shoes  as a guide(heel height is crucial). The overall proportion of the look is related to the height.

If you have not invested in the very best fit of a new bra within a year, now is the time to go undergarment shopping. Shop at a lingerie store which employs specially trained bra fitting specialists.  The cost and final look of your figure will be well worth your investment.

Next thought is that if you often think of wearing strapless gowns or clothing, consider a merry widow undergarment.  The whole garment contains the breast to the hip bones. When the merry widow is put on,  the garment holds your torso uplifted and permits you to literally put  the strapless dress on and in one piece you are secure, no worry about bra straps or extra folds or lines seen through the garment. In addition, the garment supports the back and waist. Less pressure on the shoulders. This garment can be quite sexy to wear and can possibly take some inches off of your usual measurements.

Do a formal run through of your total look in your own home of the whole outfit head to toe a minimum of a month ahead, in advance.!!!!!!!!!!  Many alterations are expensive and take two weeks.

Take the time to try a variety of variations of each outfit look with jewelry included; look in the bathroom or dressing mirror using chandelier lighting or makeup bulb lighting- incandescent lighting!!!!!!!!!!

Dressing for a gala is similar to dressing as a bride- so start with the chosen clothing and all other elements will enhance this choice. Will you wear a dress, beaded bodice or draped non beaded line, beaded top and separate skirt or pant, tuxedo? How daring are you?  Is there a theme for this gala which you might find you must consider- era, style, color? Next how will you create an embellished makeup and hair do? Sparkling is the often chosen direction and romantic look or theme. Remember royalty, so therefore the crystal chandeliers were used in the court and ballroom for enhancing glamour and shimmer since they reflected the color and light of the crystals and diamonds worn by the celebrants.

How will you wear your hair?  Usually updo’s are popular, since photographs and facial framing glamour is your objective, wear minimal or no bangs -the whole face is presented and framed. Crystal, color coordinated sparkling gem stones, pearls,  combs,  pearl hair pins, crystal hair claws, and mei fa’s (hair chop sticks ) – work well to keep the hair do neat and tight and add sparkle to  the hair.  Remember all of these hair ornaments need to be bobby pinned into your hair, pony tail, swirled twist of hair, head band, X crossing of pins,etc. so that they are securely anchored and will not fall out during the evening.

Small crystals can be glued onto the cheek bones near the ear to emphasize the eyes. False eye lash glue is used.

The color, style of clutch purse and strappy shoes balance the clothing or emphasize the overall style with contrasting colors and textures. Please note that most clutches are small in size. The need for a clutch depends upon the need for lipstick, mirror, hankie, $20 bill, house key and a formal picture ID and a cell phone put on silent. A gala event would be a perfect excuse to enjoy the evening and leave the cell phone at home.

Ex.1-  Emerald green taffeta dress, simple bodice, beautiful drapery, 1930-50 look. Navy blue beaded clutch and sandals, aurora borealis crystal earrings and bracelet. Navy blue strappy shoes.

Choose between emerald green earrings or perhaps smokey grey shade for contrast. Grey earrings and jewelry, try grey clutch and grey strappy shoes.

Hollywood style earrings actually emphasize the outline of the ear and go upwards in an arc. This era of earrings emphasizes the length of the neck.

Another alternative is all pearl jewelry-earrings, short length necklace, and bracelet. Pearls now come in many shades and shapes. Pearls have a wonderful complexion enhancement element naturally.  Pearl clutches were very popular in the 1940-60’s and are usually small in size, but can be a fun and an unusual accessory to choose.

To emphasize the  “countenance” or bare breast bone, clavicle and adams apple area, a very short sparkling necklace is suggested. This short necklace length makes the chest and neck beautiful, but also prevents choking and snagging the necklace on your escorts tuxedo shirt buttons or cumberbun!!!!

Possible solution to alter a v-neck necklace or to fix a too revealing neckline, is to (tack up) stitch up the opening and add a crystal pin to the seam. An alternative solution is to use double sided dressing tape. This tape can be purchased at a pharmacy or fabric store; it is not regular scotch tape. If you are generally allergic this is not a safe option and sewing is a safer and more permanent solution.

Ex.2- Red beaded and sequined top with black taffeta skirt or black beaded flair pants Red beaded clutch and red strappy shoes, or black beaded clutch and black strappy shoes. Gold, red crystal cluster earrings and red crystal bracelet. or red and black combination. This look will emphasize the complexion and open neck and countenance. Since the bodice pattern is complex a mid -century modern style would enhance the look.

Special attention to hem lines when purchasing and also when doing the trial run. Walking up or down stairs, dancing and walking with ease are important so that not only you, but your escort does not trip over the hem,  trip you up, cause you to fall or tear your dress. Therefore, when shopping for the outfit, wear a sample height of shoe which you prefer. Then you will in advance know if hem line alteration is necessary. Alterations are expensive and take time so know in advance how to stay within your budget. The look for the gala involves and includes a sense of proportion, so the height of the shoe, the length of the garments and and your overall height alters your look.

Beaded sweaters, shawls, scarves which are long and shimmery or the same fabric of the garment offer sparkling looks as well as keep you warm and glamorous-mysterious. Some dresses have matching shawls. Fur stoles and fur collars can keep you warm and are very elegant with any style of dress. Velvet jackets and opera coats are glamorous and keep you warm. Once again this tradition comes from royalty where the cape or opera coat was often of fur or velvet. Jewelry is of course wonderful and a special way for uniquely embellishing your whole outfit. The color, material, style and number of pieces you choose to wear can be a fun try on session for you and the full length mirror. Aurora Borealis crystals come in all shades, colors and designs and reflect the lighting, achieving several rainbow shades of shimmer- which worn near the face sends a wonderful romantic and beautiful glow to your complexion.

The same outfit will be wildly altered when you try on various pieces of jewelry, and since this is a personal preference, you finally decide which shade, color, and era look enhances your vision.

Please note here that the tradition of  creating and wearing costume jewelry came out of the necessity to appear wearing diamonds, pearls and gem stones but the items of  jewelry were actually copies of royal pieces made by jewelers out of crystals and glass and vermillion. The real jewelry was kept in a safe. Since many people did dance and walk and enjoy the event, the wearer did not want to take a chance that an earring or bracelet would get lost, so copies were made. The writer Guy Maupassant wrote a famous Parisian story about this same subject.

If at this time you imagine that you will actively dance friskily and jet set around to several locations, you may want to re-consider the formality and value of your accessories. A quick summary of possible ideas for jewelry: Beaded and sequined bodice- earrings which are sparkling but close to the ear. Any major length of earring can become entangled in the bodice beading. Choose a color from the bead or sequin range and use one of the colors to guide you to earrings, bracelet, and ring. No necklace since the bodice does not need competition for the viewer.

Draped Shimmery fabric (non beaded nor sequined bodice) – long chandelier earrings, short necklace to enhance the countenance of the bare chest, bracelet. Rings are good, but do not mix well with gloves unless you purchase fingerless gloves.

As was mentioned above, the “countenance” was the bare chest – adam’s apple, clavicle, breast bone neck area above the breasts which the gala style dresses formally emphasized. How else could the royalty show off the elaborate, enormous gem necklaces which still seem to be dripping grape sized stones in various patterns. These necklaces were often 13-16 inches long to drape the crystals or gems on the chest before the bodice neckline began allowing for the stones multi- tiered hanging down with dangles of shimmering wonder. Also this short length framed the face with light and avoided colliding with the escort’s tie, tuxedo shirt buttons and other military medals. This is not supposed to be a fretful evening of strangulation.

A wide selection of 1920 to current day crystal designs are readily available with the 13-16 inch range, for women with wider necks or those  who desire longer lengths try these necklaces on with the dress so you can ascertain if indeed the necklace arranges itself within the chest as you prefer. Short chain or crystal extensions can be fastened on to extend the length, plus there are many 18-22 inch necklaces available. Try on several different shades, colors, metals, styles of earrings and necklaces, and then try to find a bracelet which enhances this look.  Since the wrist is a distance from the face and neck you can mix and match materials as you like. If then there is a theme you have chosen for the jewelry, then the purse follows suit. At this time you have so many choices you can also choose to be eclectic and mix everything up totally. Then if this is your statement then also include the purse/clutch and shoes.

Ex.3-A very elegantly non patterned draped dress without embellishment of neither beads nor sequins can have an amazing punch line with accessories which range from clear to deep crystal color tones, pearls, gold, silver, diamonds and beads. The only guide would be to enhance your complexion with tones which add brilliance and color, as compared to washing away your glow.

A 1950’s beaded cardigan type sweater covered with beads and sequins can become the equivalent to some jewelry, elaborating upon the elegant drapery of the clothing.

Once again pearls inherently are very glowing and enhance the complexion of the wearer. Now there are endless possible shapes, sizes and color hues to pearls, way beyond the original one strand type necklace. Pearls and crystals or diamonds make a great sparkling and enhancing combination for earrings, necklaces and bracelets.

Today’s fun and popular accessories and Forecast for 2012- 2013:

Crystal embellished hair ornaments

Multiple sparkling bracelets, or a sparkling necklace wound around the wrist several times

Beaded, sequined clutch purse- a different shade from the dress or outfit, a contrasting color

Beaded, sequined strappy heel, or a sparkling bracelet wound around the ankle or T-strap of the heel (this may be one ankle only)  Make certain to think of the glittery color of your pedicure to contrast with the shoes.

Large stone sparkling cocktail ring (large stone size with plenty of glitz to emphasize your fingers and manicure).  Make certain to think of the tone of your manicure as compared to the color of the ring.

Small glue on crystals applied to the cheeks and near the outer edge of the eye area near your ear (use false eyelash glue). For those who are allergic, test the glue onto the inner wrist  a month before the event. The eye area is very sensitive, so test this outer eye area again in your advanced trial run event a month before the event.

False eye lashes

Sparkling manicure and pedicure polish, contrasting color to the clothing

Real fur or faux fur collar on jacket or coat, fur stole, fur coat, fur attached to the hem of the outer wrap, opera coat

Velvet opera coat

If the outer coat is indeed a real full length fur coat or jacket, many gala coat rooms will not accept checking them due to loss or mix up in ownership. This is why you must embroider your name into the lining. But be prepared to have to put the coat over a chair and dance nearby with eagle eye focused on the coat at all times.

Small clutch purse-beaded, sequined, crystal embellished, with or without chain for carrying comfort. Many clutches have convertible built in chains which can be flipped open or hidden inside. Do not over pack the clutch purse. Definitely do not abandon nor put down the purse at any time.

Plus, don’t forget the men in your life!  Help them look dapper with vintage accessories.

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