New York Street Style – Eating Out Like A Local

New York Street Style - Dinner Out

What to wear to dinner in Manhattan? Do you worry? I might worry, a bit. New York is the center of fashion, after all, its citizens’ documented frequently in the Sartorialist, the New York Times, the New York Social Diary, and the like. All New Yorkers are stylish. Right?

Not so much. Locals most often show up at restaurants dressed in exactly what they wore to work that morning. Who has the time to go home to change, or the will to leave home again once ensconced? Oh, the social crowd, they dress up of course. And the art crowd perhaps, although they’d never admit it. But one can argue, quite reasonably, that presenting a certain visual affect is a job for the social and the artistic. That they also simply eat out in what they wear to work.

On my recent trip to Manhattan, dressing for dinner in Koreatown with Lauren and Amanda, I channeled the locals. No dummies, those New Yorkers. The approach offered all kinds of perquisites.

  • Foot comfort. I walked 20 blocks from Midtown without a twinge of distress.
  • Badass-ness. Boots always make me feel tough, even when said boots are DKNY from the last decade when ankle boots were fashionable. Yes, it has happened in living memory.
  • The timeless classic thing. I own a black cashmere coat purchased at Saks Fifth Avenue in 1980. Relined about 2 years ago, it’s perhaps the best expensive piece of clothing I ever bought.
  • Hipster twinkle. The Claudia Kossano earrings save me from pearls.
  • Local color. Or lack thereof. Unless gray is a color, which perhaps, compared to black, it is.
  • Lazy woman’s instant style. Otherwise known as Medieval Queen’s red sheer lipstick.
  • Distinct comfort of soul. I was stylish enough for the 4.5 seconds any passerby might see me, and unfettered enough to focus most of my capabilities on listening to and enjoying the extremely gifted and stylish young women with whom I was meeting.

And, may I say, the tofu was delicious.

But what if your dinner out absolutely requires fancy? What then? Time for our friend, the Little Black Dress?

I vote no. Here’s why. Little Black Dresses, for mysterious reasons, blow up a room. In photos of events women in black dresses might look like wallpaper, but in real life each woman is radiating Fancy. Fancy up over the Restaurant setting on the Fancy dial. Hence, Little Black Dresses work very well for events, their impact dispersed by the venue. Also for romantic dinner dates. Small audience, targeted effect. For group dinners at restaurants, I’d try something else. Unless of course your little black dress is worn ironically, with combat boots. Or made from sweatie material and covered in irregular ruffles. But that’s the territory of Artsy Cousins and I must leave it to the experts.

So then, what?

Prada Dress, L'Absinthe, Manhattan. Louboutins

As you can see, I suggest a dress, in a print. And if that dress allows for twirling, all the better.

The night following dinner in Koreatown, I ate with Reggie and Boy Fenwick, of Reggie Darling, ADG of Maxminimus, and my daughter of, well, me. At a restaurant on the Upper East Side called L’Absinthe (warning, the link plays music, albeit music in which the word Paris is said repeatedly), where Reggie and Boy Fenwick are regulars. It’s great to be a regular. We had a wonderful time. And the Prada dress above was exactly what I wanted to be wearing.

The photos require a brief deconstruction, if I can prevail upon you yet again.

  • My associated peanut cardigan, bought to go with, is missing. I walked from my hotel, fast, in a coat, scarf, sweater, and Louboutins. Worked up a bit of a sweat, and Sturdy Gals take their sweaters off when they get overheated. Even cashmere cardigans.
  • All photo credit here goes to Boy Fenwick. ADG did produce a few of his trademake fuzzy works of art, but somehow I don’t have the technical expertise to reproduce them. Just trust me, they were good. And fuzzy.
  • Like many of us, I get nervous about my captured image. Hence the initial smirk.
  • Good company provoked laughter. Wiping said initial smirk off my face. You try keeping a straight face in that crowd.
  • Which was a good thing, as somehow laughing also caused me to put my other foot down and show you that I am not a human flamingo.

The capacity to laugh at oneself, even in fancy dress, takes one through any social situation. Even in Manhattan.

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  • Technical difficulties finally resolved. Thank you all for your patience.

  • you look lovely in the prada dress! i too find that black is always the best option when visiting new york. i just feel out of place otherwise.

  • Lovely lovely! xo

  • So. . . assuming it was a weekday, and you had a corporate job in NY, would you have worn the Prada +/- the Louboutins to work, changed before going out, or worn a suit/corporate outfit to dinner? This is where I get stuck. I usually go out in whatever I wore to work, but at times I have the feeling I could step it up a bit. Also does it matter whether one is dining with colleagues vs. social friends?

  • I’m clicking the photo up as big as this computer will permit, and I’m looking everywhere for a Sturdy Gal but all I see on my screen is a Femme Fatale in a drop dead dress. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that person in the dress was Candice Bergen from the Louis Malle era. Do you get a lot of comparison remarks to CB? I would kill for that coat.

  • I can only imagine how fun that evening was. Love the dress!

  • Are the photos not working for anyone else?

  • Miss Mindless – Thank you. I try for color but it’s a stretch.

    Cecilia – Thank you, thank you!

    DocP – I’m going to either answer you in a follow up post or else put your question on Ask LPC. It’s too good for just a comment response.

    Flo – Thank you. But I promise you, it’s only in the last few years that I could lay an odd sort of delayed claim to Fatale anything. I was always the one chosen for upper body strength, capacity to endure, and general willingness for the slog. Never before because I was shiny or glamorous in any way. In fact, someone once told me they chose me because I was “sturdy.” That’s where the category came from, in my mind, originally.

    Kathy – Thank you. Wild fun!

    Arachna – Can you try again? I am still hoping WordPress has resolved its issues. Thank you.

  • OMG! Any dinner with ADG involved is bound to both a smirk-fest and a laugh a minute! He’s just hilarious, but needs to get a better camera… or stop shaking.

    It does look like a great evening with you dressed so beautifully.

  • What a lovely surprise! People must mistake you for your daughters older sister!

  • Elegance personified in that dress Miss LPC, and obviously in anything else you sport. What a great choice, much better than a LBD. But the cardigan is MIA? Boo, we want you to grab another one if it doesn’t turn up.

    *Love* the post. :)

  • I stopped reading after “saved me from pearls”. And I am glad you had a wonderful time.

  • i should also add – thanks for the discussion of why the LBD isn’t right for this sort of dinner. That has been my sense, but I didn’t understand why it wouldn’t work well.

  • You look great Lisa!
    Where is the peanut cardi? I hope that it turns up…

  • @DocP: it is perhaps of note that i met lisa and amanda in (wait for it) an LBD. an LBD i’d worn from my corporate job, even.

  • Pigtown – That he is. And Reggie’s no slacker either. It was all fairly uproarious. Thank you for the kind words about my dress. It’s not something I do very often.

    TPP – Thank you so much. The cardigan is OK, do not fear, I had only put it on the back of my chair…

    Duchesse – You’re kidding, right? That’s of the dry Duchesse wit? Because you know I save myself from pearls only now and then. The combination of Akoya 8MM studs with diamond accent, or even the Mabe, would have been just too UES for me, given the black cashmere coat.

    DocP – It’s only a certain kind of LBD that this applies to – not the sort one wears to work.

    Hostess – Thank you. The cardi is safe in my drawer.

    Lauren – Yours was the Artsiest LBD I’ve even been close to. Also ironic. Precisely the type of dress that’s exempt from this warning. Also you knew that and my earnestness is showing, right?

  • Okay, I promise I am not making this up, but when I saw the photos of you in “the dress,” my first thought was “Oh, that must be Lisa’s daughter.” You look terrific, congratulations!

  • but i love it when your earnestness shows! the prada really is lovely, incidentally – you’re a devastating triptych up there.

  • Your self-deprecation will no longer be taken seriously, lady. You are a knockout.

  • There are black dresses and then there are LBD’s. The LBD’s I see on twenty-somethings on a hot date at the bar in our upscale restaurants just doesn’t seem right to me for a group dinner with friends or colleagues. The desk to dinner black dress seems like a fine choice. No offense meant to anyone or their black dresses! Black doesn’t generally work well for me, so personally, it isn’t a great option. Anytime I wear it near my face, people start asking if I feel OK.

  • Me too! I swear I thought it was your daughter or a model. Love love LOVE the dress.

  • I LOVED this post!

  • You in that dress—perfection!!! LOVE it. Hope you had a fantastic time!

  • Mkay, you’re stunning and ladylike and chic in that dress, but the real zinger is:

    YOU HAD DINNER WITH ‘MANDA?! I know it’s uncouth to admit it, but I am utterly jealous. JEALOUS. Did your table radiate with witty banter? Did you gals light up the Manhattan night? I’m sure. Yes. xo.

  • Dearest LPC:
    Dining with you and your divine daughter (and ADG, too) that evening at L’Absinthe was a delight, made all the more pleasurable by your marvelous and elegant equippage, which was a delight to behold. The Prada dress was absolutely gorgeous, and you were the personification of beauty that evening. Perfection, really. And by that Reggie means the following: the dress (and the rest of your kit) was more than attractive, it WASN’T black (thank goodness), it was ladylike in the best sense of the word, and it made the rest of us look and feel better by having the privilege (pun intended) of association, since you were sitting with us. Reggie felt mighty swell to be in your company that evening!
    Thanks, Reggie

  • Oh I love that dress, it’s one of my favourites of the season, you look so beautiful.

  • Love both the Koreatown outfit and the Prada dress – although very very dark on my computer (just love Prada – fell in love with a spectacular coat/dress outfit at BG recently). Dinner sounds most definitely fun – and how was l’Absinthe – have been wanted to go.

  • TDF! Also, this is why you fork a little more over than you’d care to for quality pieces and take care of them- how much fun was it to pull out the 1980’s jacket and still look supremely chic!



  • Well. If I ever find myself dining in Manhattan *snort* I’ll know where to come for advice on what to wear.

    You wouldn’t want to speak to the spouse about the possibility of dining in Manhattan, would you?

  • “I was always the one chosen for upper body strength”

    They were talking about your Brain, girl. Oh, for such strength…

  • Why is that going to dinner in NYC is so “loaded?” I’m from Dallas–another fashion mecca, and I don’t give a thought to dinner out in LA, Miami, Dallas but NYC–it’s the mothership. I love it.

  • I cleaned my bathroom for ADG and he blew me off. Never again. Love the new site. Amazingly well done.

  • Don’t you love the plastic food in Koreatown?

    That dress comes alive on you, missy! You should have it made in all different materials, so you can wear it all the time!

    I am jealous of your dining companions.

  • You look amazing and wonderfully feminine.

    (and should have slugged whoever “..chose you years ago because you were sturdy”- nonsense)

  • I’m mystified by everyone selling, buying, and wearing sleeveless dresses at this time of year. It’s cold in New York. It’s even cold down here in DC. And it’s going to get a lot colder. I’m cold even when I wear a little jacketish thing over the sleeveless dress. I want dresses with sleeves, which of course look terribly suburban and unchic. So be it. Rubbing the upper arms constantly and turning greyish-blue with cold is unchic too.

  • this is just cute, ok?

  • You look absolutely stunning in that dress.
    YOu must have had so much fun with Reggie, Boy, ADG and your daughter.

  • Ooo, you look gorgeous Lisa! So glad you had fun.:)


  • Wanted to thank you for your recommendation this past summer of the Medieval Queen’s Red Sheer Lipstick. I LOVE IT and have been wearing it ever since my own tube arrived shortly thereafter. I am now smitten with Poppy’s offerings and also have Sinner in Rouge (which is great if you need a long wearing option) and Jean Queen for my casual days.

  • Town and Country – Dim lighting is a very good invention:).

    lauren – Good think you like earnest or you and I would have to give up a very promising friendship because I have no weapons against my own.

    Julia – I think you.

    DocP – Yes, that’s exactly what I was getting at. Office LBDs are generally quite different in feel than the ones we put on to dress up in.

    Colleen – Thank you. Let me be honest. It’s one of the prettiest photos of me ever. Except of course where I am laughing hysterically and making faces.

    La Belette – Thank you. It was so much fun.

  • bigBANG – Oh Prada absolutely pales in comparison to Manda. And Lauren. My earnest self probably scaled back the witty a bit, but it was a lovely, warm, evening, full of me listening to very talented young women. All the while reliving my own past.

    Reggie – I have wanted, all my life, to have an equippage. But I didn’t know it ’til now. xox.

    Tabitha – I am honored.

    QBS – Exactly! Buying well makes you feel smart for a long, long time.

    Jan – My next post is about loyalty points:).

  • Quintessence – I confess to leaving the photo dark due to conflicted feelings about posting it at all:). Not very High WASP of me, you know? L’Absinthe is the perfect place for a highly civilized dinner.

    Flo – Ha! Seriously, it was my biceps. Somehow tables always have to be lifted.

    Tintin – So glad you like the new site. Jamie is terribly talented. And what on earth possessed you to clean your bathroom?

    Patsy – You know, I would like to have this dress in many fabrics. Including sweatshirt, my most common garb:). The companions were fab.

    Rhonda – I could use you as a friend, you know?

  • Andrea – This is a fairly covered dress, for sleeveless. But you are right, and that’s why I bought the cardigan.

    Jamie – :).

    Belle – Thank you. It was more fun than anyone has a right to expect.

    Hill House – Thank you so much.

    Ginnie – Oh that’s really good to hear. Jean Queen, that’s the one with a faint turquoise sheen, I think?

  • Off topic, but I have to ask – have you ever read any of Cornelia Read’s mysteries? She’s from an old East Coast High WASP family that lost its money, and her protagonist/crime solver has the same background – very funny, snappy snarky mysteries (I find them addictive like peanuts or popcorn). Her blogging at is very enjoyable too – often brings family photos, estates, stories into her posts and they are often absolutely hilarious. And she has a thing for Belgian Shoes.

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  3. […] week on Privilege I posted a picture of myself in a Prada dress, in part because several readers asked me to, in part because it’s a beautiful dress and I […]

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