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.
- 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?
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.