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Elements of Style: Be the belle of the ball—not the walking disco ball

October 21, 2009

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Photo by Daniel Jenkins

By Kristina Leftwich

Staff Writer

Find “the” dress. This deceptively simple mission is often fraught with endless dilemmas. Floor-sweeping gown or cocktail dress? Vibrant color, or subdued neutral? The complexities that simmer to the surface can send one into a frenzy of indecision.

Ball season has begun, and holiday parties are looming on the horizon. In the flurry of champagne and schmoozing, the dress will stay with you long after the last toast, and the pictures, even longer.

Important details must be considered, and strategies devised. Keep in mind that the bounds of eveningwear are changing, and the rules constantly evolving.

It seems that black tie is often interpreted as “add sequins.” The power of the sequin has been diminished somewhat, since making it into the light of day, and must be approached with a fair bit of restraint.

That is not to say you shouldn’t go all out. It is just far more effective when done in a more subdued manner. Instead of pouring the entire look into the dress, it needs to be drawn out—into the shoes, the bag and the accessories.

This is an act of creation, a synergy of elements that come together, as complete pieces of a much larger puzzle. The dress is like the canvas on which the work will be created. The details of which will reveal their importance as the process unfolds.

Building a look around shoes or an interesting piece of jewelry often takes you to places you may not have otherwise envisioned, breaking you out of your mold. It takes a certain amount of open-mindedness, but often ends with quite spectacular results.

The goal is not to match, but to complement each piece, pulling it all together with one common element. Wearing all gold or silver jewelry is like listening to a symphony playing only the strings. Where are the winds and the percussion? Create the drama. Incorporate beads, or pearls, and take it to an entirely new level of visual interest.

Everyone has a unique perspective. Design aesthetic is of such a subjective nature. What is garish to one may be downright demure to another. It only needs to work for you. It is your point of view.

It is a fine line to tread. Trends are antithesis of personal style, but they often get the most attention. The classics have a way of fading into the background, but have the power to sweep in and save you from yourself.

Pull yourself back, and start with the basics. Trendy color? Choose it in a classic cut. Extreme mini-skirt? Pair it with basic black opaque tights. Pearls take the tart level of almost anything down a notch instantly.

Glamour is of the equilibrium to be achieved. It is easy to get carried away in a flurry of glitter and sequins, but reining it in through the thoughtful details could be the difference between being the belle of the ball, or just a walking disco ball.

Send style questions or ideas to Kristina Leftwich at contact@rockrivertimes.com. Include “ATTN: Elements of Style” in the subject line.

From the October 21-27, 2009 issue

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