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How a Fashion Editor Does Black Tie

I go to a lot of weddings. Depending on the crowd (know your audience), a wedding is not my personal-choice venue for taking risks. It’s the bride’s day, not mine. My go-to is a form-fitting formal dress that I can dance in. My main goal is to feel pretty or a little bit sexy, especially if I’m anticipating any sort of hey-remember-me-now-rue-the-day-you-didn’t-love-me run-ins.

Yea it’s a new filter called “Kentucky” #welcometoparadis

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But when it comes to a fashion event, like the MET Gala or Monday’s CFDA awards — “the Oscars of fashion, even though only people in the fashion industry call it that,” as host Seth Meyers said — getting fancy takes on a whole new meaning. First, one must answer the existential question of the evening: What does this dress code actually mean, who will follow it and can I get away with jeans?

Fashion people love to throw curveballs at these things. It’s guaranteed someone will show up in a full look off the most recent runway that makes you regret ever thinking your outfit stood a chance. Someone will always show up in something offensively casual that will make you curse yourself for following rules so earnestly. Though it’s not a competition, it also kind of is. You at least want to look like you know what you’re doing.

I approach getting dressed for fashion black-tie events by reminding myself that it’s an opportunity to be the most dramatic version of myself. When there’s no bride to be respectful of, why not have fun? I’m more inclined to try patterns I’d typically shy away from, bright colors, print clashing, geometric shapes, skin and volume.

When you know you’re not going to be dancing so much as you are standing around mingling for a far shorter period than a normal party, heels can be ridiculously high. When you know you’re not going to be stomping in puddles of dance-floor vodka, your shoes’ fabric can be far more precious. At the CFDAs, I wore seven-inch-high platform Rochas wedges in satin (same ones I wore as Ambar in MR’s Clueless re-boot) to accommodate my extra-long Johanna Ortiz dress. They would ruin my entire night at a wedding. In this circumstance, they were perfect.

Black tie bathroom selfie time

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Another thing you don’t have to worry about (as much) is sweat. At weddings, which are always 110 degrees, I prefer to be as near-naked as appropriate given grandparents and general decency. At fashion events, you don’t move around as much, and while you do get hot (I was DYING at the CFDAs) there’s less physical activity. You stand still while your sweat drips down your corset, so you can get away with fun layering opportunities, like adding an unnecessary but cool blazer.

Because it’s a work event, I’m there to represent Man Repeller. I have to look the part and also not get drunk. Since I’m less likely to get anything more than a buzz, I trust myself more with high-end items. Bags can be exotic, jewelry can be precious and heavy earrings can be clip-on. I would never borrow anything Rosie Assoulin for anything involving tequila. But when Anna Wintour’s involved? Lay it on me.

Dressing up for fashion black ties never fails to remind me to loosen the hell up. The go big or go home” mentality encourages everyone’s inner stylist to come out while the artistic nature of the community creates a welcome net for mistakes. So your shoes don’t go or you forgot earrings or the jacket you added makes you look bulky? You never want to look “too perfect” in fashion, which, luckily, is an easy thing for most of us humans — fashion folk or not — to achieve.

Feature image by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic via Getty Images. Photos via Amelia Diamond. 

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond is a writer, creative consultant, and Man Repeller alumnus living in New York City.

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