Dressing Lessons from the Rich and Famous

Last week, fashion designer Giorgio Armani announced that he would be underwriting the annual Costume Institute Ball next May at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. George Clooney and Julia Roberts will be co-Chairing.

When a Clooney-mad friend of mine heard the news, she called me right away and asked me how to score some tickets to the ball. Since I rarely venture out past dark these days (my kids are small), let alone into New York high society, I found the question rather amusing. Still, I made some inquiries – which, roughly translated, means I went to Google and looked around.

Roberts and Clooney

So what’s the story?

Unless you’re an A or B List celebrity, have six figures sitting around to buy a table, or are a personal friend of VOGUE editor and gala organizer Anna Wintour, you’re pretty much out of luck.

This New York Magazine article details all the cut-throat, behind-the-scenes drama of this glitzy event.

So what does all of this have to do with you?

While most of us probably won’t get an invitation to what VOGUE’s André Leon Talley describes as, “&ldots;the most important social and fashion party of the year,” there are some lessons to be learned from this slice of the rich-and-famous lifestyle: namely, that dressing well opens doors – just as dressing poorly keeps you firmly on the outside, looking in. Ms. Wintour refers to them as “riff raff.”

“The fashion is more confident [at the Costume Institute Ball],” Talley said in the nymag.com article. “It’s not some haphazard stylist saying suddenly, ‘Oh, you should wear this.’ Women like Lynn Wyatt know who they are.”

It’s a telling statement.

When you allow others to dictate how you should look by following every trend or copying your favorite celebrity, you lose your sense of self. When everyone knows who your stylist is because she dresses all of her clients the same way (a certain L.A. stylist comes to mind), you can pretty much kiss your shot at the best dressed lists good-bye. After all, how much creativity does it take to pick up a phone and dial?

On the other hand, those who hone their sense of fashion draw attention just by walking in a room. Good things often follow.

Lynn Wyatt, if you’re not familiar with the name, is a Houston socialite who was born into a department store family (Sakowtiz), married an oil tycoon (Oscar Wyatt), and has mingled with royals, celebrities, and socialites for forty years (she’s 72). While some high society women are called “crass”, “catty”, and “ruthless”, “La Lynn” has always been described as “classy” and “a real Southern lady” – which just goes to show you that nice manners, a beautiful wardrobe, and very deep pockets can take you anywhere you want to go.

Now while you may not have the deep pockets part of the equation down (these resources might help), the nice manners and beautiful wardrobe are definitely within reach. Just as “please” and “thank you” are the magic words, there’s a magic combination for putting together a head-turning wardrobe that will gain you access to all sorts of things, including leadership roles, corner offices, board rooms, and even high society.

Here it is:

    1. Make a realistic assessment of your body. Determine your best and worst features. Decide what parts you should play up and which parts you should play down.

    2. Look for clothing and accessories that meet these goals. Insist on good fit. Don’t get distracted by trends that don’t work on you.

    3. Determine your favorite apparel elements, like cool jackets, sleek shoes, or elegant jewelry. Consider making them your “signature” pieces. Signature looks I’ve seen over the years include dressing only in black, wearing monochromatic ensembles with multi-color shoes, and sporting whimsical lapel pins.

    4. Understand the dress code required for various functions. If you don’t know what it is or will be traveling someplace where it might be different than what you’re used to, don’t guess — find out what’s right. Why look ignorant when you don’t have to?

    5. Maintain your clothing and accessories. Iron wrinkles, repair holes, polish scuffs, and snip loose threads.

    6. Practice good grooming. Update your hair and makeup styles twice a year, and see to those unruly brows, stained teeth, and that chipped fingernail polish. Yes, people do notice those things.

In short, take pride in your appearance. You’re a walking, talking billboard of your background and expertise, so make sure you’re saying what you want others to hear. In a very short time, you may be surprised at just where your efforts take you: into the corner office, an elected office, or even to dinner at the same table as George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

Hey, you never know.

Need some more tips on what to wear when, including galas, balls, and other society events? Download a copy of Occasion Magic to learn the simple secrets of dressing for the different occasions in your life.

Occasion Magic

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