Elegant Evening Outerwear


Demi Moore at Movie Premiere

Demi Moore in  London, Feb 2010


I recently caught a rerun of The Rachel Zoe Project on TV in which Rachel and her team had dressed Demi Moore for a movie premiere in London.  As Rachel looked over the red carpet pictures from the night before, remarking how fabulous Demi looked in her strapless dress and bare legs, Rachel said, “It was like 10 degrees in London last night.  I love that Demi was brave enough to take off her coat and show her dress.”


Sorry, Rachel, but that’s exactly the kind of comment that makes non-fashion followers roll their eyes and call us vain and superficial.

Yes, Demi did look great, but I wouldn’t call standing in freezing cold weather in a strapless dress without a coat for the sake of a picture as “brave.”  My grandmother would have called it “idiotic.”

I was still thinking about the comment a few hours later when I happened to catch part of The Poor Little Rich Girl with Mary Pickford.  Made in 1917, this silent film classic tells the story of a poor little rich girl (Pickford) who has everything money can buy – except the love and attention of her workaholic father and socialite mother.

The story may have been cliche, but the mother’s clothes were anything but.  They were downright amazing.  There was no costume designer listed on the movie (typical in those days), but I could easily imagine those gowns being made by Jeanne Paquin or Jacques Doucet (two of the most popular designers of the day).

In one scene, the mother and some of her society friends are at a party.  Their evening attire – even on black and white, nearly 100 year old film – was jaw-droppingly beautiful.  When a man helped the women off with their lushly lined, beaded evening jackets that perfectly coordinated with their evening gowns, it finally dawned on me why Rachel Zoe’s comment about Demi being “brave” about the cold bothered me so much:  it’s because elegant evening outerwear has virtually disappeared and now women have little choice but to stand in the freezing cold without a coat in order to look good on the red carpet.

If you go back and look at movie premiere film reels or photos from the 1920’s through the mid-60’s (when the studio system reigned supreme), you’ll see starlets arrive in grand style in gorgeous evening attire, often with an evening wrap or coat.  No one “braved it” or borrowed their date’s jacket it if was cold.  Instead they made a statement with their own evening outerwear, which was often either a fur stole or  wrap made out of the same fabric as the dress.


Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz at a movie premiere, 1950’s


President and Mrs. Kennedy

President and Mrs. Kennedy at the Elysee Palace, Paris, May 1961


My mother had both.  So did my grandmother.  So did most women they socialized with.

So where did that tradition go?  Out with hats and gloves?

That’s too bad, because they were smashing.  Fur stoles are strictly taboo now, but I do miss the coordinating evening gowns and wraps.

Unfortunately you won’t find many of them these days, unless you make your evening attire yourself or have a dressmaker create something for you.  But there are alternatives – which I encourage you to explore, particularly for those chilly nights when elegant evening attire is required.

Here are some good alternatives:

Vintage Evening Cape


Vintage Cape

Have a winter evening function with snow in the forecast?  Capture some Hollywood glamour by investing in an elegant vintage evening cape.  Not only will you stay toasty warm, you’ll turn heads with your oh-so-chic style.

Metallic Evening Coat Metallic Coat

Evening and sparkles go together like bubbles and champagne, so if you get an elegant metallic evening coat that flatters your skin tone, you’ll wear it for years to come.

Pashmina Pashmina Wrap

Warm and practical, a beautiful pashmina is also versatile enough to wear day or night.  A dark or neutral color will go with many things while a bright color will make you a standout.  Do as your will and budget allow.

Chiffon wrap Chiffon Wrap

A chiffon wrap will help keep the chill off spring, summer, and fall.  Get one in a color that suits your skin tone or that goes with most of your evening wear.

Fabulous evening attire shouldn’t be limited to indoor activities only.  There’s no need to shiver or be uncomfortable in cold weather, even on a red carpet.  Instead, borrow some of that “old school” style and pick up great evening outerwear pieces when you see them (they’re most abundant during the holidays).  You’ll be set for seasons to come.

Need some other tips on what to wear when?  Download a copy of Occasion Magic and never be daunted by a dress code again.

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