Monday, March 12, 2012

What to wear to a Black Tie event?

I sank to fashion lows the first two months of motherhood. I'm sorry -- no matter how hard designers try, nursing tops will never be flattering, nor will jeans with stretchy tummy panels.Now I'm back in the real professional world -- though not back into all my real professional clothes, unfortunately. And I've been invited to a black tie event. 
So what do I wear now that I'm between sizes? (Maybe fashion bloggers like Privilege or Hong Kong Fashion Geek can help me out).
When you're pregnant, it's cute to show off your big belly. From Linea Negra, I bought a  black stretchy dress with a sweeping long skirt and a halter top. It worked as a summer dress. It worked for the office with a cardi. It worked for evening with jewels and heels.
But it doesn't work anymore, because it's embarrassing now that my baby is 6 months old. 
On the other hand, I still can't quite fit into my old formal evening dresses, most of which date from around the time of my wedding which was (gasp) more than five years ago. 
So I need a Black Tie gown. And I need one that does not expose too much still-flabby skin or require my old nipped-in waist; but also does not look matronly or like a muu muu.
Honestly, Black Tie in Hong Kong is usually not really Black Tie.  I'm sure there's some echelon of society far, far above me, where people swan around in diamonds and enormous puffy ballgowns. But in my world, the  rare Black-Tie invite is usually for something media or arts related --  and scruffy journalists and free-spirited artists are not good at this stuff. For men, the terms are straightforward. But for women, Black Tie basically means Cocktail. 
It means, C'mon, You Can Do Better Than Smart Casual. 
Here's the economical solution: I have a plain Little Black Dress from Giordano Ladies, a mid-range local brand. It's  not high fashion, but you can't really tell with Little Black Dresses. Sans label, it could be a simple shift from Prada. 
It's my most reliable piece of clothing -- it doesn't fade, it doesn't sag, it stretches, it can be used a million ways. And with some new accessories, I could probably doll it up to an acceptable level -- maybe not Black Tie, but definitely Cocktail.


Or I could wander  Elements and Lane Crawford and splurge on a new gown.
Practical? Not entirely. Like I said, I only go to these events maybe once a year. I'd have to buy it a size or two too big. And then, after I lost the rest of the baby weight, I'd have to get it re-tailored.
But a part of me is a little sick of being so practical. 
Motherhood is absolutely wonderful, but it also makes you forget to take care of yourself. In the beginning, that's the way it's supposed to be. You give everything up -- your body, your sleep, your free time, your social life, your hobbies, your professional work, your hard-earned money -- to your baby.
Every day is planned far in advance -- from getting a nanny if I have to work on Sunday, to pre-making homemade baby food.
Shopping is entirely at places with names like Bumps to Babes. I'm not thinking about frocks. I'm thinking about whether I'm out of breast milk storage bags.
And except for some ridiculously un-attractive shoes I bought to accommodate edema in my ankles (yeah, sexy), I haven't done anything fun or luxurious for myself for a long time. Hell, I've barely been out for dinner with my husband.
Still, at some point, you have to find a balance and become yourself again and not feel guilty about it.

Evening gown

I chose these at random off Polyvore, not paying attention to the labels. It turns out (big surprise) that I have expensive tastes. The red toga-like dress on the left is Lanvin and the silver one next to it Valentino -- both outside my budget. The surprising floral one is actualyl a budget no-name brand. The short white one is Diane von Furstenberg, which I can afford financially, but not in terms of the current shape of my legs.
And the poufy prom gown? Totally impractical. But I added it because I happened to love its write-up: "1950's Vintage Persimmon-Pink Beaded Sequin Chiffon-Couture Sweetheart Low-Cut Plunge Shelf-Bust Strapless Nipped-Waist Rockabilly Ballerina-Cupcake Princess Circle-Skirt Bombshell Bustle-Peplum Formal Wedding Evening Cocktail Prom Party Dress." I mean, how many adjectives is that?
This seems like a good time to dreg up that old joke that was bouncing around the blogosphere way back in 2008. Here's the classic world's worst maternity evening gown, from


  1. Well hello! I just recently experimented with inexpensive black tie gear. Why not hunt up a short sequined dress, with short sleeves? Hides midriff, perfectly acceptable for black tie, fun, easy to make in a non-high end process and still looks great. Bronze, silver, gold, red, whatever looks best on your skin tone.

  2. There is a really nice little boutique (but affordable ) on Elgin street run by a Brazilian / Spanish combination of tai tais. They have really nice stuff, but even better than that they can look at you and say what you'll look good in. I went there with my girlfriend and the three of them talked me into something that looks like the red Lanvin dress in your picture above which at first I even refused to try on, but then when I did it looked great, and every time I've worn it I've had so many compliments. I'll try and find the card and send you the name / address via FB.
    They also do free (good) tailoring if it doesn't fit perfecto! and have divine accessories (but a bit pricey)

  3. Do you really need to wear a dress? I guess it's what you feel like but what about a tux over a sequinned, low cut top? But the downside to that is that that could cost more overall than just a dress. I do like Gweipo's idea!

  4. It's called Ocho and is on Staunton street, my friend passed on the details to me.