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Vague instructions are so tiresome | Manolo for the Big Girl

Vague instructions are so tiresome

Our internet friend Monica wrote to us:

Love your blog dearly! Some friends and I have been invited to an outdoor arts gala, and the style of dress is “California Black Tie.” I can’t find examples online of what this would mean. Would you kindly enlighten us? 

It turns out that neither I, nor Plumcake, nor the esteemed Manolo have the tiniest clue as to what this means, and indeed a Google search was not very helpful. In her own inimitable style, Plumcake suggested that Monica try wearing “a ball gown and mouse ears.” I, Francesca, am not sure whether “California Black Tie” means, perhaps, “slightly more casual than Black Tie” — in which case “formal” or “semi-formal” would have been more clear — or whether perhaps “California Black Tie” is a euphemism for “casual,” rather like the way “Bronx marble” means “linoleum,” a fact I learned from watching CSI:NY.

If any other of you, our internet friends, could help Monica dress appropriately for her arts gala, I’m sure she would appreciate the help in clearing up this mystery.

18 Responses to “Vague instructions are so tiresome”

  1. Jean August 18, 2007 at 5:16 pm #

    From http://www.thefreelibrary.com/AN+INVITATION+TO+DRESS+UP-a083835502
    Ah, a little freedom from the traditional black-tie ensemble. You’ll still wear a tuxedo, but you can wear a collarless dress shirt without a tie and black suede Hush Puppies instead of tuxedo pumps. For an edgier look, try a four-button cardigan-style tuxedo jacket, a classic smoking jacket or a club suit with traditional tie like Tom Cruise wore to the Oscars. For her, it could be a short or long evening dress worn with strappy high-heeled sandals that show off bare feet and painted toenails.

  2. Leah August 18, 2007 at 7:30 pm #

    If you don’t know, and I don’t know, and indeed our own dear Manolo-verse bloggers don’t know, then neither will anyone else at this party–perhaps least of all whoever wrote the invitation, who may have repeated it to sound cool or just made it up, thinking it would be some sort of creative experiment to see who showed up wearing what. Toss on a hot cocktail dress and cute shoes (or other versatile this-makes-me-feel-awesome item) and enjoy yourself.

  3. Leah August 18, 2007 at 7:39 pm #

    Oh, and after I wrote that I found this:
    “Creative black tie – Ah, a little freedom from the traditional black-tie ensemble. You’ll still wear a tuxedo, but you can wear a collarless dress shirt without a tie and black suede Hush Puppies instead of tuxedo pumps. For an edgier look, try a four-button cardigan-style tuxedo jacket, a classic smoking jacket or a club suit with traditional tie like Tom Cruise wore to the Oscars. For her, it could be a short or long evening dress worn with strappy high-heeled sandals that show off bare feet and painted toenails. Sometimes referred to as California black tie.”

  4. Nabushi August 18, 2007 at 7:47 pm #

    There’s also the problem of Northern CA Black Tie vs. Southern CA Black Tie. Ugh.

    I would call the arts org., ask to speak to the person in charge of organizing the event, and just ask. Yes, I actually would. Because “California Black Tie” makes no sense at all. I’m native NorCal, I’ve worked in visual arts organizations (and attended the “galas”) for 20 years, and I’ve never seen this particular dress code on an invite. Seriously – what could it possibly mean? Someone is trying to be cute.

    Then again – ARTS gala. Pretty much anything you wear will be fine.

  5. La Lopez August 18, 2007 at 8:47 pm #

    Dress as for black tie, but forgo the evening bag in favour of a “jumbo soy latte with extra vodka”.

    Just kidding. Nabushi is right. This is a really vague dress code, so just call up and ask the organisers.

  6. kalamari August 18, 2007 at 9:00 pm #

    Not sure that it really helps, but this is what I came across…

    Creative black tie – Ah, a little freedom from the traditional black-tie ensemble. You’ll still wear a tuxedo, but you can wear a collarless dress shirt without a tie and black suede Hush Puppies instead of tuxedo pumps. For an edgier look, try a four-button cardigan-style tuxedo jacket, a classic smoking jacket or a club suit with traditional tie like Tom Cruise wore to the Oscars. For her, it could be a short or long evening dress worn with strappy high-heeled sandals that show off bare feet and painted toenails. Sometimes referred to as California black tie.

  7. Chaser August 18, 2007 at 9:40 pm #

    As a native Angelino, I’d guess tuxes for men while women can come in anything dressy and classy. If it’s in SoCal, I suspect they are not trying to be cute per se but trying to let women know it’s ok to go with less than floor length given the soaring temps.

    The weird thing is, people in LA pretty much dress the way they want to do anyway, so the directions probably don’t matter as much as much as they do in NY or DC or more formal formal places.

  8. Kimocean August 19, 2007 at 2:37 am #

    Well I live in LA and I agree with Chaser that women can (and probably will) show up in anything dressy and classy. I’ve found with anything here if it’s outdoors you can’t go wrong with a pretty dress and some pretty shoes. If it’s daytime I would probably go with a color, maybe something like this pretty purple yoke dress from Igigi http://www.igigi.com/shop/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&currentpage=3&Product_ID=512&fromcat=1&disptype=3
    Or maybe a pretty print like this one:
    http://www.igigi.com/shop/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&currentpage=1&Product_ID=447&fromcat=1&disptype=3

    If it’s an evening event I’d go with something in navy or wine(like one of the gorgeous celebrity knockoff dresses from CocoMyles…they go up to size 32 and you can get them made in a huge array of colors). I’d go for Idol in the Navy or wine Georgette fabric myself (a knockoff of Jennifer Hudson’s Golden Globes Dress) and I’d add a matching long sash and have it tailored to tea length. I haven’t tried this company myself, but I’ve looked at some of their work on their blog (referenced in Manolo for teh Bride yesterday) and it sounds like they do great work so next time I have an event I need a dress for I’ll probably give them a try.
    https://www.cocomyles.com/?&p=store&p=store

  9. Kimocean August 19, 2007 at 2:49 am #

    Ooh, I figured out how to link to the Cocomyles dress that I created (dang this website is fun to play with!)

    So here is what I would wear if I had the time to get it made and it was an evening event.

    http://www.cocomyles.com/?p=zoom&zoomData=mannequin%2Epng%3A%7C2023%5F0%5Ff%2Epng%3AC9540%2D29%7Csash%5Flong%5Ff%2Epng%3AC9575%2D27

  10. Francesca August 19, 2007 at 4:27 am #

    Kimocean-

    Indeed that is a very attractive dress, especially for our curvaceous Pear friends!

    xoxo,
    Francesca

  11. Pencils August 20, 2007 at 9:08 am #

    It probably means tuxes for the men, but with a T-shirt and sneakers, while the women should wear enormous fake breasts & orange tans with a cocktail dress, while carrying a tiny dog and a venti soy latte.

    (Sorry, I’m from NYC, I can’t help it!)

  12. Jen August 20, 2007 at 2:49 pm #

    I have been a meeting & event planner for 15 years and I don’t have the slightest clue! One thing I would say however is that when one sends out an event invitation, one must *always* clarify dress code. For instance – when specifying “business casual” one should state that khaki slacks and polo shirts are acceptable (if they are). This particular term means something different to Americans vs. Europeans, so clarifying is crucial! Shame on that planner!

  13. kalamari August 20, 2007 at 3:00 pm #

    Wow, CocoMyles rocks my world! Thanks.

  14. Kimocean August 21, 2007 at 10:22 pm #

    You’re welcome!

  15. Mrs. B August 23, 2007 at 2:55 pm #

    I hope to run into you, Monica, at the Arts Gala. I don’t know what to wear either,
    but the responses to your question have been helpful to me, as I have the same question. I was googeling “california black tie’ when I came upon this website.

    Too funny! Somehow I know we are attending the same event!

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