All dressed up and no where to go
September 14, 2010 7:29 PM   Subscribe

Where do people go when they get dressed up?

My wife likes getting dressed up to go out (fancy dress, a suit for me... that sort of thing). Problem is we don't have any places to go. We used to have weddings, but most of our friends and families have tied the knot. I know that you can go out to eat somewhere fancy... but what else?

posted by derivation to Society & Culture (35 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Geez, where to start? Jazz clubs, cocktail bars, the theater, the symphony, gallery openings, benefit dinners, the list goes on.

Note that most of the places you could go where dressing to the nines would be considered appropriate tend to involve spending a decent amount of money. I can't see doing many of those things for less than $50, but you can obviously spend far more than that if you've a mind to.

That's actually not a bad way to brainstorm here: come up with a couple of really expensive ways to spend an evening, and work down from there until you've got something in your price range.
posted by valkyryn at 7:34 PM on September 14, 2010

when i was in my early 20s, i knew quite a few people who would get all dressed up, go to the fanciest place in town just for dessert and a drink, and then walk around downtown all dressed up and smelling good and filled with sinful chocolate and liquor. depending on your location, add in a carriage ride and kissing near a fountain and i think you have an old black and white movie.
posted by nadawi at 7:34 PM on September 14, 2010 [16 favorites]

sometimes my boo and i get dressed up fancy (fancy tie, fancy necklace, etc.) and have a date in the basement where we cuddle on the couch in our outfits, watch bad movies, and smootch. probably the best date i've ever been on.
posted by anya32 at 7:36 PM on September 14, 2010 [7 favorites]

We're not flush with cash but dressing up is fun, so I sometimes get dolled up to go out for a coffee date at a nice-ish cafĂ©—you don't even look out of place dressed up if you're in an area with theatres and things, because people will just assume you're waiting around for a performance to start or enjoying a coffee afterward. Also sometimes it feels neat to be the sharpest-looking couple in a place.
posted by bewilderbeast at 7:37 PM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Swing dancing
posted by Miko at 7:39 PM on September 14, 2010

It would probably help to knowmwhere you're located, if you want people to give you specific suggestions.
posted by dfriedman at 7:40 PM on September 14, 2010

I like wearing cocktail (or evening!) to dive-y bars and playing pool.

On the other side of things, I'm also a fan of going to a very fancy place and getting one expensive cocktail and then strolling around with my partner in dress-up.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 7:41 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Depends where you are.

New York: Anywhere but the gym.

San Francisco: A wedding. (And maybe not even then.)

Seriously though you can dress up and go just about anywhere. It's great fun.
posted by Ookseer at 7:45 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

The theatre, the opera, the symphony, various benefits, fancy clubs, and, yes, fancy restaurants.

Done in one - these are the best places.

i knew quite a few people who would get all dressed up, go to the fanciest place in town just for dessert and a drink, and then walk around downtown all dressed up and smelling good and filled with sinful chocolate and liquor.

This is a great idea for doing it on the cheap - to make it an occasion, it only takes 2 classy drinks per person, a split dessert, and a nice walk that feels special because you dressed up and made it special.

And if you don't mind standing out a little, you can get creative with overdressing. I saw some guys in their 30s crash a frat party in 3-piece suits - they had a blast and made lots of friends. I've shown up for beer pong in a sport coat and my best shoes, and it felt great to stand out.
posted by Tehhund at 7:47 PM on September 14, 2010

In my family, we always dressed up for (non-rock) concerts and other performances -- the ballet, musicals, the Boston Pops, that sort of thing. Not everyone does, particularly not anymore, but you certainly don't look out of place.

As an adult, I get dressed up pretty much whenever I feel like it -- as others have said, you can make just about anything "fancy" if you want to. I don't know what part of the country you're in, but in the northeast (and particularly in cities like Boston and New York) no one's going to blink an eye if you show up to a Dunkin Donuts in a cocktail dress or a three-piece suit.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:48 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding bewilderbeast - for a less spendy option, get dressed up and go somewhere that fancy people might go before or after their fancy event. An ice cream cone, or coffee and dessert, or a somewhat more casual restaurant in a fun area of town, or just walking around the park in the city in a pretty dress all make me feel like I am having a Big Night Out.
posted by heyforfour at 7:51 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Dress up for whatever. Honestly. If it helps, pretend like it's the 50's - dress up for the movies, a flight, going through the drive-through, etc. Or think that you're helping balance out the woefully underdressed people out there.

I once ate breakfast at a Waffle House wearing a bridesmaid's dress. I got a couple of odd looks, but that was it. And now I can say I've eaten in a Waffle House in a bridesmaid's dress.
posted by Madame Psychosis at 7:55 PM on September 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

If you're short of cash, dressing up and going to a coffee shop or diner in the theater district of your city is a cheap date, even if you're not going to a show. Or just going to the bar of a nice restaurant for dessert and drinks. Otherwise, the sky's the limit, anything that has a ring of "fancy" can be dressed up for without feeling like a goof.

But hell, I dress up for everything. I really, truly don't care if I'm the only one dressed up for something. I'm a big fan of the above-mentioned dive-bar-in-formal-wear evening. I would argue that it's really never inappropriate to be overdressed for something (especially something public, where you are not likely to make other people feel uncomfortable and more likely to simply amuse or delight them--you wouldn't want to overshoot the dress code of a private, formal event and it can be awkward to overdress in private situations where there is a prescribed culture of dress).

Dressing up is fun, and if you have the dress up clothes already, it's not any more difficult than not dressing up. This is a fact.
posted by padraigin at 7:57 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We're in the Philadelphia area and New York isn't all that far away.

Any suggestions on where to find out about said benefits or fancy clubs? I'm sure they exist, but have no idea where I would go to find them.

One other caveat is my wife doesn't like to stand out, so dressing up is only fun if we can be lost in a sea of dressed up people.

All these answers have been awesome!
posted by derivation at 8:04 PM on September 14, 2010

Throw a fancy dinner (or just cocktails/hors d'oeuvres) party, invite all your friends, make sure they get the memo about appropriate attire. If the idea catches, someone else may offer to host next time. I have a group of friends that does this from time to time - it's a great opportunity to break out that outfit you brought for a wedding and haven't worn since. I don't know how old you and your wife are, but for us 20-somethings it's also a chance to feel like real grown-ups once in awhile.
posted by naoko at 8:06 PM on September 14, 2010 [8 favorites]

If you're willing to spend a little money, you could try the Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal, which has excellent cocktails and an interesting history. There's also a fairly strict dress code, so you'd be surrounded by the formally attired.

I haven't been to all of them myself, but I've heard that all of the Hospitality Holdings bars are worth the splurge.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:25 PM on September 14, 2010

Strip joints and drag shows at the gay bar.
I used to love Saturday nights.
posted by Iron Rat at 8:40 PM on September 14, 2010

In Philadelphia? Lebec Fin.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:16 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I was in High School, my friends and I couldn't afford (or want) to do the traditional prom extravaganza. Instead, one night, we showed up dressed to the a Wendy's, armed with tablecloths, fine china, and candleabras.

We ordered our meals (from the dollar menu, of course), ate like civilized people, packed up and left. If I recall correctly, we elected a king and queen, who got to keep the toys from the kids meals.

Or you could just go to the beach.
posted by schmod at 9:17 PM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Most of the charitable galas are expensive. It costs a lot to host and then they need to raise money for the charity. The best way to attend is when your work or other organization is seeking to fill some tables. Then they pay the ticket price. Here is an example upcoming in Philly.
posted by caddis at 9:30 PM on September 14, 2010

Walk around pretending you are both spies and it doesn't really matter where you end up.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:07 PM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

My mother and I have been known to get all fancied up and go to Philadelphia Park racetrack on a Sunday to bet on the ponies- think Kentucky Derby. Minimum bet is $2, so even if you lose on every race that afternoon, you're still only down $20 or so each.

For dinner in the city, try The Prime Rib for some old fashioned stuffiness, leopard print rug, and good stiff martinis. There's often a piano player in the evenings. If you haven't been there, just look at the photos on their website - the place is so old-fashioned classy that it hurts.

If you just want a couple of drinks, The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. is a speakeasy themed bar, and you can be as formal or informal as you like. The drinks are excellent, if a tad overpriced.
posted by Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld at 11:26 PM on September 14, 2010

20 or so of my friends and I once did a black tie pub crawl in Boston. Tons of fun, and we got great looks everywhere we went.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:32 AM on September 15, 2010

This might be a bit on the expensive side, but what about renting a fancy car/limousine/horse-drawn carriage/whatever and cruising around town?

Barring that, seconding naoko's idea of throwing a fancy party.
posted by SymphonyNumberNine at 6:29 AM on September 15, 2010

Its not too hard to find wine tastings or art gallery openings even in small towns. Fund raising events are also easy to find.
posted by JJ86 at 6:35 AM on September 15, 2010

Burlesque nights can be pretty (sometimes exclusively) dressy and it's always appreciated.

I will also pass on this pearl of wisdom passed onto me by a burlesque performer

"Never worry about being the smartest person in the room. Everybody else will be wondering if they should have dressed up too."
posted by tallus at 6:51 AM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Hotel bars. I love hotel bars (nice hotels, not the local Holiday Inn). They're quiet, so you can hear the conversation. If you're alone, people don't assume you're trolling for a date, they assume you're in town on business and leave you alone if you aren't initially receptive to conversation. You can dress swank in them and no-one notices. They might ask if you're ditching a wedding, but they won't really notice.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:09 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can check into local equivalents of PEERS (upcoming: the Villains' Ball) and GBACG (the Mad Hatter's Tea Party), if you're whimsical enough. And if you're geeky enough, many science fiction and anime conventions have a formal dance these days.
posted by wintersweet at 10:32 AM on September 15, 2010

How about karaoke? Something about being dressed up on stage adds a certain panache to the situation.

(And yes, I just linked Mick Collins and Scott Weiland next to each other. You can take away my "good judgement" card if you're so inclined.)
posted by Turkey Glue at 10:59 AM on September 15, 2010

The Art Museum during thier events or Chris's Jazz Cafe on Sansom st.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:05 AM on September 15, 2010

Here is a site of Philly benefits and fundraisers. The ones that have dinners and the higher plate fees will be the fancier ones.
posted by rmless at 12:48 PM on September 15, 2010

It might not be your thing, but you could join a lineage or fraternal organization. They use their formal wear!
posted by jgirl at 3:53 PM on September 15, 2010

- Dances of Vice does parties where people dress up formally, although a lot of the attendees tend more towards costume
- Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor's Island
- Derby Day parties
- The Gala of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic at the NYPL
posted by kathryn at 12:15 AM on September 16, 2010

Boxing Match.
posted by ovvl at 10:55 AM on September 16, 2010

Get one of those combo-discount-style tickets for this next season's theater showings at the nicest / fanciest place you can afford. It could be plays, opera, or sometimes it can be a grab bag of the above plus acrobats and classical music. My parents did this and found that not only was it acceptable to get as dressed up as you pleased, they also met and became friends with the surrounding folks in reserved seating while thoroughly enjoying famous musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma.
posted by DisreputableDog at 7:58 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

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