What to wear for a black-tie event?
June 4, 2012 9:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm scheduled to attend a black-tie dinner/gala in a less than three weeks, and I need some help figuring out what to wear. It's a private evening event at a national museum in Spain, and I will be about eight months pregnant.

Does "black-tie" mean I have to wear a floor length gown? Here in California I would probably feel there is more flexibility in dress length, but I'm thinking European standards are more rigid -- is that true?

Also, I've found a store (Picchu Maternity that claims to have black-tie appropriate dresses, but I'm unsure if the material of the gowns are really dressy enough. Here are two I'm considering: Maxi Halter Maternity Dress; and Maxi Strapless Maternity Dress.

I love the look and versatility of the strapless dress, but the first dress allows for wearing a bra and saves me the pain of trying to find a strapless bra that would hold up.

Any other ideas of stores (online or located in the SF Bay Area)?

I'm 5'2", and normally wear a size ten or twelve in pants, but have always had trouble with dresses because I'm very busty (currently 36/38 H) and have an apple shape. As for my pregnancy, I haven't really popped out much yet; I've gained about six pounds and still wear my normal clothing (except increased bra size). But I do feel I'm looking more pregnant by the day and a flowy maternity gown would give me some peace of mind since I don't know how big I'll be.

Would floor length look ridiculous on me, given I'm so short? On the plus side, it would mostly hide my shoes and I'm thinking I can get away with the Mary Janes I have (Soft Spot brand, suede with patent, 2" heel) that maybe aren't dressy enough to wear otherwise but are very comfortable.

Also, last question: if I do need the gown to be floor length and order one of the above, I assume I'll need some hemming done. What length would I hem it to? A half inch off the ground?

Thank you in advance!
posted by JenMarie to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Empire style was created for Napoleon's pregnant wife Josephine.
posted by brujita at 9:35 AM on June 4, 2012

Wait? Are you traveling to Spain when you're 8 months pregnant? That can't be right.

But, to answer the question.

I love the strapless dress. It's lovely. I know your pain the bra arena. When you have the dress altered, is there a way the alterations person can put cups directly in the dress for you? I fear a strapless bra will be too painful! Another option is tape.

As for a shoe, get that before you get the dress hemmed. I'd go with a nice gold/bronze metalic, low heeled sandal, something unobtrusive. Definitely not full-on Birkinstock.

Here's one that's probably a good match, it's at Sears.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:38 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm thinking European standards are more rigid -- is that true?

It really depends on how formal the occasion really is, but I wouldn't say that European standards in general, and Spanish in particular, are more rigid. If royalty was attending, that would perhaps be true. Otherwise I wouldn't worry too much.

However, this is important: unless this museum is on the North coast, keep in mind that Spain in late June-early July can be damn fucking hot. This is particularly true if the event is in the center or south of the country. Choose a light fabric.
posted by Skeptic at 9:41 AM on June 4, 2012

Another option is to get straps added to the dress when you get it hemmed, if you otherwise like the strapless bra better -- I had this done with a strapless dress, I just went first to a fabric store and found matching fabric, then brought it to the tailor who made me 1-inch-wide straps directly over the straps of the bra I wanted to wear, which was perfect. The strapless dress really is lovely, and I think floor length with your comfier not-dressy-enough shoes is the way to go (especially while quite pregnant... though like Ruthless Bunny I don't quite understand how you're getting to Spain in the next 3 weeks if you are 7 or 8 months pregnant).
posted by brainmouse at 9:43 AM on June 4, 2012

Response by poster: Wait? Are you traveling to Spain when you're 8 months pregnant? That can't be right.

Oh - I'll be about six weeks from my due date, and my doctor is fully on board (and I've cleared it with the airline). I see the doc the day before I leave to get a final clearance and note, but she said I'm good to go (with the rec that we go business class).
posted by JenMarie at 9:43 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

For women, black-tie means going all out. The dress should be as lovely as you can afford, and floor-length, regardless of your height. The dress should be hemmed right about at the floor, and will cover your shoes; the person doing your alterations will know exactly where to put it. Get it hemmed at the last minute, because the shape of your belly will change the way it falls.

The shoes will still be visible on occasion, so wear something flat and sparkly or otherwise dressy. Teetering on heels is a disaster waiting to happen.

The dresses you picked are on the casual side, but not inappropriate. I'd recommend some pretty sparkly jewelry to bring them up a notch, but not bling. You don't want to look trashy. Here's an alternative site for dresses.

So happy for you. Have a great time!
posted by Capri at 9:50 AM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

However, this is important: unless this museum is on the North coast, keep in mind that Spain in late June-early July can be damn fucking hot. This is particularly true if the event is in the center or south of the country.

Very true, in case this is an outdoor or partially outdoor event. However, this is no longer the early 90s when almost none of the European museums were reliably air-conditioned. You might want to bring a light wrap as well.
posted by elizardbits at 9:52 AM on June 4, 2012

Listen to Capri.
posted by The Whelk at 9:56 AM on June 4, 2012

Floor length in one colour will look just fine with your height, which looks like the direction you're leaning, already. Just don't fall prey to colour-blocking or ostentatious patterns.

Your instincts about fussing with a strapless are probably right on. Being able to wear a bra and not be paranoid about roll-down or any of the other indignities of a strapless will free up loads of mental space for the event.

Being able to wear your Softspots is definitely an advantage to floor length, but maybe poke about for some dressier flats. This might be an opportunity to bring along a go-to shoe but spend a brief amount of time shopping for some nice Spanish shoes. For the hemming, be certain to take shoes with the same heel you're going to wear in to the alterations person to take them into account. They may also be able to make an adjustable allowance for just in case your "bump" extends past the original allowance (it'll make the front hem rise up, so definitely something to consider), even if you're getting it altered a couple of days before leaving.

An empire waist really is ideal for fashion and comfort (especially with cap sleeves), but that halter dress is gorgeous and it's so wonderful that it's an actual maternity style that I don't see how you could resist it!
posted by batmonkey at 9:57 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

...and looking at Capri's link, wow, this dress is awesome.
posted by batmonkey at 9:58 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

However, this is no longer the early 90s when almost none of the European museums were reliably air-conditioned. You might want to bring a light wrap as well.

The museum will almost certainly be air-conditioned (overly so, even), and nobody in his right mind will organise an outdoors event in this season in Spain unless it's late enough in the day for the temperature to have abated somewhat.

However, the way from her hotel to the museum will not be as reliably air-conditioned, and it is rather unpleasant to arrive to such an event drenched in sweat and looking purple...
posted by Skeptic at 10:06 AM on June 4, 2012

I'd go with the Maxi Halter one you linked. You are going to be obviously, visibly pregnant and I'm pretty sure people will be somewhat forgiving if you show up a little on the casual side.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:17 AM on June 4, 2012

How about an infinity/convertible dress? Some shops sell matching bandeaus to wear underneath to increase the number of styles you can wear a bra under. (Plus you might actually still be able to wear it when you're no longer pregnant!)
posted by enlarged to show texture at 10:19 AM on June 4, 2012

As someone who also had the "I hardly look pregnant" pregnancy, I'd like to mention that I wouldn't overly rely on those Softspots fitting at the time of the event. My feet went from "fine" to "giant bloated sausages" pretty quickly around 8th month mark. If I were you, I'd figure out in advance where one buys comfortable dress shoes (or basically disposable dressy flats) in the area of Spain you'll be in.

Personally, I think jersey knit fabric is too casual for a black-tie event. I'm also biased because I got so sick of jersey knit everything during pregnancy. Are there fine consignment stores in your area? Call around and see if they have anything in that might suit you and the event.
posted by stowaway at 10:21 AM on June 4, 2012

Response by poster: Those dresses are fantastic, capri! I only wish I could spend $800-900. I'm thinking many of the women at the event will be decked out in dresses like that, though, which is why I'm hesitating over the potentially too casual nature of the ones at Picchu.

I think there is a fine consignment store near my, which is probably worth stopping by. I never have much luck with stores like that given my proportions, but you never know.

Thank you all for the input so far; it's really helpful.
posted by JenMarie at 10:33 AM on June 4, 2012

You might find some more affordable options at Isabella Oliver.
posted by Dragonness at 10:56 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Figure 8 Maternity is also not a bad place to look. I highly recommend them for nursing clothing after the big event (meaning the birth, not the party)
posted by purpletangerine at 11:27 AM on June 4, 2012

Mommylicious has some dresses in a lower price range.

Also, from the perspective of yet another "I hardly looked pregnant" mama, I would not count on the advantage of looking preggers to excuse slightly less dressy clothing or shoes. I went to a couple parties late in the pregnancy where strangers did not know I was pregnant until I directly referred to the baby. Besides, this may be a great opportunity to feel really glamorous, which will probably be lacking for a while afterward.
posted by purpletangerine at 11:42 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

These may not be quite dressy enough, but I think that they look great for maternity wear.

FWIW, if I were you, at 5'2" and 8 months pregnant, I would not go floor length, convention be damned. I think pregnant women get cut a lot of slack and cocktail length is SO much more attractive with a belly (which at 8 months along you will surely have) and much easier to come by.
posted by picklebird at 11:57 AM on June 4, 2012

Double-posting to say that this site looks awesome for rental maternity formal wear. For less than $100 for 7 days. (How long are you going to Spain for?)
posted by picklebird at 1:01 PM on June 4, 2012

I've attended many formal events in Spain and can confirm that it is more likely in an air-conditioned enviornment. Things have changed quite a bit in the last 15 years and really, even in a Black-Tie gala you will see a variety of clothing styles among the women attending. Floor length is no longer de riguer in my experience, I attended a black-tie event at the Guggenheim and several (admittedly younger) women were in short (but very expensive) dresses. Also there are very few places to sit down, so scout somewhere out early to take the weight off your feet.

Do make arrangements to have an air-conditioned car service to get you to and from the venue. If it's anywhere near San Sebastian, Bilbao etc., memail me for contacts although your concierge will know of a car service. Don't make the mistake of assuming you can book one of the regular taxis for a particular time, if your hotel is central and big there will be no problem hailing one on the street, if you are staying anywhere out of the way or private book a service.

Definitely get the dress in advance as the pre-Mama shops don't tend to carry evening gowns. there are amazing creams and lotions to put on your feet & legs to cool them, I don't know if you have one already but if not ask at the local Famacia for a Gel Refrescante para los pies, it really helps!

Be prepared for everything from people patting your bump and delighted asking lots of questions (the majority) to slight hostility (minority, again going by my experience 13 years ago of going to 2 formal events in the last weeks of my pregnancy)

What you may not be prepared for is going hungry (again depending on your appetite in the heat), especially if a major name is catering the fuction. At the last event I attended there were amazing food confections styled as sculptures and therefore not for eating (although they didn't manage to convince a very hungry Gaiditano) while miniture versions were circulating although they never manage to penetrate more than 3 meteres beyond the serving door.

You will be forgiven almost anything short of turning up nude as for the most part Spaniards love kids. They will think you're very brave for 1. travelling so far in your condition and 2. coming out in the heat in your condition.

have a ball!
posted by Wilder at 6:31 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh and Capri is spot on with the accessorising, you can bling up the plainest dress and you will find Spanish women spend a huge amount on their accessories: have a look here for what's in at the moment
posted by Wilder at 6:40 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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