The hunt for New Year's Eve clothes is on. The thorny problem of how to celebrate in style--and what to wear where--is out of the closet again.
Do you go for the glamour or cling to the classics? Do you get out the good stones or stay with junk jewels? Does he wear a smoking jacket or put on the tuxedo? In a glamour locale, such as Spago--where the help will be gussied up for the evening--wearing just any old tux could lead to problems.
"If a man is coming here in a tux," co-owner Barbara Lazaroff states, "it better be something interesting or he might be mistaken for a waiter. I happen to like men in tuxedos, but I hate the rented kind with a bow tie.
"If a man rents, he should invest in a great shirt--it doesn't have to be white--a wonderful bow tie and a pocket handkerchief. I normally don't like a shirt with ruffles all over the front. But it would fit in because I've ordered a salsa band."
Lazaroff says last year some people matched the salsa mood by wearing costumes and fruit on their heads.
She, however, was wearing a Michaele Vollbracht dress--strapless, sleeveless, with cellophane meshed into the fabric and semiprecious stones on wristlets and the bodice.
"It was wonderful," she says, "floor length and all over the place.
"When you go out, you want to look fashionable, but you don't want to look as though you're trying too hard. I've seen a lot of people come in dressed to the gills, but they look uncomfortable, and that makes them look out of place."
At the Rex restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles--where the evening is definitely black tie--manager Massimo Vincente says: "People really dress to the hilt."
Memorable from last year were a number of long gowns as well as a '30s-style beaded dress by Zandra Rhodes, which Vincente says was perfect for the restaurant's nostalgic, Art Deco environment.
If you're thinking of dressing up to be discovered at the Polo Lounge, think again. Beverly Hills Hotel manager Robert Marsili says despite its mystique "it's not a place to be discovered. It's for people already on their way with their careers. Unsolicited table hopping is out."
On a night such as New Year's Eve, clothes are "glamorous, sophisti- cated"--destined for a celebration in the hotel's Crystal Room or en route to and from private parties.
Pamela Korman and husband Tom, a theatrical agent, will be among private-party-goers this year.
"I don't like New Year's Eve," she admits, "but if I'm going somewhere, I really want to dress. It doesn't have to be beaded. It could be a cocktail suit or a tailored, long chiffon dress."
Destined for two very different parties, including one that she refers to as California casual, Korman plans to arrive in a black wool crepe tuxedo jacket and skirt. Her husband will don a "tailored tux," and once the parties are over, the couple will return home for a cozy dinner.
Five years ago, when Korman staged the first of these special dinners, her husband slipped into his dressing gown while she remained in her party attire.
The meal, Korman explains, "is something rich that I wouldn't bother to do for the two of us any other time. Maybe chicken stuffed with pate, nuts, spinach and cheese; a special vegetable and a dessert that's taken me a long time to do, which is why Tom can't change out of his tux into a robe. He's learned."
Helen Chaplin, vice president of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, says the El Padrino room attracts a conservative group of people. Few tuxedos and long gowns are seen on New Year's Eve. Instead, it's the time for dark suits paired with cocktail dresses.
At Chinois (also owned by Spago's Lazaroff and Wolfgang Puck), some people try to match the exotic decor.
"You have a choice," Lazaroff says. "If you want to dress casually, you can. If you want to dress up, you have a stage."
Last year, it was the stage for men in avant-garde outfits comprised of silk smoking jackets, silk shirts and silk trousers. Some wore ties, but Lazaroff thinks the jackets and shirts look sexy without any tie at all: "The whole thing should look anti-chic."
Over at La Toque on Sunset Boulevard, chef/owner Ken Frank says his restaurant turns dressy on New Year's Eve, when it's the scene of "an expensive, fun party."
However, "We don't get much bare-as-you-dare. It's a little out of place here."
What fits in, he says, is excellent, contemporary taste.
"The trend these days is very Giorgio Armaniesque. You'll see a lot of that New Year's Eve. Most men will wear a tie, but we don't require one," Frank says.
His suggestion for the female contingent is "something colorful. You don't want to be too conservative--you want to dress for a wild evening."
Over the past couple of years at Trumps, manager Rebecca Clark says she has found that "people are dressing with more imagination and flair. When women come here they're a little more creative than the formal-gown look."