S\o7 ometimes only a black-tie dinner at home will do. At least that's what she thought when she realized his verrrry social parents were about to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.
He agreed on a formal celebration, and now the planning session is underway: Should his tie be classic black or rose pink? Must the hem of her frock brush the brick patio? What should they serve? Should their Rottweiler attend?
\f7 SHE: Whew. I just checked my Letitia Baldrige book on manners for the '90s, and she says a woman can wear a short or long gown to a black-tie affair. Evening sandals are also a proper choice, she says. So I'm all set: I'm wearing some new, low-heeled gold sandals with the full-skirted strapless cocktail dress you like--the one I bought for last year's Orange Blossom Ball.
No one would believe I bought it a thrift shop--the Orangewood Boutique in Corona del Mar. Society types bring their pricey, worn-once-or-twice rags there. Sale proceeds go to the Orangewood home for abused, abandoned and neglected children.
HE: Gee, what should I wear, I wonder?
I'll tell you what I won't be wearing: black wing tips, black moccasins, black tasseled loafers. If it's a tuxedo from the ankles up, it has to--has to--be patent leather from the ankles down. Nothing else. This is a rule that's routinely violated. I figure if a guy springs for a tux he ought to do it right and get himself a pair of patent leathers. Otherwise, he looks worse than if he rented it.
SHE: Hmmm. You're right. The black-tie mandate leaves men little room for creativity.
Have you checked out those new pastel cummerbund and bow-tie sets? They're perfect for spring and summer. If you buy or rent a set in rose tones, it will look super with my dress. And how about buying some new studs? Time to lose the \o7 faux\f7 onyx.
At a black-tie bash I attended in Newport Beach a few summers ago, the men wore tux jackets or white dinner jackets with Bermuda shorts. The women played it ultra-dressy, and the men just played.
HE: Hear that strange chorus of whooshing noises? That's Cary Grant, David Niven and Fred Astaire, all pinwheeling in their graves. I'm conservative in very few areas of life, but formal wear is one of them. Black tie means black and white, with actual black trousers, and ties and cummerbunds (or vests) that don't look like a hand grenade went off in Baskin-Robbins.
I'm not supposed to coordinate with your dress; I'm supposed to provide you with a nice monochromatic background from which to shine.
Sorry to sound like a bit of a stick, but I don't believe there are any half measures when the invitation says black tie (especially if parents are involved). That also means, I think, the best food served in the most elegant way possible.
That doesn't necessarily mean a sit-down dinner if space is limited, but the buffet chow had better be first-rate. I'd suggest a caterer. Otherwise the host and hostess are going to be forever disappearing into the kitchen to fetch and carry.
SHE: A caterer is a fine idea. But I was thinking caviar and champagne for the cocktail hour, salmon \o7 en papillote\f7 for dinner and a French vanilla anniversary cake topped with fresh strawberries. Catered, that's about $65 per person.
By the way, Baldrige says at summer black-tie affairs "men often break out in plaids, stripes or bright-colored dinner jackets worn with black trousers."
She also notes that a man can wear colorful trousers and combine them with a black jacket, white shirt and black tie. "Summer is a time for creativity, color and pattern to take hold," she says.
HE: Tish Baldrige never wore a tux in her life, and the rules don't change just because she says they do. She was Jackie Kennedy's chief of staff in the White House, and she should know better.
And about the expense: Did you think we were going to throw a black-tie party on the tailgate of the Blazer? Arranging a black-tie evening on the cheap is kind of like bringing your own six-pack to a coronation ball.
SHE: Agreed. So here's the party picture: You greet our 20 guests, and I'll be on the patio making sure everyone gets plenty of bubbly.
You make the anniversary toast; I'll make sure the fish doesn't burn.
Oh, and Dove Bar, you don't mind if Rodham attends, do you? She's such a cute pup, and I plan to buy her a rhinestone choker to wear to the party.
HE: Now you're thinking! If we can't skimp on the food and drink and clothes, we can at least stiff the dog. Cheapest rhinestones you can find. And no Alpo; looks too much like pate. A box of Milk Bones should do it. And we sic her on anyone in a peach cummerbund.