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A Social Guide

October 27, 1994|KATHRYN BOLD

Here's a fashion guide to Orange County's social calendar:

Opera Ball. A dinner-dance for Opera Pacific on Saturday, the opera ball is "one of the most grandiose, elegant events in the county," says Gayle Anderson, chief of protocol for Orange County, who has served as opera ball chairwoman three times. "Bring out your finest ball gown." This year, however, patrons also need to bring out their masks--invitations request that guests dress as their favorite opera characters.

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Candlelight Concert. For the benefit for the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Dec. 11, chairwoman Catherine Thyen describes attire as "black tie with a Christmas look." Women wear their fanciest dresses. "It's as ball gown as you can get," Thyen says. Ideally, both men and women will sport touches of red and green--a red cummerbund and bow tie for men works nicely.

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International Protocol Ball. Staged by the International Visitors and Protocol Foundation of Orange County, most party-goers to the March 18 event will follow the fashion lead of the members of the consular corps, who are accustomed to very formal black-tie galas. Men wear tuxedos, and women wear their big ball gowns, although long dresses are acceptable, too.

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The Oaks Classic. The biggest mistake most people make when dressing for the Oaks' brunch that accompanies the equestrian competition each September is to don country-Western attire. Actually, "beautiful sportswear with an equestrian dash" is more appropriate, Thyen says. Think of going to an English hunt rather than a Western hoedown. She suggests a great-looking formal blazer for men and women, tailored pants and a cravat. "No fringe, no Western hats, no cowboy boots," Thyen says.

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South Coast Repertory Gala. This is a formal affair, which is why the appearance of pantsuits at September's Viva Teatro gala puzzled some party-goers. "That's definitely not the place for a pantsuit," Thyen says. The gala, which kicks off Orange County's social season, began as a white-tie event but has since been downgraded to black tie because the men were uncomfortable in those high collars and tails, Thyen says. Now the men don their ordinary tuxedos, sans the tails, while women can wear short or long dresses, although Thyen says a formal ball gown with full skirt is preferred.

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Museum Gala: Those who attend a gala at the Bowers or any museum must master the art of "creative black tie." In keeping with the spirit of the Bowers, men and women often wear ethnic attire such as costumes from their native lands or countries featured in current exhibits. For instance, at La Fiesta, the Bowers main black-tie fund-raiser held in September, party-goers wore turn-of-the-century Edwardian looks in honor of the museum's retrospective on California paintings. "When you deal with Bowers patrons, you're going to get a creative edge," says Brian Langston, spokesman for Bowers. "These are some of the more interesting people in the county, and they dress accordingly."

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Newport Beach Concours d'Elegance. Elegant outdoor affairs that require a lot of walking such as this one held on the first Sunday in October call for "your best silk sportswear," says Thyen, a former chairwoman of the Concours. "Silk pants are fine, and comfortable shoes. Don't wear high heels. You'll be walking on grass."

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Opening Night. At the Orange County Performing Arts Center, South Coast Repertory and other theaters, opening night fashions run the gamut from gorgeous dresses to jeans, Thyen says. For ballets and plays, Thyen suggests a short cocktail dress for women and a suit for men. Barbara Glabman, a frequent events chairwoman and board member of the center and SCR, offers practical advice for dressing for the theater: "You shouldn't wear something more to the theater than fits in your seat," she says. Sleeves and skirts should not invade another's space. "And don't wear something that rides up when you sit," Glabman says.

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