What to Wear to the Philly Auto Show Black Tie Tailgate (Hint: Please Not What You Wore To Hair O’ The Dog)

The updated way to dress for a formal event.


Sheer + sparkles + tendrils = Ice skaters gone wild. | Shutterstock.

The season of formal events is upon us: the Oscars, the SAG Awards, the Academy Ball, the Lemon Ball, the Marian Anderson Awards … the Hair O’ the Dog. Earlier this week, I clicked through HughE Dillon’s slideshow of photos from the latter event, which is also known as Philly’s ‘adult prom,’ and, well, see for yourself.

In HughE’s words:

“Often described as an adult prom, the glamorous event attracts guests who really dress in their gala best, from black tie to gowns, cocktail dresses to your best dark suit.”

Hm. While I’m not so sure about the ‘glamorous,’ I do think ‘adult prom’ is an apt title. I’ve recently chaperoned a few proms (my husband is a high school teacher) and most of the dresses the high-school girls wear bear a lot of similarity to the ones trotted out at Hair O’ the Dog. They are tight, shiny, sometimes sheer, with strategic cutouts, a bit of ruching, maybe a slit or two, and always, always paired with a fake tan and at least one tendril.

While the women themselves were gorgeous, some of the dresses seemed dated, overwrought, too much of everything—too much boobage, or upper-thigh-age, or too age-inappropriate, or like something that just skated off the rink at the 2014 National Ice Dancing Competition, or maybe Dancing With The Stars.

Formal dressing is tough—is a train too much? Is Amal Alamuddin bringing white gloves back? (No)—and it’s so easy to jump on the long-sparkly-lots-o’-cleavage bandwagon. But don’t! Resist the urge to wear a spangled tube! We can do better—be chicer—than this. Here are some fresh ideas to roll out at your next event. Love ’em or hate ’em, it’s worth giving your formal duds a bit of a refresher. Now, go paint the town red.

1. WEAR PANTS. Do it. It’s the epitome of “Oh, I just threw this on!” chic. Go as classic (like Sofia Coppola, far left), sleek (Gia Coppola) or sexy (Cara Delevingne).


Photos via PopSugar and Nelly.com.


2. GO BRIGHT. Instead of blinding people with shine and sparkle, wow ’em with bright, bold splashes of color. It’s less expected than high-wattage sequins, and you’ll stand out in a sea of black.


Olivia Palermo, Lupita Nyong’o, Emma Stone.


3. OR GO METALLIC. If you still want the shine, try a metallic instead of sequins or embellishments. If you must do sparkly, then opt for a simple shape with minimal accessories, like Kate Bosworth, far left. Otherwise, try a thicker fabric with a sheen (instead of satin), like Miranda Kerr and Lauren Conrad.


4. FORGET THE DRESS AND WEAR A SKIRT. For major fashion cred, go fancy on the bottom (ostrich feathers!) and casual on top (a simple white shirt). From left: Jenna Lyons, an Alice + Olivia model, and a look from Christian Siriano’s spring 2015 RTW show.

Skirts 2

Images via Getty and Style.com.


5.WHEN IN DOUBT, WEAR A TUX. It’s undeniably sexy. See: Carine Roitfield, Crystal Renn, and Angelina Jolie.