I have a dinner party coming up with a mix of American and Italian students ranging in age from 20 to 28 years old. I know what to wear for a dinner party with Americans, but I get somewhat self-conscious about what to wear and what not to wear when there are Italian men involved.
I am average height and have some curves but my torso is a bit long and I have a small chest. Depending on what I wear and how I style my hair, I tend to look younger that I really am. I don't want to dress like a nun but don't want to look like ‘too sexy', either.
Would it be weird if I chose a dress shirt with black slacks? I like wearing high heels on formal occasions, but this seems more semi-formal, so would it be too casual if I wear flats? What kind of shoes should I go for that won't kill my feet on my way to and from the dinner party? Lastly, it has been pretty cold at night, so what sort of jacket should I wear over my outfit that won't make me look like a square box?
Thank you for your email; your issue is a very interesting one.
The first and most important thing to consider is that when talking about fashion we have to differentiate between looking good, being well put-together, and being trendy. It is interesting that the Latin term elegantia comes from the verb eligere, which means ‘the ability to choose'. Through a meticulous combination of items, we can always choose the best look for certain occasions.
For a dinner party with no dancing involved, I would definitely suggest long sleeves. If you wear a skirt, you'll need stockings-it's coming on winter, after all, and there is no reason to go around half-naked. Avoid cotton and linen and very bright colors, especially if you have pale skin.
In light of your body shape, you could wear a blouse or a dress with a bow collar or ruffles in the chest area, which will make you look bigger. If you are not into frills, then go for a simple boat neck, which is very chic and gives the same result. Avoid plunging necklines, v-necks and empire waist cuts. The top or dress can be a soft pastel tone-grey or purple, ivory-white or powder pink (just the top)-embellished with beads or embroidery.
Emphasize your waistline with a blouse tucked into pants (or a skirt), or a tiny belt on your dress; this will ‘break the figure' and highlight your small waist while accentuating your hips. An elegant fitted sweater would also work, as the softness of the wool can give volume to the silhouette. If you choose pants, go for a classic ‘man-style' with straight legs and a nice waistband (avoid skinny pants or leggings). A skirt should be a simple pencil skirt that hits just above the knee (no minis). If you pair a skirt with a minimal top, you can dare a bit with some ruffles or pleats. You can never go wrong with black, but you could also experiment with a dark British plaid, which is very trendy this fall.
As for shoes, if you go for a nice top and elegant classic skirt or pants, then black ballerinas are perfect. For a more feminine touch, the right heels would be ankle lace-up boots with a round toe and medium wide heel.
Remember to bring along a warm wool short coat (if it is too loose you can add a nice big belt), a small evening bag and all your self-confidence and natural ‘charme'.
Remember: there are as many different styles as there are people on this planet. We are each unique and should embrace the seasonal trends while staying faithful to our own personal style. Have fun!