Secrets to Formalwear

imageEstelle Schlossberg’s eponymous dress shop has been the “go-to” for brides, their mothers and mothers of grooms as well as prom queens, beauty queens and ladies making entrances of every variety for over twenty years. Estelle’s is a unique fount of designer formalwear—many designers send their top pieces there ahead of other retailers. As a buyer and merchandiser, her ability to spot a trend almost before it happens is part of the secret to her success. As is her ability to dress any body type. This month, as weddings, christenings and other special occasions start to fill our calendars, Estelle lent some keen insights into how to select the best gown or formal attire.

Long Island Pulse: What’s the biggest trend in formalwear this season?
The high-low style. It’s great because it allows for freedom of movement and shows off the shoes that complement the dress. Also, the high-low gown gives one the illusion of being taller.

LIP: Who’s wearing this look? When does it work best?
The mother-of-the-bride/groom is using the high-low look to accentuate her shoes. The train on the back of the dress helps her to achieve the formal look but have fun dancing. The prom-goer likes this look because it can be highlighted on a dress in a number of ways, including with ruffles that add texture and tiers for volume. Another way we are seeing this is with a short dress as a base with a longer, matching skirt that is detachable, adding another option to a wardrobe. It’s good for all body types since it comes in all sizes and any number of styles, colors and embellishments.

LIP: Are there major transitions in trends from season to season in gowns?
More and more consumers are taking cues from what they see worn on the red carpet. They want to “glam it up” with the beaded embellishments and cut-outs that expose the skin they see the celebrities wear.

LIP: What are your top 3 favorite moments in formal wear:

1. Kate Middleton’s 2011 wedding gown by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen
2. Jessica Chastain’s Armani Privé gown at the 2013 Oscars
3. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Ralph Lauren gown at the 1999 Oscars


LIP: How do you pick the right shoe for a formal look?
Actually, the old way of “matching” the shoe with the color of the gown is passé. Now, more and more consumers use the embellishments on the gown as the starting point; for example, the beading on the gown. But, as always, the wearer should feel comfortable with the height of the heel when selecting any shoe. Platforms are very popular because they provide balance even with very high heels.

LIP: Is it appropriate for a woman to wear a suit to a formal affair?
I would say that a suit is not appropriate for a woman to wear to a formal affair. Leave the standard look of tuxedos and formal suits to the men. Gowns are the perfect way for a woman to use the night to display her personal likes in terms of color and style and her best jewelry and accessories.

Estelle’s Tips for the Perfect Dress:

1. Be Cautious of Fit: Remember you are getting in and out of a limo, sitting for dinner (and dessert) and dancing the night away. Basically, the gown should allow for plenty of movement.

2. Keep it Personal: Don’t let a trend make the decision for you. If you enjoy wearing a certain color, look for a gown in that color. If you like a certain style, look for that style. It’s all about what you feel comfortable in, the key word being “you.”