There’s nothing more embarrassing that waltzing into some brand new environment and you come to find out that you’re wearing the wrong thing. There’s black tie, formal, white formal, ultra formal, black tie optional, black tie invited, creative black tie, Texas black tie, resort formal, semi-formal, after-5, business formal, cocktail, informal, casual, dressy casual and my all time-favorite Alaskan cocktail.
It’s enough to blow your mind. Seriously? I’ve been studying this nonsense for quite awhile and it’s still a lot for me to wrap my head around.
You want to know what I do as a professional stylist when I’m in doubt? I bring up Google images and I type in whatever they say the garb will be and I eyeball what everyone else is wearing.
But here’s the thing: it’s still tricky as all hell.
I remember not too long ago I busted out this gorgeous Kate Hudson dress a la How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Remember that sexy little yellow number? The invitation said “Hollywood Formal.” I tanned (I know, I know you can chastise me for that later. I’m not advocating tanning. I know it causes cancer. I made a mistake and should have gone with a spray tan.) I dolled up my hair in this pretty little, effortless way and went with one of my best friends to this gala. Let me tell you, we were dressed to the nines because that’s what the invitation called for; but evidently just because you encourage someone to dress up, doesn’t mean they’re going to take you seriously.
So we sashay into this piece and what do I see standing before me, some fellow in jeans and a t-shirt.
Seriously? I thought. You mean I shaved my legs for this. This is crap.
I was bummed. I mean, I thought I was going to this swanky event and even though I followed the rules, I felt overdressed and inadequate because someone else sauntered in like he just hopped off some horse, and forged the river on Oregon Trail.
It was nonsense.
But before I got all judgmental, I reminded myself that, I too, have dressed inappropriately for multiple occasions.
In your mind I want you to picture 1991. You were probably rocking slouchy jeans, scrunchies, belly shirts, the Blossom hat, and denim cut offs with white lace, neon and the…body suit.
Now if you recall, there were a couple of kinds of body suits back in the day. There were the ones with the shoulders cut out with long sleeves and turtle necks, there were the basic black ones with the little snaps around your underpants and then there were the fancy thong ones that you were supposed to wear over top of Spandex pants.
I had more body suits than you can imagine. I had the snappy kind, ones with Cheetahs on them, pink ones, green and white ones, blue ones, neon ones…
Okay so I know what you’re thinking. Crack was the 90s crack.
I exaggerate to clarify. Give me a little creative license here.
So, my grandma whom I call Nanner, knows I have a penchant for these things and she knows I’m all about gymnastics and have it in my head that I’m going to become the next Mary Lou Retten and have my face plastered all over Wheaties boxes, so I’m going to use whatever means necessary to get a perfect 10 in the Olympics.
My Dad even made me this extra narrow balance beam that when I slipped off the side I’d cover myself in splinters and I’d practice all day long in the summertime to master my tricks thinking one day I’d be training under Béla Károlyi. I wanted to go toe to toe with Shannon Miller.
I was needlessly intense.
Much to my joy, she comes over one day and pulls out this longer body suit. It’s multi-colored, sort of neon with splashes of blue and green and this magnificent bow on the back of it. I mean this thing is the holy grail of body suits except for one minor detail.
The bottom is too long and kind of skinny.
Nanner is pretty handy so she pops this beast on me and folds it over and pins it, takes it off and sews it up and viola!, I’ve got myself a new body suit.
If you know anything about fashion what so ever you’ll know that the first time you ever don an outfit out in public it’s a big day.
I had gymnastics that night and I put on this body suit, and I notice it’s a little breezy in the backside but I don’t think much of it because I figure that’s what’s in fashion these days. Nanner who knew nothing about clothing except how to fix it, called it a “French cut.” Meaning the sides came up a little higher than normal to make your legs look longer. I take a look at it, decide my legs do look longer, pop on a pair of sweatpants and head to gymnastics.
They were sticklers for details in gymnastics, too. You wore a unitard or body suit, slicked your hair back to an inch of its life and then stuck snap pins in it and pulled a half a bang or two out the front and then fashioned it with a scrunchie. You’re a gymnast. Those are the rules.
So we’re in there, warming up and we’re getting ready to start our floor exercise. It wasn’t unusual for a coach to stand in the middle to spot us with their hand as we were flipping around.
Right as I’m standing on the corner getting ready to take off, I get in trouble for the millionth time for wearing sweatpants. So I whip those beasts off and take off running, preparing to do a round off backhand spring into something crazy.
The coach never saw it coming. But the class did because we were all instructed to watch.
I ran full tilt with intensity the likes of which I have never mustered since. I shot up my front leg. I spring my hands down on the ground. I land the round off and put my body in the question mark position getting ready to flip back on my hands.
I made two mistakes. First, I misjudged my distance.
Second and most unfortunately, my unitard turned out not to be a untiard at all. Rather…
It was an adult woman’s one piece thong.
And I most definitely should have worn bike shorts under if I should have been wearing this thing at all.
I ass-slammed the coach’s face, knocking her off kilter.
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the raw, awesome power of a fourth grader’s tumble, but it must have been mighty. I either propelled her backward or if she was trying to dodge my free-flying fanny. I prefer to think of the majestic power that must have been emanating from my being.
But in either event, she met my naked butt, face first.
Never in my life have I heard an adult bellow like this and still, to this day, I have never heard one more guttural. I don’t know how I’d react in this situation because I have never been butt-slammed by a child so her reaction may have been perfectly within the confines of normal human behavior. Her nose thwacked against my cheek.
I had done the unthinkable. I butt-scored a teacher. Half naked.
She screamed something about my pants.
I told her we weren’t allowed to wear pants on the floor.
She said if we couldn’t wear pants, what made me think we could run around indecently, too?
They’re French cut, I insisted.
Oh no. They most certainly weren’t.
It was simply the wrong outfit for the occasion.
Which brings me back to the initial point: There’s nothing more embarrassing than waltzing into some brand new environment and you come to find out that you’re wearing the wrong thing.