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What to Wear: Fancy Restaurant Openings

By Amalah

Amy (do you mind if I call you Amy?),

HELP! I don’t know if the following question is Smackdown worthy, but if anyone could help me, it’d be you.

Because you are wise and wonderful.

And have probably been to this sort of thing before.

Ahem. My husband and I have been invited to the grand opening soirée of the new Spago in the Ritz Carlton near Vail, CO. It’s coming up the first week in December (hence the urgency!) and I have NO idea what to wear. What in the world does a person wear to a restaurant opening? I’m 28 and consider myself pretty fashionable, but something like this is outside of my realm of experience. My husband was a big part of the process of getting the restaurant open, so I assume I will be dragged hither and yon being introduced to people and can’t hide in the corner…I must be presentable!

Does the classic little black dress (cocktail length) work in this situation, or does this require something more formal? Less formal? Ski sweater with a repeating reindeer pattern?

Anyway, any help you can send my way would be HIGHLY appreciated!


Whee! You lucky girl! Restaurant openings are ridiculously fun. A little chaotic, just the right level of fancy and someone almost always spills the soup.

And you are right on the money about the little black dress. Cocktail length, unless you received an invitation that stated anything otherwise (formal, business casual, etc.) If you didn’t receive an actual paper invitation but suspect that others did, ask your husband for the number or email of the restaurant’s PR person and just straight-up ask about the dress code. They’ll be happy to help, really. I’ve done the same thing several times since Jason rarely thinks about these sort of dressing dilemmas either. (And then has his own crisis 15 minutes before the babysitter shows up because OMG, should he wear a sport coat? A tie? What if everybody else is wearing a tie? OK, he’ll roll up the tie and put it in his pocket and make me scout out the room while he pays the valet.)

If you can’t track a PR person down, I am 100% confident that the little black dress is the way to go. I’m also 100% confident that there will be SEVERAL jackasses in jeans and repeating-reindeer-pattern sweaters and backwards ball caps, but not you. You will look marvelous, and everybody else will wish they looked as marvelous as you.

If there is one thing I have learned from living in DC, where nobody dresses up for ANYTHING EVER, it’s that it is still always, always better to be overdressed than underdressed. I mean, why try to blend in? I don’t mean ball gowns and tiaras or anything, but my word, wearing a pretty dress and heels for a special night out won’t kill you, people.

So black dress, black heels, a clutch or other evening bag, and simple sparkly jewelry. Wear a dress coat that’s a couple inches longer than your dress, and maybe wear a scarf that can double as a wrap (pashmina or silk or something similar) once you’re inside if your dress isn’t December-in-Colorado weather friendly.

And remember, club soda gets soup out of cocktail dresses just fine.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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This is now my all-time favorite smackdown. It is a classic. If you have an advice hall of fame, it should be at the very top. The second to the last paragraph goes for holiday parties too, no?
Do you mind if I add something? If you don’t have sparkly, but you have pearls, try the pearls. Pearls are always elegant.


repeating reindeer patterns. Ha!


I was going to ask if pearls were appropriate..