What to Wear: Dress Code Ambiguity for a Fall Outdoor Gathering

Sometimes the dress code on an invitation does give you pause.

For example, the first time I saw the phrase “snappy casual” on an invite, I thought, “OK, when did Ken and Barbie take over the party circuit?”  Another somewhat perplexing invitation arrived with this challenge: Garden Cocktail in early Fall.

WHAT does one wear to a Fall (but it still feels like summer) garden cocktail party?

The party I’m referring to is the Whitland Home Tour’s Patron Party.  In fact, one of the organizers of this party emailed me saying, “Lots of folks are asking me what to we wear.  What would you tell them because I’m not sure?”  My friend Leigh always says, “Don’t make me think about it; just tell me what to wear.”   There’s an ounce of wisdom in that thought as no one likes to arrive at a party too over-the-top or worse, way too under-dressed.

Since StyleBlueprint has never met a dress challenge we didn’t love, but also know to call when we need some assistance, we decided to enlist our friends, the Closet Gals (as Liza and I affectionately refer to them).  The Closet Gals are the dynamic duo wardrobe stylists Tina Adams and Rebecca Thompson.

Here are the stats on the party:

What:  Whitland Home Tour Patron’s Garden Party

Where:  The Caplenor Residence, 219 Bowling Avenue

When:  Friday, September 25th at 6:30PM

Chair: Doug Lesky

Attire:  Garden Cocktail

We decided it would make sense to go to United Apparel Liquidators, or UAL,  since it is a couple of blocks from the neighborhood and the manager, Holly, is incredible.  She’s friendly, resourceful and loves fashion.  I first met Holly when I brought in my daughter to look for a dress to wear to a bar mitzvah.  About 10 dresses later, we found a fantastic, age appropriate, purple and fuchsia silk dress.

Tina and Rebecca met me at the store and we began pulling possible outfits out in a flurry.  Each one of their outfit choices addresses many of their tried and true cardinal rules for the perfect outfit.  I even pulled out a pair of ankle strap shoes and they both shook their heads “NO!”  Ankle strap shoes cut off the legs leaving you with the oh-so terrible stumpy look.  Yikes!  I had on a pair of ankle strap sandals at the time, but they graciously said the sandals passed the meddle because the straps were low on my ankle. Whew….

Take a look… here are the outfits:

Tina especially loves this look because the satin allows a dressy look but one that is still light.  And, let’s face it, ruffles are fun and feminine.  The blouse is by Sophia Eugene for $49.99 and the pants by Ms. Davenport for $62.99. Paired with incredible chandelier earrings and a this pair of dreamy brown velvet pumps (Jacqueline Schanabel, $113.99) the outfit allows for a sophistication and subtlety that meets the challenge.

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The next outfit shows two great wardrobes extenders:  a Narciso Rodriguez black zipper skirt at $89.99, reduced from $325, and a gorgeous teal Graydn silk jacket at $59.99, reduced from $430.  Add a fabulous pair of sequined pumps by Miu Miu at $195.99, reduced from $650, and you truly have a show stopper ensemble. Note the incredible Lavin pin at the waist of the jacket-a collector’s item for sure at $77.00, reduced from $320.

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Knowing UAL store manager Holly had great taste, I asked her to put together an outfit of her own for a fictional FALL garden party.  She went right to a gorgeous purple cocktail dress by Michael Kors at $328.99 reduced from $1,095.99.  Together with the three metal bangle bracelets for $9.99 each and a fab cocktail ring by Kendra Scott for $36.99, you’re off to the races, er, I mean gardens!  This outfit may entice one of you to throw a last minute garden gala considering none of us have ever seen our gardens and grass looking so lush in Fall.

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We couldn’t resist finding three incredible shoes options for the dress.  Check these out.  Just stay on the patio and out of the grass with these, OK?

Prada reduced from $690 to $310.99

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Jill Sanders’ purple suede shoe for $132.99 reduced from $530.

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Jill Sanders’ hot pink sandal for $79.99 reduced from $303.99

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UAL’s choice for the one MUST HAVE wardrobe item is the cute BabaKul black vest featured below for the amazing price of $59.99.  It comes in white, denim and two styles in black.
The details on the back makes the vest

The details on the back makes the vest

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Mark your calendars this weekend:
The Whitland Avenue Home Tour
September 26-27th
Saturday 1-4PM
Sunday 1-4PM
Tickets available for purchase at any of the featured homes.
And, my home, Elizabeth’s, is on the tour!
Fashions provided by:
United Apparel Liquidators
2918 West End Avenue
Nashville, TN
Phone: 615-340-9999