May I remind you, the email ran, that the dress code is formal black tie.
It was about 7.30am and I was checking my emails on my way into work. The PA from the NY office of New Agency had sent a note confirming travel plans for my imminent trip out there to meet the US team.
Formal black tie. I'd only skimmed over the mail, but I went back, assuming that I was merely suffering the effects of a morning not yet caffeinated. But no, that's definitely what it said.
Eh? I vented on Twitter. What other kind of black tie could there possibly be?!
Damned Americans, I huffed to myself once I'd got into town, as I walked to the office via a nearby cafe, clutching a croissant and large Earl Grey tea, The Intern having been too busy with schmoozing journos at the Dean Street townhouse and mooning over the new boy she's seeing to pick up more teabags.
For formal occasions in Britain, you know where you stand. Dress codes might not be stuck to as rigidly as once they were, but you still know if you’re off to Ascot, you wear a hat; and that it’s fine to turn up in jeans should an invitation say ‘come as you are’. But the apparently tautological formal black tie isn’t something I’ve encountered before.
Maybe it means white tie? Gin Operated said, logically enough. You could take gloves just in case.
Huh, I thought. That makes sense. Excellent. Another outing for the bargain vintage ballgown it is (it has performed its task admirably at one x grad ball at Edinburgh; 1x hunt, and 1x Christmas ball at Sandhurst. Any excuse to wear it in front of people who’ve not seen it before is jumped on with great relish).
That was a best laid plan, right there. Just a fraction later…
Oh no – it’s very specific, came the invaluable advice from the lovely Liberty London Girl. It means long, but sexy, chiffony long. NOT ballgown. And New York women like to look HAWT – think British grooming x1000%. Go and get a mani-pedi ($20) and a blow dry ($30). Get make up done on counter at SAKS.
Oh hell’s bells.
“Hmm,” said JournoGal over dinner at the excellent and highly-recommended Polpetto. “That’s not very Brit-friendly, is it? I mean, British glamour is more about dusting off the priceless jewels, and then teaming them with shoes that the dog’s chewed a bit.”
That is EXACTLY my approach. I’m not the most well-groomed of people at the best of times. I have my very own brand of what I like to term ‘through a hedge backwards’ chic: I’m generally quite presentable, but the hair never does as it’s told, and it’s more than likely that the large scarf is hiding some sort of spillage.
Expletive, I said in an email to Best Mate, trying to get my point across in a way that would slip through her legal firm’s IT guidelines. I don’t think I want to go.
Her response? Hah.
At least in preparation for my trip, I am now armed: along with the mountain of Cadbury’s chocolate I’ve packed (the US team WILL like me if I have to bribe them with decentish chocolate to do so), I have LLG’s email on exactly where to get myself groomed to US standards. But I might just sneak in a copy of Debrett’s too, just to show them quite what black tie means in the old country – and that blow dries have nothing to do with it.
Feeling very far away from everyone.
10 hours ago