What To Wear To A Garden Party? Because Winter Will End Some Day.
Come February, someone, somewhere, is sick of winter. Someone, somewhere is dreaming of spring and summer. To say nothing of the associated dresses.
For High WASPs, spring and summer mean garden parties. Most likely because in days of yore we had a lot of land. Some of which we would make into gardens, in an exercise of man over landscape. Which would then make great settings for gathering friends, family, food and alcohol. (You can disguise alcohol in many warm weather drinks, iced tea, punch, soda, the list is endless.)
Garden parties take place any time between 11:00am and 5pm. After 5pm it's a soiree. An entirely different paradigm, with far more potential for drama. People rarely misbehave at garden parties, unless you count pulling off lavender flower heads from other people's shrubs, and squeezing them between your fingers for the scent.
As always at High WASP events, there's a dress code. As usual, unspoken. I couldn't even tell you how I know all this, but I can guarantee that if I call my sisters or my mother and ask, they will agree.
Some dresses are garden party material, literally and figuratively, others are not. Hence, inn the immortal words of Glamour Magazine, Garden Party Dos and Don'ts.
Halfway between flowing and fitted
Shiny (particularly beads or sequins but satin is also verboten)
Color should not be too vivid in florals. You do not want to appear to be competing with the bougainvillea, the peonies, the iris. The amount of skin shown should decrease exponentially each decade. Let us consider some examples.
As a college student, (with a generous mother, to be sure), or in your early 20's, try Anna Sui. The bloom of youth and all that. This is actually denim, on trend, but still appropriate.
As you progress through your 20's, get a "real job", enter your 30's with Chloe.
At 40, that moment when impunity may be finally within your grasp, reclaim the garden party from its pastel prison. Marimekko may be making a comeback.
At 50, garden parties are the perfect venue to experiment with eccentricity. Just in case that's going to be your elder style strategy. Eccentric transcends the usual archetypes in a time-honored High WASP tradition. Call them plimsolls, not sneakers, and you are well on your way.
And, just in case you wish life were nothing but one long, hazy, bee-filled garden party, you can wear this satin number to the soiree afterwards. Misbehave in flowers all around.
My experience suggests that spring and summer will come soon.
Belton Gardens, via Lincolnian's photostream and the Creative Commons at Flickr
Anna Sui via net-a-porter
Chloe via net-a-porter
Erdem via net-a-porter