“December is a full-time job,” says Derek Blasberg, who is both a fashion expert and manners maven when it comes to ladies and gentlemen being on their best behavior. The magazine editor and author has recently released the follow-up to his New York Times bestseller “Classy,” with the dutifully titled “Very Classy.”
Blasberg is on a mission to make sure current generations can hold their own in every type of social situation. I spoke to the expert on how to navigate the marathon month of holiday parties.
Come prepared to converse If you are worried that you’ll draw a blank when it’s time to interact with the crowd, Blasberg suggests coming up with a few topics in your head beforehand: “I don’t make a list or write them on my hand or anything, but....if I’m going to a work event I might bring with me... a few conversational topics — a story I really liked, a photographer that just handed in a story that I think is amazing,” he says.
“If I’m going home, I might think about a few anecdotes or stories or experiences I’ve had recently that my mom would want to hear about,” says the Missouri native. “And of course if you’re with your friends you might want to bring a little bit of spicy gossip to the table.”
Bear gifts “There are a lot of hallmarks of a good house guest,” says Blasberg, who feels that if a host went to all the trouble to “cleaning and decorating and hosting and planning a menu and organizing drinks,” it’s worth it to “spend a couple of minutes and a couple of bucks on just a little something that proves your gratitude.”
Besides the standard scented candle or bouquet of flowers, Blasberg is a fan of unloading your digital camera and giving someone printed photos of themselves as a keepsake. “Most hostesses are pretty extroverted, outgoing and something tells me they’d appreciate a couple pictures of themselves.”
Early to party, early to leave When arriving for a party, Blasberg advises thanking the host first and be open to introducing others to those you think they may have not met. “I’ve introduced sisters to each other!” he says. And while it’s important to not be tardy for the party, one never wants to be the last to leave either. “Pay attention to the vibe of the room, and if people are going or if the lights are off and the music is out and people are kicking you out, go on and grab your coat,” he says with a laugh.
Don’t let dust put a damper on the party: “If the house is a mess but you spent a bunch of money on champagne, people are going to remember the dust bunnies under the couch and not the bubbly,” he says. “A clean house, good guest list, and a good party vibe are the three most important things, I think to entertaining, at any party.”
Find the DJ friend To keep things going, pay extra attention to your music, and don’t be afraid to solicit suggestions from others who have an iPod that could practically be its own record store if you need party playlist help. “Even if you don’t live in a city like New York where there are a bunch of DJs lying around, surely everyone has a friend that they know is really into music.”
Cards create more cheer “It’s an archaic ritual — the holiday card. But I’ve always said that to me the hallmark of a truly modern women is someone who sends a handwritten note,” Blasberg says of honoring the tradition of sending a nice note to someone around the holidays. “For anything that I’ve been truly thankful for, or an occasion that I’ve wanted someone to truly remember, I’ve always tried to send something in the mail.”
Savor, don’t shuffle through, the New Year : “There’s all this buildup, there’s all this attention paid to outfit, and then it’s over before you know it,” says Blasberg. “I think it’s nice when a guy wears something with a collar on New Year’s and a girl wears something flirty with some sparkly bits.”
Derek Blasberg lives in New York City where he holds the title of editor-at-large of Harper’s Bazaar and senior editor of V magazine and VMAN. Follow him on Twitter @derekblasberg.