Long gowns and updos in fashion at White House Correspondents’ cocktail party

April 29, 2012

Arianna Huffington was attached to her publication’s guest, Dakota Fanning, at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner’s pre-party cocktail hour on Saturday. Actually, tangled up with is a better description: The two stood so close that Fanning’s glitzy Prada gown clung to Huffington’s neon Nanette Lepore, rhinestones poised to ravage lace. Fanning tugged lightly as Huffington chatted away with others, seemingly unaware as the young starlet gingerly pulled the embellishments off her host. (Less considerate starlets would have yanked and ran.)

Such is the danger of the long gown at crowded pre-parties. And formal gowns were more common at the event’s cocktail hour this year, despite the forecasted showers and resulting puddles.

“I had to switch into ballet flats to get here in the rain!” said Jessica Murphy, a reporter for Reuters and a first-time attendee of the cocktail hour, wearing a light blue French Connection gown.

“I definitely wanted to wear a long gown, even in the rain,” said Helin Jung, a staff editor of People magazine in an Urban Outfitters grecian gown and faux fur jacket. “It’s black tie. You want to look like you’re trying.”

Designer Tory Burch understands the desire to go long. Wearing a baby blue, one-shouldered Carolina Herrera gown, she remarked, “I’ve been coming here a few years now, and I just always wear long. . . . I know that’s not a good answer.”

But in a way, long is a safer, intuitive choice for Washington women, despite the inconvenience of tailoring and getting tied up in fabric clashes.

“I always fear [cocktail dresses] will look too short on me,” said Rebecca Cooper, a WJLA reporter who had her Badgley Mischka column gown tailored on Friday afternoon.

As usual, designers ran the gamut at the event. Michelle Obama donned a long, multi-colored, strapless gown by one of her favorite designers, Naeem Khan.

Dinner newcomer Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law school student who became embroiled in the contraception debate, wore a floor-length, royal blue gown. Her answer to the “Who are you wearing?” query?

“Macy’s.”

Buns abound

Buns were plentiful at this year’s event. Kim Kardashian sported a Liz Taylor-inspired updo perched high atop her head. Kate Hudson, too, opted for a large, ’70s-inspired bun. Charlize Theron and Irina Shayk wore basic balletic buns, the sort suitable for both red carpets and yoga mats. Reese Witherspoon donned the lower-swept option, an immaculately pinned homage to Grace Kelly and her imitators. While Leslie Mann and Rashida Jones wore the messy, side-swept variety, Ivanka Trump’s take on the topper was as controlled and elaborate as her gilded Naeem Khan gown.

Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.
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