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A Word About the Ball and All

By Cathy Horyn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 3, 1993; Page F03

Not many social occasions rival an inaugural ball. You spend hours getting dressed, made up and coiffed, only to have your gown crushed, your lipstick smudged and your 'do dented. And for what? A five-minute peek at the president. Still, you can hardly be expected to stay home this year if you're a Democrat. Some random fashion thoughts, then, on inaugural balls, galas, parades, lunches and all those private FOB parties:

1. Veterans of inaugural balls know the price of wearing a new gown to a party attended by thousands. "Somehow, everything finds its way to your dress -- food, lipstick, sweaty hands," shudders a former Reaganite. When she was a buyer at Garfinckel's in the early '80s, Aniko Gaal Schott wore a new Saint Laurent gown to an inaugural ball -- and promptly got a cigarette hole in it. So, you might think twice about wearing something new. Besides, who's going to notice one more black dress in a black hole of many?

2. A word of advice about coat-check lines. One year there was a stampede as men and women, apparently ticked off by the delay, decided to leap over the counter and lunge for their coats. This seems a bit unnecessary -- and an uncivilized way to end the evening too. Consider wearing a generously wide stole instead of a coat. You can wrap it around you -- then leave it over the back of your chair while you're dancing.

3. If you've been invited to a private luncheon or dinner during inaugural week, find out what the expected attire is. There's a sartorial distinction, after all, between an MTV party and a gathering of the party faithful at Pamela Harriman's home. Daytime suits of the Chanel kind always cut a nice impression at the Jockey Club, but one hopes the newly entrenched Democrats will be more imaginative than that. Avoid pearls, hats and red-lacquered nails. Brush up on Bosnia, health care and the deficit.

4. According to First Lady wardrobe adviser Cliff Chally, Hillary Clinton wants to be comfortable and, above all, warm on Inauguration Day. You should too. Dress warmly for the parade in duck boots, down coats, fur hats and long johns. By the way, you might consider wearing a backpack -- so your hands will be free if the president decides to stop and shake.

5. Something ought to be said about the Blue Jean Bash. The prospect of facing several thousand Arkansans in boots, hats and cute cowgirl dresses makes one think of all those Carter people in plaid shirts. Just remember that a little goes a long way, that Washington remembers everything (Georgette Mosbacher in rhinestones comes to mind), and that nobody really expects you to like catfish.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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