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There is a new food and wine festival in DC, and this weekend it took place. Celebrity Chef Michael Mina created Georgetown Wine & Dine, a weekend of fabulous food and drink events that raised funds for World Central Kitchen. Hosted by the Four Seasons Hotel Georgetown and Company Fine Wine, the red carpet reception took place Friday night and I was invited to attend. Below I share what I wore and how I decided what to wear to this food-based event at a five-star hotel on a Friday night in DC.
Deciphering Dress Code: How I Decided What to Wear to this Event
The invitation stated it was a red-carpet reception from 6-10pm. It would take place in the courtyard at Bourbon Steak, the restaurant inside The Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown, and stated the format would be, “Heavy hors d'oeuvres with wine and spirit stations as well as Chef’s stations.”
Having a four-hour reception with stations meant this would not be a seated event, you could arrive and leave any time, and food would be eaten on small cocktail plates while standing at high-top tables or occasional seating arrangements.
Since the event started at 6pm on a Friday, I knew that there would be attendees arriving straight from work. That plus a courtyard environment and food stations made me decide that while the red carpet detail made me think I should go glam/cocktail, I would be better off in something a bit more… versatile. Like if I stood next to a person who came straight from the office, it wouldn't look like one of us was lost but I'd also look okay next to someone wearing feathers.
The day was one of those weirdly warm November days in DC so bare legs and open-toed shoes were comfortable. However, I planned the look a bit in advance and wanted a versatile look that could work with heeled tall boots and sparklier jewelry if a cold front came through the city that week.
I texted with two friends who I knew would also be attending and we discussed dress code. We all have very different personal style aesthetics, lifestyles, and personalities, but we all ended up wearing outfits that didn't look out of place at the same event.
What I Wore to Georgetown Wine & Dine Weekend Reception at Bourbon Steak
I have attended events like these, and I knew there would be a mix of folks. Part of the crowd would be local personalities (newscasters, magazine editors, influencers, creatives), part would be the food scene (gourmands, chefs and food producers, food influencers and writers), and part would be folks where buying tickets for a celebrity food experience sounds like a fun way to start the weekend.
Point is, there would be folks who were wealthier, more stylish, and far more badass than I at the event. And there was no point in trying to look like them. I had to choose what felt comfortable, gave me joy, and would let me be confident being myself, not a cheap copy.
Wearing color is an instant way to look confident. And, despite what style books and magazines and capitalism and the patriarchy have led us to believe, it doesn't matter what color or fabric or silhouette or Spanx you're wearing, your body will always look like your body so go on ahead and choose comfort and joy.
Shop the Look:
I chose this washable silk blouse in L and matching washable silk skirt in 14 from MM.LaFleur. I featured this skirt in black in this travel capsule wardrobe and I already own this blouse in a print previously seen in this travel-friendly capsule wardrobe and when we had a DC staycation, and here and here and here on Instagram. I knew that they didn't crease super hard, the silk would look luxe in evening light, and I would stand out on my terms in a sea of black.
I knew this look sort of blended work and cocktail. If I added a leather belt and tall boots I could wear it to the office, but if I added dressy accessories it would be D.C. red carpet ready. And I knew I'd be wearing my Margaux Uptown Heels because they're comfortable enough to stand in for hours while looking dressy, festive, and not so standout-y that folks would be trying to guess the label.
You may also like: Margaux Uptown Sandals review
I felt this look needed a belt. Something to say, “Hello, I am a waist.” I went through my scarf and belt collection, trying a few different options. I bought this gold metal belt at ASOS almost a decade ago. I think the last time I featured it on Wardrobe Oxygen was when I reviewed the Ever by X dress. ASOS doesn't have this style of belt now, but you can find similar at Etsy and Amazon. It doesn't hide the waistband of the skirt, but adds a bit of shine and shape definition.
The cuff is from Chico's and is at least a year old. I love it because it's curved inside and has a hinge and perfectly snaps over my WHOOP fitness tracker so I can wear it to nicer events without it ruining my look. The earrings are from Jenny Bird and are several years old. They are no longer made but occasionally you can find the “Medium Edie Hoop” on resale sites.
The bag is from Rent the Runway. I have a monthly subscription and the biggest reason I like it is for bags and coats. The apparel selection in my size and then considering my height (5'3″) is pretty limited, but the accessories are well curated, current brands and styles, and will elevate my closet basics. This oversized clutch is from Themoire, an ethical and sustainable bag brand and new would cost over $500. It had a removable strap I considered using to have my hands free, but it totally dressed down my look and de-elevated the bag so like others, I left my bag sitting on the table as I ate, had friends or my husband watch over it as I stepped away.
I kept my makeup pretty simple. I used an illuminating primer, a touch of tinted moisturizer and concealer, and set it with this powder which doesn't look matte. A warm-tinted blush I also used as shadow, mascara, brows, highlighter (this one), and then my go-to lipcolor: NARS Pigalle with Fenty Gloss Bomb in Cheeky over it. Once I ate, I didn't worry about the two layers and did a quick re-application with just the red-tinted gloss. I also added a dab to each cheek when I went to the restroom mid-event to brighten up my face a bit more.
I did wear shapewear. If I could see the blouse hem through the lined skirt I didn't want to also have my belly button show. I also need something to prevent thigh chafing. I wore this open-bust shorts item because it's not super restrictive but will give a smooth line from bra to mid-thigh and has a gusset so I don't have to remove it to use the facilities.
The look was comfortable, elegant, perfect. So perfect, I ended up coordinating with the floral arrangements outside Bourbon Steak! And I ended up being the pop of color in group photos. It was a seasonally-appropriate color, a color that doesn't scream for attention yet still stands out in a crowd.
And I was glad for the washable silk component of this look because I did end up spilling raw fish with a vinagrette on it onto my chest (being short, busty, and eating food at tall tables makes me a prime target). My husband got me some sparkling water from the bar and I headed to the restroom where I dabbed and dabbed. By time I had returned to the event, the blouse was almost completely dry, and it was dry by time photos began being taken. And by then, the oily splotches were so subtle one couldn't tell if they were spots or shadows.
What Did Other Grown-Ass Women and Men Wear to This Charity Event?
Events like this can be overwhelming, and not knowing what to wear can create additional anxiety. I like having a job that puts me in situations I would normally not attend so I can get a temperature gauge for what folks are truly wearing now, and not when that style book was published.
Last night there were two general looks worn by men. There was one sea of men wearing suits over sweaters or shirts (no tie), and another sea of men in navy or tweed blazers with a shirt (again no tie) and flat-front trousers. A few were wearing jeans. This is a pretty standard combination in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia).
Women were in everything from colorful trousers with a printed blouse to strapless dresses with trains. I found that those who were the most dressed up were influencers and local personalities known for their statement-making style. Most women were in dressier trousers with fuller legs paired with blouses, classic pantsuits with a dressier shell, and the kind of sleeved dresses that are suggested by online department stores for fall and winter cocktail parties.
As with the men, there was a mix of colorful, creative, and classic. Plenty of black, but a few colors and a lot of ivory. Sparkle was primarily reserved for accessories: crystal-embedded shoes, lamé and metallic leather handbags, statement-making earrings, a colorful or smoky eye with a hint of shimmer. Faux leather is a big look this season and several stylish guests were wearing dresses and separates from it.
For such events if you wish to shop your closet, a well-fitting pantsuit with a shell of a fabric that catches the light will be perfect. Black, purple, hot pink, ivory… the color doesn't matter if the condition and fit is good. If you don't have a suit, a knee-length to calf-length dress will work. You could do a wrap dress, a sheath, a shift as long as it is an elevated fabric (pass on the stretchy poly blend and ponte for a chiffon overlay, crepe, silk, or even matte jersey). A solid color usually dresses up more easily but a chiffon overlay or flowing dress can do a seasonally-appropriate print.
Add dressier earrings than you'd wear to the office, switch your handbag for a clutch, and if you wear makeup, consider going a bit darker or bolder with either your lip or your eye (not both) and/or add a bit of highlighter to catch the candlelight and twinkle lights of an evening affair.
I like the fall colors and your outfit is a perfect example of it. How great that the flower stylist agreed!
Alison Gary says
It worked out perfectly!
ALICE FITZGERALD says
You look spectacular! And I really appreciate you sharing the thoughts behind your choices. That’s so helpful–thank you!
Alison Gary says
Karen O says
You look great! Karl too. I can entirely relate to the spillage incident but you handled it perfectly!
Alison Gary says
Kelly D says
As someone around your age who used to live in the DC area (Arlington), I loved this post! Thank you for walking through all of your decisions. Well done! You looked stunning!
Alison Gary says
You look absolutely amazing – stunning! And the pic with you and your husband is so lovely – you are a gorgeous couple!
Such a great post! You look fantastic, and I love hearing the background details of your reasoning, and what other folks were wearing. I think that picking clothes for events is super nerve wracking, and it was a relief to both read why you chose the clothes you did, but also, why other categories of folks may pick other things. And to read what folks are reading these days, as opposed to images in an ad.
You look smashing! You look much taller than your petite self and that color is amazing. Thanks for always being an inspiration!
Excellent ‘shop your closet’ story. With going-out events slowly making their way back into our schedules it’s good to spend some time re-acquainting ourselves with what’s in the closet.
I was just watching ‘The Closer’ and the murder weapon was the detachable chain from a bag like that one. If the Detective hadn’t been a well dressed woman who knew that bag had a missing chain I don’t know that the guilty party would ever have been caught.
Love, love, love this outfit. If it was within my budget I would buy it right now based on your example.
totally agreed! I didn’t notice those pieces on the MM LaFleur website, but this is a perfect ad for them! I also want to buy them!
Make it in blackberry and petite sizing, and I’d also buy the pieces!
Alison Gary says
Blackberry would be fantastic!
How gorgeous! I wish MMLF still did their “woman of the week” series and that they would profile YOU. I can’t imagine anyone being more beautiful in this outfit than you were.
Maryanne Schulz says
You look fabulous! My favourite ever on you.
Love this outfit on you! You look really beautiful in the pics and perfectly put together. The pic of you and your husband is wonderful. One of the things that I love about you (besides right on style, fashion and product advice, of course!), is how real you are! Showing us the photo in the bathroom getting the stain out is real life and so relatable
Jeanette W says
You nailed it with this one. Perfect outfit. Gorgeous, flattering and appropriate for the event. Love the color especially. Brava!
Deb Wells says
I love this thoughtful post……so helpful. And, this is one of my favorite outfits you have ever shown! You look stunning!
You look simply radiant and put-together – I have a difficult time believing that anyone looked more “badass” at that event!
Wow! You look beautiful and glowing! love! Thanks for the report. I struggle at times with what is appropriate at certain events, this was helpful information. :0)
Heidi Kreider says
You looked beautiful in that outfit! The color is awesome for you. One of my favorite looks you’ve worn.
This is one my favorite things you have worn. It’s just beautiful and you look amazing. I also love the pic of you and hubby. Great write up. (I’m a spiller too…♀️. Glad the stain came out.)
L H Carter says
You and Karl look like a power couple for sure!
Your lovely outfit totally illuminates the phrase ” …choose comfort and joy.”
jane osborn says
I enjoyed learning your reasoning for choosing your outfit, and totally agree with it all!! Beautiful choices, and there probably wasn’t anyone else wearing that color, and wearing it so well!
You look amazing in that color!
Susan L says
You put together the perfect outfit for the evening! So fun to see events happening again~