New Years Eve: Gown or cocktail?

By: Editor-in-chief Lenush Lebedeva

Sequins?? That’s so cliché… feathers and lace come out to play

Short or long, is the question that arises 2-3 weeks prior to New Year’s Eve, yearly. The discussion is often with oneself, or other ladies similarly concerned with the length of their hemline on the eve of the following year. Some stay loyal to the dramatic and poised image a gown characterizes, others wish to portray a more playful appeal to their look and not address the event itself too seriously. This however is quite an old-fashioned approach to the question. A gown does not have to translate to a dignified fashion and a cocktail dress does not always depict a lighthearted or young persona. I believe the strict terms in which gowns and cocktail dresses existed once upon a time no longer carry importance in our lives. A black-tie dress code can easily be applicable to a midi, knee and even mini length hemline, and much more relevance is borne by the tailoring of the dress. Equally a maxi length dress is not a gown nor a black-tie garment. It is sincerely painful to see individuals show up at an event with a strict dress code, dressed in pretty much a sun dress sweeping the floor and a bejeweled clutch. If the event attended is a gala dinner with a band, which let’s be honest most NYE parties are, it is likely it will call for a dress code. Unfortunately, when it comes down to it, the lines are blurred and I believe no real rules are applied to the guests attire any longer, regardless, if it is a Michelin star restaurant, gala dinner or even a ball.

A short gown, which is what I like to call tailored dresses with intricate detailing and handmade embroideries only suitable for A-list parties and balls. Yes, I said it: the right short gown can be worn to a ball. This obviously only applies to couture pieces made by couturiers such as Ralph&Russo or Ashi studio for the likes of celebrities or equally affluent clients upon order. Gowns by these companies or other couture houses with equivalent craftsmanship are normally 20-100k a pop despite their length, clearly paving the way for shorter styles at black-tie events. This reality truly puts the entire matter of hemline lengths for dress codes to rest.   

Despite the availability and normality of short gowns and cocktail dresses, there is something absolutely and utterly bewildering about a long dress or skirt sweeping the floor as a woman walks by. Straight, fishtail, A-line, puff ball, you name it… I am in awe. The powerful yet delicate image a woman immediately radiates while standing still in such garments is beyond astounding. The way the hemline moves at her feet barely touching the floor, resembles a swan gliding through a lake. It is most definitely a personal choice, and should the dress tick the right boxes appropriate for the style of the event it is heading to: by all means any lady can show some leg, but the stately appearance achieved by a long gown is marvelous and should not be overlooked. Now that I have gotten that off my chest… phew! Let’s talk cocktail or gown. Clearly the aim of this discussion was never to give an opinion on dress codes and long or short gowns.

A New Year’s Eve outfit is not a wedding dress, every year we are lucky to choose a new one based on where we are celebrating, who we are celebrating with and what the celebration itself consists of. At recent New Year’s events, formal or not I have come across many of the guests dressed in sparkly sequined cocktail mini dresses in a rainbow of colors, which I personally call Christmas Chic. What more appropriate event in the calendar to wear something like a red or gold sequined dress… probably none. Red, green and gold just scream Christmas Holidays and New Year’s Eve. The parties often continue well beyond afterhours and are normally filled with considerable amounts of alcohol, so it is a pretty safe bet that a short dress will be the winner when preparing for such a wild outing. This is especially true if celebrations are taking place in a cold Country like Switzerland or Russia where it snows, as a cocktail dress is much easier to handle in such weather as it doesn’t sweep the floor and get wet or muddy. Obviously, there are no strict rules when it comes to one of the most anticipated parties that quite literally the entire World is celebrating, so some ladies may want to dress on the sexier side, showing off toned legs or even more so, they bought shoes for the occasion and matched the dress to them, obviously she will need to showcase the centerpiece of the outfit so to speak.

In other parts of the world, especially island vacationers, often opt for light silk or crepe evening maxi dresses mainly in white or nude colors to highlight the hard-earned tan. It is a typical choice for those celebrating on a nice resort island somewhere in the French Polynesia or Maldives. But a maxi is not a gown.

And then come the big players… who regardless of the event, regardless of the location do New Year’s Eve like it’s the Oscars. The dress must be bold, the dress must be tailored, if the corset is missing it must be substituted with a plunge neckline. Sequins?? That’s so cliché… feathers and lace come out to play. Ballgown skirts and fishtail trains are all fair game. These ladies are normally the more eccentric of the bunch and treat NYE and other events as if it is the MET ball. New Years is the one night of the year that, there are no rules and no limits to how far they can take it. Extravagant and elaborate is their motto for NYE.

When choosing her NYE attire, every woman should have a clear idea of what her goal is and what is the result she wants to achieve before even beginning to look at garments. The personal preferences and the final self-image she is aiming to achieve for the event and what she wants her demeanor of the night to be. The way we dress strongly affects our manner of expression throughout the event, it sets the tone not only for our appearance, but it is also a manifestation of our behavior and our conduct for the night. By choosing your garment you choose the character you wish to be. Every event is a little spectacle, so every given outfit is a costume you must live and play for the night.