Tips for Surviving and Conquering Gala Season

You may think of September as the harbinger of the school year, cooler weather and football season. That may all be true, except for the cooler weather in Texas, but in my life, fall is better known as gala season. Because of my day job (yep, I have one, and it’s not blogging!), I go to lots of events. And styling myself appropriately for each event is like an Olympic sport for me. Just this weekend I attended one brunch, one cocktail, and one black tie event. I thought I’d share my trade secrets, in no particular order.

Charlize Theron best red carpet looks

My red carpet wearing idol, Charlize Theron

Don’t just pull a dress out of your closet two hours before the event and slap it on with some shoes. Yes, sometimes I’m working off a last minute invite, but typically I’m doing my dress selection at least a week in advance. I’ll try the dress on, decide on shoes and accessories – jewelry, handbag, and, if needed, a coat or wrap. And don’t forget to carefully select your undergarments (see my True Story below). The advance planning allows for adequate time to fill in any missing items.

Once I know the pieces of my ensemble, I’ll begin to formulate my hair and makeup game plan. I have an archive of InStyle magazines that I like to thumb through for inspiration. Also, as I stumble across celebrity looks I like on the internet, I’ll pin them to my Beauty Inspiration board on Pinterest for future reference.

Spanx  torso and thigh shaper

Spanx make you look sexy in your clothes but are decidedly unsexy on their own

True Story: I was attending the 2011 Texas Medal of Arts Awards and had decided on a stretchy Kelly green BCBG cocktail dress with a handkerchief hem. The dress was originally purchased for the opening of the Blanton Museum in 2006, so I was thrilled that I was able to get into it five years later. However, I thought I’d try wearing Spanx for an optimal look.

I brought everything with me to work that day, since the event was early evening during the week. I had my makeup done at W3ll People and got dressed and put up my hair there. In the bathroom, I ungracefully shimmied into my Spanx and then the dress. However, I had forgotten that I had bought the Spanx that cover your torso, and my dress was backless. You know what’s even more uncomfortable than wearing Spanx? Wearing them folded over at the waist, creating double compression action. Learn from my mistake, ladies, and make sure you have the proper undergarments for your dress.

I get it. The booze is free at the gala, and it’s usually easier to come by than water. And then when you do finally get water, it’s served in a highball glass with lots of ice and about two sips of liquid. Plan ahead and hydrate pre-event and then replenish post-event. And for the love of Pete, don’t drink too much alcohol and be “that girl” who embarrasses herself and/or whatever organization you’re representing. Party like a rockstar on your own personal, non-gala time.


dainty handkerchiefs, hankies

I like to have a hanky in my purse at all times, but it’s especially useful for events. For a girl, I atypically run hot more so than cold. When I start to overheat, I delicately dab the perspiration on my forehead with a dainty handkerchief. Or maybe you’ve just had a yummy but messy hors d’oeuvre and there’s not a server in sight with a cocktail napkin. Good thing you have your hanky!

Odds are you’ve gone a little heavier on the eye makeup and foundation to amp up your fabulous gala look. If you sleep in all that makeup, your eyes and skin will hate you in the morning. So no matter how tired you are, be sure to diligently remove your makeup completely. (As a reminder, here’s my favorite eye make-up remover). Also, don’t skip out on your serum and moisturizer after cleansing. Your skin will thank you and be ready for your next glamorous night out.

Christian Louboutin Very Prive black patent heelsIF YOU CAN’T WEAR THE SHOES ALL NIGHT, DON’T WEAR THE SHOES
Nothing pains me more than seeing women walking around downtown barefoot with their shoes in hand. I’m not a medical professional, but I’m sure you’re just asking to catch syphilis by doing that. And similarly, if you can’t walk stably and assuredly in the shoes because they aren’t broken in or you’re unaccustomed to wearing high heels, then don’t wear them. I don’t care how fierce those Louboutins are, if you’re teetering, you don’t look hot.

Jenn’s Pro Tip: Get your daughter wearing commensurately-sized heels (i.e., don’t put your 13 year-old in four-inch platforms) by the time she’s a teenager, when there is an appropriate occasion. That early practice in heels will serve her well as an adult.

I could go on and on, but this covers the basics. I’m sure we have some Beautypendents that are gala season pros. What are your must-dos for surviving the season? Share in the comments!

Images: Charlize Theron, Spanx, Dainty handkerchiefs, Christian Louboutin Very Privé heels

2 thoughts on “Tips for Surviving and Conquering Gala Season

  1. Monica Maldonado Williams

    Hi, Jennifer! So I was thinking… when I’m getting dressed there always seems to be something I have to just (sigh) let go. So I try to focus on my top half. It’s what my tablemates will be seeing and it’s what you’ll see in a social photograph. All my effort goes there. (So don’t look down at my feet, okay?)

    1. jenn

      I can see the logic behind your strategy, but you do realize that you’re asking a Filipina to not pay attention to shoes. That’s just biologically impossible.


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