A Girl's Guide To Dressing For Obama's Inaugural Ball


Although you’ve obviously checked the dress registry, you might still be looking for some tips to dressing for the event of the year. As the only Inaugural Ball veteran on staff, I’ve got some.

First off, watch my friend Patrick Gavin‘s appearance on Morning Joe, explaining what exactly you can expect to see when you get there.

He’s not kidding. It’s going to be cold, crowded as hell and you have a better chance of seeing Barack and Michelle in the flesh by… who am I kidding? You don’t have a chance.

I am all about a pretty party dress and, goodness knows, I love cute shoes, but here are some things you need to consider.

1. It is going to be damn cold.
In 2005, it was well below freezing with a stiff breeze, and it’s not likely to be much different this year. There could be rain, there could be mud, there could be snow. It’s a joy living here, really. And no matter what your in-town travel arrangements are (or you think they are), you will be standing in a very, very long line outside waiting to be screened by security. Dress accordingly — think warm fabrics, a long wool coat (avoid fur, please, no one around you wants to get spattered with pig’s blood and you’re going to be made to coat check it anyway), a hat if you can and definitely gloves or mittens. You will be coat checking when you’re inside, the line with be long to start and insanely long at the end, just get a spare drink at last call to tide you over.

2. You are going to have trouble getting around.
Dispatch all those visions of gliding out of your car service and into the event in your wispy dress and your open-toed shoes. Most of the streets around the balls and downtown will be closed to cars not bearing security passes, which includes most taxi cabs and car services. Two of the most centrally-located Metro stations will be closed (Smithsonian and Archives/Navy Memorial) as of the moment. There will be cordons, there will be crowded trains and you will be walking. Skip the open-toed stilettos and buy a dress long enough to cover your warm, comfortable shoes. You will thank me.

3. You will likely never see another dress like yours.
Not to rain on the registry parade, but there are 10 official inaugural balls, at least 2 dozen state society balls and a number of unofficial balls, like the Creative Coalition one. There will be thousands and thousands and thousands of people and, given security restrictions, none but the chosen few will be party-hopping. You’re going to be crammed into the corner of a room with whomever you came with or waiting in line at the bar. Additionally, this is D.C.: other than on Michelle Obama, there aren’t going to be a ton of designer names here. Buy what you want and what you will wear again.

4. Don’t Wear Black.
Everyone wears black dresses at formal events in D.C., more than any other city in the world, I swear. If you are going to be trying to find friends at an event, don’t wear one. Pick a bright color and you will make yourself exceedingly easy to spot in the sea of black dresses.

5. Don’t Wear White.
Yes, I know, red, white and blue, blah, blah. Especially if you are at an official inaugural event, which will be insanely crowded, you are going to have someone spill a drink on you, and, given the odds and the weather, it’s likely to be cheap red wine. See also: crowds, mud, public transportation and snow. Save yourself the freak-out later.

6. Have fun.
Seriously, it’s the inauguration. No one’s networking, everyone’s heroically trying to get drunk and your cleavage will definitely be outmatched by someone else there. Leave the staid work-style formalwear at home and get yourself something you’ll want to see yourself wearing in pictures later.

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