Southern Style: Black Tie

February 4, 2011 Updated: February 4, 2011

World and national events have seemed heavy recently. Hoping and fearing for Egypt and the rest of the Arab and the Persian worlds, and hoping and fearing for my own region have made me a serious camper, not a happy camper. The deficit. Fracking. Gun violence, dictators, demagogues, storms, and bullying … in the news field a person has a steady diet of this. Sometimes a women’s magazine advises readers to go on a news fast—well, hey, I would if I could, but it will have to be during an actual vacation.

Then yesterday someone invited me to go to a black tie event to support an arts organization I love. Immediately the fashion mind switched on. Miss USA will be there! She will doubtless wear something plunging. Not me so much.

Fashion has a delightful jigsaw puzzle aspect.

The shoe bone is connected to the dress bone, the dress bone is connected to the jacket bone, the jacket bone is connected to the scarf bone…

They all have to speak to each other properly. The shoe must connect to the dress. It is very sad when you have your everyday, black, tromping around shoes with a delicate, feminine dress. Unless you are Ellen Page in the movie “Whip It.” She wore tough boots with ruffled skirts, but that is not quite what I mean. It’s the librarian shoes, which should avoid dresses.

My first thought after the invitation was that I need a new evening dress. Panic loomed, for the event is near. It is relevant that I am not a spring chicken. I am more of a fine, plump stewing hen, which means that an evening dress must convey the dignity and wisdom I have earned. It could take some time to find one.

My second thought was that I have an evening dress, replete with the arm and decolletage coverage my noble maturity prefers. I have two, if you count the Asian silk jacket and dress combo. Three, counting the other Asian silk jacket.

So the main part of the jigsaw has been pieced together. But it seems all my shoes are librarian shoes, truly. It’s because I like to walk around, as did Katherine Hepburn–she wore pants because she could not move fast enough or far enough in high heels. And flat heels did not look right with skirts.

The shoes, and perhaps the need for statement earrings, provide me an excuse to get out there and shop. Just thinking about it has provided me with a mini-news vacation.

I once read a book called “Lipstick Jihad,” by an Iranian journalist. She said she could trace the contemporary history of her countrywomen resisting tyranny through her own, and their clothes. Black burqas circa the 1970s were followed by softer fabrics, navy, gray and finally by a bouquet of colors.

The language of clothes and fashion is part of civilization. Working that jigsaw puzzle of fabric, function, cut, color, and accessories is expressing one’s culture.

Fashion is in some ways as serious as news. It is one of the minor arts, one of the ways we keep chaos at bay. I’m glad I can go to the shoe store without being blocked by either angry mobs or soldiers or sheets of ice or floods. Or all four. Here’s to black tie, and civilization.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Mary Silver
Mary Silver writes columns, grows herbs, hikes, and admires the sky. She likes critters, and thinks the best part of being a journalist is learning new stuff all the time. She has a Masters from Emory University, serves on the board of the Georgia chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and belongs to the Association of Health Care Journalists.