Gala Glam

By Heather Dunhill Photography by Barbara Banks September 1, 2012

It’s always a wonder how soon the next Sarasota social season arrives when the last one seriously feels like 20 minutes ago. But it is in fact time to transition into the social and stylish swing of things.

To help you, I’ve pored over what’s trending from the New York, Paris and Milan runway shows and culled standout pieces that are a perfect fit for our city’s social scene. And I’ve also tapped four experts who can help you pull together your very best look: make-up artist Eri Vincent, jewelry designer Liebe Gamble, menswear expert Geoffrey Michel and hair stylist Amanda Vincent. You’ll read their tips on the following pages.

Among the hot items you’ll be seeing on Sarasota’s style-savvy is leather, a major element from accent detailing to dress pants and elegant jackets to a full-on evening sheath. Designers have made it soft-edged, buttery and extremely wearable. Skirts are gaining momentum, and dresses continue to trend strong. And peplum—a short overskirt and the natural waist—is still having a moment. This ultra-feminine silhouette flatters all shapes and creates the illusion of a cinched waist for that Sophia Loren hourglass look. Also keep an eye out for sharp suiting; it’s fast becoming a sub-trend.

There’s always crossover from season to season; no surprise that color has staying power. To keep it on trend, pair any hue, even shocking ones, with gray. Consider gray your new staple neutral tone. It takes the bite out of black and puts a softer edge on the color pairing.

The hottest color combination? Stark black and snow white. Finally, a trend that those of us clinging to ebony can incorporate! Find a LWD (Little White Dress) to take you through this season’s cocktail and garden parties. And note that winter white is still strong. It’s fashion’s permission to break the archaic “No white after Labor Day” rule. Friendly word of advice: When you’re wearing your LWD, go for the white rather than red wine or order Grey Goose on the rocks, twist of lemon.

Gold is holding its value in more than metals—you’ll see it in everything from shoes to evening gowns. Nothing pairs with gold better than rich, lush jewel tones; you’ll be mesmerized by the deep ruby, emerald and sapphire hues as well as the new breakout color of oxblood red. Do it from head to toe in varying gradations for a stunning, dramatic look.

Another familiar trend is prints. However, they’ve gravitated from tops to pants and even evolved into gorgeous brocade. As for gowns, glamour is in and the styling speaks to the modern woman even as it hints at the retro femme. You’ll also see soft, draped necklines on evening dresses.

Last but absolutely not the least on your gala list are your evening clutch and heels, two areas of opportunity to make a major statement with your styling.

Above all, be comfortable in your choices—there’s nothing stylish about a woman who spends the evening adjusting her skirt or tugging a strapless gown. If you feel gorgeous, you’ll look gorgeous. It really is as simple as that.


Party Picks

My hot list for the season ahead.

Ringling International Arts Festival: Opening Night Every ticket here is worth having, but if you choose one event, consider the new Opening Night on Oct. 10. With this one, the museum may take back its rightful place with a big season opening event, like the glory days of the old UnGala Gala.

The ticket price of $500 includes a pre-performance cocktail reception on the terrace of the Cà d’Zan followed by a performance by the Mark Morris Dance Group. The festivities conclude with an elegant dinner in the museum’s galleries among the historic interiors from the Astor mansion in New York. If those walls could talk….

Wine, Women and Shoes: Signature Luncheon If you don’t already have a pumped-up pair of kicks, start shopping now. If you score a ticket to the eighth annual Wine, Women and Shoes Signature Luncheon on Nov. 2 then you’ll be among 600 other well-heeled (in every sense) bon vivants. Co-chairs Emily Stroud and Jamie Becker will drape the Ritz-Carlton Ballroom in a Palm Springs chic theme where, for a $300 patron ticket, you’ll sip, shop and socialize before, during and after lunch and the fashion show, all to benefit Forty Carrots Family Center.

This event tends to sell out. I heard that if that happens, they’ll post any last-minute ticket availability on the Forty Carrots Facebook page.

Sarasota Wine & Balloon Festival: Balloon Glow Yep, there’s another new party in town. The Florida Winefest & Auction presents the Sarasota Wine & Balloon Festival April 4-7, 2013, with 15-plus events featuring hot air balloons with rides and everything. The kickoff Balloon Glow event will be April 4 with a sit-down dinner for 300, under tents, with more than 35 boutique wineries pouring their prize vintages while hot air balloons illuminate the night sky. All for $200 per guest.

Pique-nique sur la Baie Pique-nique is unlike any other event, which is saying something considering the number of parties we throw here. It’s a grand outdoor event and spring fashion show at the Bayside Gardens of College Hall, presented by the New College Library Association. More than 450 ladies, along with a few intrepid men, will gather on April 10 and don a chapeau that expresses their inimitable style, from vintage to high fashion. The hat factor alone recalls a sophisticated garden party of another time, with Sarasota Bay as a timeless backdrop. Tickets are $150.

Going for the Gold The Y Foundation has successfully closed the social season with this event for the last 21 years. Last May’s Cirque du Gold felt more like an elegant interactive European street fair than fund raiser, with acrobats, jugglers and mimes engaging the senses at every turn.

This year’s plans are still under wraps, but what I’ve learned is most intriguing: Think Asia in Springtime, draped in cherry blossoms. What a gorgeous idea! It’s May 4 at the Y’s Frank G. Berlin Sr. Branch; tickets $250.

Circus Sarasota Gala Under the Big Top You’ll enter the vast red-and-white striped big top at Tuttle Avenue and 12th Street on Jan. 18, 2013, by passing through a draped hallway of jovial greeters—a great beginning to a night filled with oohs, aahs and laughter. I love the hometown feeling of this only-in-Sarasota event, which includes some of the best circus entertainment in the world. I heard there’s a chance the death-defying Nik Wallenda will be there, fresh from his Niagara Falls triumph. Tickets start at $195.


Liebe Gamble (pronounced Lee-ba)

Liebe Gamble (pronounced Lee-ba) has a daring, nonchalant style with an unnerving sense of what’s new before it’s on the runways. She returned to her Sarasota roots from Los Angeles to join her mother, June Simmons, in her longtime jewelry business. Now some of the hottest jewelry designers know Liebe by name, and June Simmons Designs has expanded for the first time in 40 years, opening a shop within The Met.

Liebe Gamble on jewels of the season.

What’s on trend with jewelry now?

This season, turn the tables and let your dress be the accessory, making your jewelry the main event. If you’re going for a bold look, pick two pieces: one big and one small, like a statement necklace with a cocktail ring. Or, for the minimalist’s evening attire, go with a small drop earring set in the new trend of rose gold for an updated look without an overwhelming change in design.

What looks are you excited about?

So many, but those best for gala attire are rough-cut stones set with diamonds, the reverse cuff, stackable bracelets featuring textured metal in various rich colors and the bib/collar necklace.

Are fashion colors translating into jewelry?

Absolutely! Colors for this season include old-world jewel tones like cobalt blue, kelly green and pigeon’s-blood red. Wearing a lapis lazuli earring with a white or black dress not only creates a luxe look but it’s also a beautiful way to draw attention to your blue eyes.

Are chandelier earrings still in?

The traditional long chandelier with all the moving parts is no longer in; what’s big are clean, modern hoops with rough-cut, organic stones of intense color. But don’t get rid of your chandeliers. Just tuck them away; they’ll be back.

What’s making a comeback?

Popular in the early ’80s, the bib/collar necklace is absolutely huge in fashion jewelry now. And you can get multiple wears out of it during the season. It easily transforms everything from a black evening gown to a white silk blouse to your business suit.

Who’s the new jewelry designer to watch?

For the uptown girl who likes fine jewelry, it’s Phillips House. Their line is incredibly wearable, well designed and so fabulous. If you’re downtown and really edgy, then it’s Anndra Neen. She puts a modern spin on cuffs that look like cages.



Amanda Vincent

Amanda Vincent is a hip Brit who’s clued in to what’s trending on the street before it hits the mainstream adopters, and she marries this talent with experience as a master hair stylist. Settled in as a Sarasotan for more than 17 years now, Vincent hails from Sussex, England, just an hour outside of London. In the fall of 2010, the mother of twin boys opened the doors to her eponymous salon in historic Burns Court, the Amanda Vincent Studio.

Amanda Vincent talks party hair

What’s the one thing we can do to look fresh and on trend this season?

The looks right now are retro, glam, sexy and girly, but no overly dramatic coloring—everything is soft. As with all trends, one size does not fit all, so do what looks best on you. Bangs are always a fresh way for a new look, if your face can pull it off.

This year the red carpets were filled with sleek looks and bombshell hairstyles. Any of those hot for fall?

All of the red carpet looks will follow through, absolutely—like Rooney Mara’s severe cut and parts as well as Sofia Vergara’s old Hollywood side-swept hairstyle.

What about headbands and hair jewelry—should we be taking a closer look at those?

Yes, very much so. There are many options out there, like scarves with chain detailing. Also, ever since the Duchess of Cambridge and royal wedding attendees adopted fascinators they’ve trickled down into party hair accessories.

What new looks are you most excited about?

I get excited about hair every day. I especially love giving a client a whole new fresh look. It’s hard to say “I can’t wait to do this or that.” It has to fit the person.

What’s the biggest mistake people make when it comes to their hair?

They read fashion magazines that tell them what they should be doing. People take that advice literally, like if you have full, thick hair you cannot have bangs—I hate that!

Tell us about a new product that you can’t live without.

Kérastase has come out with a new daily shampoo for long hair, which I’m loving, called Cristalliste. It’s lightweight at the roots and has polymers that adhere to the hair where it needs conditioning, like dry ends, and it smells delicious.

What can you suggest to combat our tropical humidity?

A Keratin treatment—no matter what bad press you read, the treatments make your hair healthy. It looks beautiful all the time, seals in color and staves off frizz.




On any given day (when he’s not training for a marathon), Geoffrey Michel looks as if he stepped out of a Ralph Lauren ad. Co-owner of The Met on St. Armands Circle with his wife, Brenda, Michel began his luxury retail career at the age of 16. His philosophy? Keep it simple and sophisticated, with finishing touches that define your personal style.

Geoffrey Michel’s tips for men

What’s one thing a guy can do to look on trend this season?

Good tailoring. So many pieces out there just don’t fit properly. Menswear cuts are closer to the body now. It’s no longer the time to wear loose, bulky clothing.

Any essentials for the social season?

It’s time to own a tux. For a while we got by with the hybrid jacket, but now owning a well-fitting tux is vital. If it’s been in your closet for four years, get it tailored. More than that, I suggest donating it. And be sure to learn how to tie a bowtie.

Men’s power suits were all over the runways for fall. How does a professional take it from the boardroom to cocktail party?

Look for a suit that’s romantic in design and cut. My advice would be to invest in a nice chalk stripe or charcoal suit, which can evolve from day to dinner party.

What about shoes?

I’d rather see a gentleman invest in two good pairs of shoes than eight moderate, trendy shoes. One brown and one black pair will go miles. For instance, a pair of brown wingtips can be worn with jeans or a suit.

How does a guy incorporate color into his wardrobe?

Build on the foundation of your outfit. Let’s say it’s a black or gray suit. Adding in color with accessories like a necktie or pocket square will give the outfit a finishing touch and that pop of on-trend color.

Anything making a comeback?

Double-breasted suits, wingtips, hand-tied bowties, pocket squares and tucked-in shirts. Men’s style is not so casual anymore. Even his haircuts and shave should be cleaner.


Eri Vincent

Eri Vincent is making her way as a free-lance artist in the make-up industry, and it’s clear why—her enthusiasm for what makes a woman beautiful is infectious. She has a polished, everyday-girl style that she augments perfectly with a bit of unfussy glam. At 28, she’s already earned her stripes by breaking into editorial and production work with the likes of WebMD, Hydroxycut and HGTV’s Million Dollar Rooms with Carter Oosterhouse.

Face time with Eri Vincent

What’s the one thing we can do to look current this season?

Bold brows and bright punchy lips with a lip color like NARS’ Schiap. It’s a lively, cotton-candy hue. Focusing on the lips is an easy trend since you don’t have to do a million colors on your face.

What advice would you give to the woman who’s been wearing the same lipstick since 2003?

I say it’s just make-up, have fun with it! Bright lipstick can make your eyes pop and teeth look whiter, so why not? And you can rub a little on your cheeks to give a glow.

What’s new in color?

For eyes, smoky chocolate brown and graphic eyeliner such as the cat eye and winged-out eyeliner. Also, light washes of silver and metallics on the eyelid are hot.

We love a good secret. What’s an industry insider brand?

OCC, or Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics. It’s a cult brand that all make-up artists have in their kit. The Lip Tar line is well priced at $14.50 a tube and it goes on like a gloss and wears like a stain. It’s super highly pigmented, so you only need a dot, and it tastes minty. And they have every color imaginable.

What products are always in your purse?

I always have black eyeliner in my bag. It can intensify eyes from day to night. And NARS peachy blush in Liberte; it wakes your face up.

Any new product you can’t live without?

MAC has a nude liner that when applied to the inner rim of the eye will brighten tired eyes and make them look bigger. Also, apply just under the eyebrow arch for a lift and, above the cupid’s bow on your lip to give them a fuller look.

How do we get a luxurious look for a black-tie event without looking too-too?

Go with clean beautiful skin, clean simple eye, clean cheek color and clean bright lips, which will perfectly intensify one feature. No need to pack on too many products, just add false lashes for instant glamour.



Dress Codes

Deciphering that description on your invitation.

DRESS CODES: Deciphering that description on your invitation.

What: Black Tie 

What it means: Formal evening dress. Take cues from the invitation. Hand-pressed stationery lends itself to a lavish event and you’ll have to up the ante. An invite in the playful genre will allow you to be a bit more creative with your black tie. When in doubt, take the invite to an in-store stylist for some one-on-one advice.

A.K.A.: Formal Attire, Black Tie and Long Dresses, Black Tie Required, Black Tie Only.

For Her: Nowadays, you have lots of options. You can pull off dressed-up separates, a feminine tux, knee-length dresses, even a gorgeous cashmere sweater with a satin ball gown skirt or a dress with a plunging back. Choose a polished hairstyle and make-up that’s different from your everyday look—maybe even a red pouty lip. Flaunt your best jewels, and unless you have a pair of great shoes already, here’s permission to invest in a chic pair of strappy sandals, or open-toe or satin pumps.

For Him: Some experts say a black suit is an acceptable substitute, but when in doubt, go with the tux. And fellas, the host expects your jacket to be worn for the evening, not hung on the back of your chair. If you choose a bowtie over a tux tie, then be sure to tie your own. Additional options are a pocket square, vest or cummerbund, all of which are on trend. Finishing touch: the shoes—patent leather or a pair of handsome tux slippers.


What: Cocktail Attire

What it means: Cocktail attire is a balance between casual and formal, which allows for personal style and sartorial drama.

A.K.A.: Suit + Tie Requested, Jacket Required, Receptions, Mocktail Party, Social Hour, Mixer, Upscale Casual, Downtown Chic, Dress to Kill, Simply Fabulous

For Her: Cut a stylish figure with a touch of glam. Here’s where a good little black dress comes in handy; just change up the accessories. Also, consider a chic pantsuit (not a biz suit, though) or jumpsuit—but ditch the long dress. For the top, go for splashy sequins, modern metallics or off the shoulder. As for the hair: artfully tousled.

For Him: The rule here is simple—a dark suit, pinstripe or fitted; button-down shirt, top button undone with or without a tie. Toss in a patterned pocket square or add flair in your socks and shoes. Remember to change out your running watch for a stylish upgrade.


What: Semi-formal/Informal

What it means: Often misinterpreted as casual, this is perhaps the most confusing of the dress code list. It’s common to make the mistake of being under-dressed, much to the chagrin of the attendee.

A.K.A.: Resort Formal, Theater Attendance, Uptown Elegance

For Her: Up the ante on cocktail attire. Most hemlines are acceptable, but I suggest avoiding too short, and long is not necessary. If you want to play it safe go with a black lace cocktail dress, knee-length or mid-calf, or an ultra polished pant suit or jumpsuit with some sheen— all would be pitch-perfect.

For Him: No tux required. In fact, you’d find yourself overdressed in one. Choose a nice suit and tie—for day, go with a lighter color, for nighttime choose a darker suit. A vest is an option for evening, but not necessary. No jeans or sport coats.

WEB EXTRA: Gala Checklist


Pull out the tux: Does it still fit after you’ve lost those eight pounds over the summer? Does it need a visit to the dry cleaner?

Shoes polished?

Are your black socks still black?

Has the car been detailed?


If you’re pulling a Duchess Kate and recycling something chic, be sure to pull it out well in advance for a once over. Is it in need of a good pressing?

Would a pair of colored strappy sandals or a chic piece of jewelry give it a fresh look from last season?

Appointments to consider scheduling: hair, make-up, mani and pedi, especially if you’re opting for those new open-toed Louboutins.

For more dress code insights go to my Fashion IQ blog.

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