Robin Givhan, Teri Agins and Anna Wintour

Teri Agins (center) with Robin Givhan (left), fashion critic at The Washington Post, and Anna Wintour (right), editor-in-chief of Vogue

Hey doll, I’m so glad you stopped by. Fashion Week in New York kicks off on Thursday and we’ve got Teri Agins, one of the fashion industry’s most knowledgeable writers and revered insiders, here dishing about everything from the salliest gals on the party circuit to the 10 best ways to look fête-fabulous. The popular “Ask Teri” fashion columnist at the Wall Street Journal, our au courant pal has just published her second book, Hijacking the Runway, a fun and breezy read about the intersection between celebrity, fashion and commerce. Full of insidery details, fun historical facts and giggly gossip, this book is sure to be a hot topic at cocktail parties this fall. We should know, darlin’, because we got a sneak peek at the galleys this summer and read the baby in one rosé-filled sitting. Grab your gimlet, doll, and join our tête-à-tête.

We’re heading into the fall party season. What do you see as the major trends?

Fit and flare silhouettes that offer a fresh take on the sheath and pencil skirt; dark floral and bold abstract prints that deliver visual texture; booties with high heels; and sweater dresses. I just bought an ankle-length, black turtleneck sweater dress by Rick Owens that will be my go-to party dress this winter. It’s slinky and sophisticated.

Dark florals for fall

Bold floral patterns against black are a key fashion trend for fall

Anna Wintour stipulated “white tie and decorations” for the men at this year’s Costume Institute Ball. Do you think we’ll see a return to traditional formal attire this fall?

People dressed very formally at this year’s Met Gala to support the theme, which always dictates the dress, but I don’t see it starting any trends. People have loosened up a lot over the years where formal attire is concerned. I went to my first Costume Institute Ball in 1990. That was the era with Pat Buckley and Nan Kempner and it was all pretty formal and stuffy and dressed up. As Anna and Vogue became involved, and more Hollywood people infiltrated the party, the tenor changed. Women didn’t just wear long gowns. Some wore tea length dresses and the models wore really short, kicky dresses. Today, people want to look chic and dressed up, but no one wants to look super formal.

What do you think of the more relaxed take on formal party attire?

I love it. It’s relaxed-dressy and people look better. When women have their hair very done and sprayed and they’re dripping in jewelry, they can look very uptight, like they’re going to a prom in the ‘70s.Today, most women wear their hair to events in much the same way they wear it to work and just add a bit more makeup and some sparkly evening accessories. They look more like themselves.

Emma Stone

Emma Stone sported a more casual and textured coif last week at the Venice Film Festival 

What caused the trend away from very formal party attire?

In 1992, Alcoa, the aluminum manufacturing company, instituted a casual wear policy for two weeks to raise money for the United Way. They had 87% participation during the drive and broke all fundraising records. Alcoa never returned to formal office wear after that. That was the seminal event that changed the way we dress. Three years later, IBM moved to casual everyday dress at the office. After that, there was no going back to very formal dress codes. Women still wear gowns and cocktail dresses to parties but, for men, the cummerbund as a requisite part of a tuxedo has virtually disappeared. You might still see a very formal look in Europe at a big black-tie gala, but there aren’t many of those in the U.S. anymore.

Who are your favorite party dress designers?

I love Carmen Marc Valvo. His cocktail dresses and gowns are flattering on everybody. He knows how to design for women, particularly American women. He understands that we workout so our arms are bigger and many women have breast augmentation so they need room for alterations on top. He also cuts his sleeveless dresses to cover that awkward bit of skin where your shoulder meets your armpit. I also love Vera Wang, Reem Acra, Tadashi Shoji, and I get a good fit with Cavalli.

Who are your favorite party shoe designers?

Manolo Blahniks are the best—I’ve loved them for 25 years, because you can stand or dance in them for more than a couple of hours. Vince Camuto shoes are also comfortable party shoes. I also have a pair of black patent-leather Gucci stilettos that I love. They have a four-inch bamboo heel, but they’re remarkably comfortable, a really good fit.

Who always looks great at parties?

I love checking out Sarah Jessica Parker. She is an adventurous dresser and always looks fun and festive. Cate Blanchett and Shala Monroque, who wears a lot of Prada, are also risk-takers with great personal style. Tory Burch dresses pretty and classic with big, interesting earrings to punctuate her look. Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, always looks divine and sophisticated. Helen Mirren never fails. She has a beautiful figure, shows just the right amount of skin and looks chicer than just about everyone else at a party. Others I love seeing are Christine Baranski, Genevieve Jones and Lynn Wyatt, who has a dynamite figure and perfect posture. And let’s not forget Kate Middleton—she hits a home run in every ball gown.

Sarah Jessica Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker was one of our best-dressed picks at this year’s Costume Institute Gala

Teri, you’ve been to more than a thousand parties and hobnobbed with the most fashionable people in the world. Give us your top 10 tips for looking fête-chic.

1. Stick with what looks good on you. Know what trends you should sit out. Don’t let yourself be a fashion victim.

2. Alter everything. It’s the reason Fred Astaire always looked so good. I always say, go to the gym and spend your money on alterations.

3. Wear bold colors. Look at the invitation and wear one of the colors you see. Most people play it safe, but it’s boring when everyone is in a little black dress.

4. For a quick change from a day to evening look, put on a darker lipstick and a pair of evening earrings because those are what will get noticed across a table. Adding a pair of heels and a small evening clutch bag are imperative.

Dark lips for fall

Deep plum lipsticks like those from Audacious by Nars (shown above) are de rigueur for fall.

5. Wear shoes that match your skin tone to make you look taller.

6. Avoid bulk by cutting out the lining from your pockets and stitching them down.

7. Take selfies when you shop to see how your dress photographs. I never buy anything that doesn’t photograph well.

8. If you’re going to a party in another city, Google party photos from that city to find out what people wear. For example, in Washington, DC, black-tie always means a full tuxedo for a man.

9. Avoid the Christmas tree look. Some women feel that they’re not dressed up if they’re not super embellished, with earrings bracelets and necklaces. but dressing up does not mean piling on the bling.

10. Avoid strapless dresses. You’ll never find the right bra and you’ll spend the entire night pulling and tugging on your dress.

Teri Agins with Tom Ford

Teri with designer Tom Ford

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