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Once upon a time there were ladies who lunched. These ever-so-proper women refused to be seen in public if they weren't wearing their white gloves. Perhaps you've glimpsed them, in grandma's photo album or an old movie starring Katharine Hepburn. Though elusive, these graceful creatures still exist, hiding out in places like North Dallas, Chicago's Lake Forest, Beverly Hills and New York City. Their refusal to give in to casual culture has brought back the white glove luncheon. If you've been invited to one, seize this opportunity to dress like a woman who knows her worth.
In truth, a "white glove luncheon" is simply a formal lunch, perhaps hosted at an elegant restaurant, country club or private home. The term "white glove" implies that you are to come dressed in your finest day wear. Of course, you can wear gloves, white or otherwise, if you're feeling the retro vibe and want to go glam. If you choose this route, etiquette guides mandate that gloves are to be removed while eating, so tuck them in your purse and don them again while posing for that photo op or flagging down a cab.
Playing It Safe: The Day Dress
When choosing your outfit for a white glove luncheon, you can never go wrong with a classic day dress. Choose a cap-sleeved or sleeveless dress with a fitted bodice and full skirt or a classic, fitted sheath dress. A skirt suit in an upscale fabric like silk shantung or crepe de Chine is also perfectly appropriate. You can wear pants, but only if you are confident enough to be in the minority. If you opt for pants, try a silky, wide-leg trouser and dressy blouse or a palazzo pant with an embellished top.
Hats Are Back
If the luncheon has a theme like "Roaring '40s" or is being held in a garden or anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line, top off your outfit with a gorgeous hat. Ever since the Will-and-Kate royal wedding, hats are back with a vengeance, and the ladies who lunch have embraced them. If you're dining outside, go big and blossomy. If you'll be inside, try a smaller chapeau with feminine details like beads or bows.
The Bag and The Shoes
Though you may be concentrating on your clothes for a white glove luncheon, accessories are where the rubber meets the road. This is one occasion where matching your bag to your shoes makes perfect sense. Make sure your shoes are impeccable: no scuffs or run-down heels. Buy the best you can afford or borrow from a shoe-obsessed friend. Unless you're lunching in the garden, pumps are preferable and style trumps comfort.