Cold-shouldered formality

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Every winter, the University of Victoria holds a Winter Formal dance at the end of November for the on-campus residents. I attended it in my first year, and if you have a chance, why not? I really spent most of the time at the table with the edibles anyway, because . . . free food.

But dressing up doesn’t always need an invitation. Don’t let the cold get under your skin and keep you bundled up like the Michelin Man. Ditch the knits and let Victoria’s (decrystallized) snowflakes fall where they may. (Disclaimer: Any person senseless enough to throw his or her jacket off whilst outside may turn into a human popsicle.)

The folks at I Love Ugly (iloveugly.net) have kindly filtered their garments so gentlemen can conveniently shop for formal wear. I’ve always loved the concealed prints that line most of their outerwear and how laid-back their style is despite the stiff models. Each new collection brings forth different bespattered shirts—currently including fish, baseball gear, pipe-smoking Benjamins, and naked ladies.

The temptation of online shopping notwithstanding, formal wear should be tried first. You’re dressing to impress, so make your purchases count! The Four Horsemen Shop (635 Johnson St.) has an interesting selection of shirts from brands that are hard to find elsewhere in the city. In particular, Our Legacy designed a 3 Button Rolling Blazer (also available for $505 at fourhorsemen.ca) that was made in Portugal. It mostly consists of wool, which should fare better in the frigid atmosphere, and comes with matching trousers ($250). Their fabric ties from The Hill-side (thehill-side.com), albeit not ideal accessories for a black tie gala, would sprinkle some sand into that crystal blue water.

I’ve read before that you can tell a lot about a person from the shoes they wear. Upon meeting new people, my eyes first gaze downwards to their feet as a result. Now it’s also noteworthy that people have different pairs of shoes they wear according to a respective occasion, but there will be one perfect pair that defines them, and it will be the shoes they (almost) always wear. For me, it’s my white Lacoste sneakers that have been with me for years, through mud and water and marker scribbles by friends who literally stole my feet from under me so they could draw cats and X-wing fighters. However, I’ve been seeking new go-to companions to tread with. And I think I found them at Mere (mere.com.au): the Olive nubuck shoe in Red or Frog ($170) or both ($340). If I could stick my feet through the screen and see if their men’s Bluto shoes in Ash ($159) would fit me, I’d get those too and wear them to a ball.

In Singapore, my prom (or version of prom) didn’t include elaborate gowns or corsages. It did have good food though! While I can’t say I understand the importance of prom and everything it entails, I can say that the following designers have dresses that would make pupils dilate and hearts flutter—not merely for onlookers, but for wearers too.

It was through the Australian boutique Joy Hysteric (thejoystores.com) that I came across Alice McCall, Karla Spetic, Christopher Esber, and Aje. They impress in different ways, yet similarly play with the traditional architecture of clothing.

From a previous collection, I considered the Lord Norrisendo dress by Aje (a-j-e.com.au) to be the dress I’d wear down the aisle. It was an ivory, strapless dress with forgivable ruffles, ventrally embroidered with a subtle skeleton to turn your insides out. In a less idyllic milieu, the sequin Catara mini skirts—all their skirts, really—would be perfect for any impromptu black-and-gold affair.

Christopher Esber (christopheresber.com.au) and Karla Spetic (karlaspetic.com) seemingly cater to women who have different personalities yet would be inseparable friends. There is probably a reason why the bold and the beautiful go together, and go to parties together.

I could not possibly venture to describe how stunning Alice McCall’s designs are. The River by the Rock and Sea Nymph maxi dresses (both $429 at alicemccall.com) are just two that the claw managed to pull out of the heap of treasures.

These dresses hardly need embellishment, but a simple necklace like the one I recently purchased from Paboom (1437 Store St.) would be an intimate final touch. It’s a sterling rose thorn necklace ($45) cast from an actual thorn ripped off the stem of a rose, an enthralling design by Harris Casey (harriscasey.com).

Exhibiting formality is probably one of the ways of showing you have class, and sometimes the cold shoulder of formalism (in fashion or in essays) becomes intimidating to those who lack practice, but don’t let that arrest your ability to simply try something different than what you’re used to. Challenge it, again and again.

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