Gala Glam

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Grayse Crystal Illusion Gown
Metallics, including sequins, beading or crystals make an eye-catching statement, like this Grayse Crystal Illusion Gown.

Looking good while doing good is always in style, and local fashion experts are on hand to help gala attendees make a splash this season, whether at a luncheon or formal dinner.

By Beth Livesay and Newport Beach Magazine Staff


It’s that time of year again and, especially in this town, galas are glamorous events: Ladies arrive dressed to the nines in stunning dresses and jewelry, and guys look polished and put-together in suits or tuxes. While you can’t go wrong with a black dress or suit for these types of occasions, the latest high-fashion designs provide plenty of options to match anyone’s style, from classic to contemporary this season.

Newport Beach stylists are knowledgeable on the trends worth embracing as well as timeless looks and tips for assembling the perfect ensemble. Here, a few sartorial experts share their advice on outfits to make an entrance at galas—night or day.


All Dressed Up

Women love a reason to buy a beautiful gown, and gala season is the perfect time to invest in a new dress. But, for the many formal events in coming months, don’t think only about sparkle and long length. Sara Aplanalp, lead personal shopping stylist at Fashion Island, points out that designs with one shoulder or a flounce hem are on-trend options.

Color choice is another way to keep it contemporary when searching for a dress. “Red is going to be everywhere this fall,” Aplanalp says of this power color that extends to formalwear. But, if red isn’t your favorite shade, consider a metallic to keep things neutral. Also, nothing epitomizes an elegant evening like champagne, so consider this hue to embrace a sophisticated look. “If you decide to go bold in red or metallics—both of which are major trends for fall—you have to own it,” Aplanalp says. “Add statement earrings, an embellished clutch or metallic shoes.”

For those daring a shorter silhouette, opt for more flash to make up for the lack of length. Metallics can come into play with shorter frames by way of embellishment: Sequins and beading can be just as classy as crystals. “Metallics are a huge trend for fall and will really add some sizzle to your look,” says Philip Manghisi, designer collections buyer for Elyse Walker, which has a store in Lido Marina Village. “A sparkly cocktail dress is the perfect thing to wear to a fall gala to keep the vibe fun and fabulous.”

No matter what style you embrace, it’s important to find a dress with a cut and length that will flatter your frame. “With so many varying body types, it’s best to just get in there and try it on,” Aplanalp advises. “Work with a tailor to perfect the fit. Things to look out for include: taking in the sides a touch to flatter your waist, letting the seam out just a tad to make the dress more comfortable and hemming the length to just graze the floor. A good tailor will be your best friend.” She notes that several in-store tailors are available at Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, all at Fashion Island, for easy one-stop shopping.

And, while it’s fun to embrace the latest trends, a good go-to option to keep in your wardrobe that will be timeless across seasons is a classic column silhouette that just skims the body, Aplanalp recommends. “You’ll never be out of style with this shape,” she says.

Betsey Johnson and Laundry by Shelli Segal
Floral looks like the print on this Betsey Johnson dress are on-trend for lunch events. Metallic is a show-stopping color choice as seen in this Laundry by Shelli Segal gown.

Luncheon Looks

With so many local charities—plus out-of-town nonprofits that host their fundraisers at Newport hotels—not every celebration can be a dinner and dance. From luncheon presentations to benefit brunches, during gala season, evening events aren’t the only excuse to dress up. Daytime gatherings are an equally opportune occasion to step up wardrobe choices when stepping out to support a cause.

For daytime, a midi-length dress or skirt, which hits between the knee and midcalf, can work. A longer frock will also do without all the embellishments of an evening ensemble. Look for something more effortless than feathers and crystals. Aplanalp suggests something as easy and sunny as a floral print. “I call these prints winter blooms because they are florals that will work for fall,” she says. Additional details like ruffles and bare shoulders make daytime wear more playful and slightly less stiff.

Gala menswear
Plaid — as seen on these Brok Bros. Milano Fit Black Watch with Deco Trousers [left and this Robert Talbott dinner jacket — is in style for men.

Suit and Tie

Ladies aren’t the only ones expected to dress up for gala season. Men, too, can pull out all the stops when choosing what to wear for a night on the town. While some fall trends are dress-specific, color transcends gender and clothing type. “Don’t be afraid to wear a little color,” advises Linda Brink, sales associate at the Robert Talbott store at Fashion Island. “A lot of people are wearing navy blue or bright blue tuxedos instead of black. Bright-colored dinner jackets are very handsome and unique; it’s a very fun, but dressy look for gala season.”

Dress shirts, vests and trousers are all ways of incorporating a pop of something other than black or gray. Color is also a way for couples to complement one another’s ensembles. “[A man] … can add a colored tie and pocket square or vest to coordinate with his wife or girlfriend’s dress or outfit,” Brink suggests.

For more formal affairs in the evening, Matthew Blanchard, assistant manager at Robert Talbott, advises men err on the side of classic black or navy if they’re not wearing a tuxedo. “If a gentleman is going to wear a dressy outfit without wearing a tux to a special event, a dark suit—preferably black or navy—should be the only options.” A crisp white shirt is also fail-safe, according to Blanchard.

For a lunchtime event, guys can get more creative with their clothing. Comfort can be achieved by mixing dark wash jeans with a sports coat of choice. “The right jacket can make or break the outfit,” says Christine Roddy, manager of the Robert Talbott store. “Because it is daytime and not evening, your outfit can really take on a different look.” She also recommends incorporating some patterns rather than just plain colors, such as a jacket with a windowpane or glen plaid design. For shirts, she suggests a spread collar, which has points spread farther apart than on a traditional shirt, or one with buttons under the collar to keep the corners tacked down for a clean look. “[And] a nice wool trouser will finish off your outfit,” Roddy adds.

Conventional or not, dressing for gala season should end with an eye-catching result. Equally as important as the memorable evening you’re sure to have is the memorable outfit you can create that’s unique to the fall 2017 season and your own signature style.


Accessorize It

After selecting the perfect outfit, dress it up even more with accessories that will complement in terms of color or add a bit of shine for a special occasion.

Kendra Scott earrings

“Even a touch of red in an accessory or outfit detail will make it that much more relevant,” says Sarah Aplanalp, lead personal shopping stylist at Fashion Island.

Try the vintage-inspired Blossom Statement Tassel Earrings made with Bordeaux-colored tiger’s eye, $125, available in store or with advance order at Kendra Scott, Fashion Island. (949-258-9285;

Or pick up the Jean Cherry Resin Hard Clutch Bag by Edie Parker with little sculpted cherries on top, $1,195, at Neiman Marcus, Fashion Island. (949-759-1900;




Prada jeweled satin slide sandles

“Rose gold will continue to dominate,” Aplanalp advises. “Look for dusty pinks on dresses and accessories.”

Embrace the dusty rose shade with these Prada Jeweled Satin Slides in nude, $990, at Neiman Marcus, Fashion Island. (949-759-1900;







Rodd Gunn

In men’s fashion, forest colors such as chocolate and dark green inspired the footwear for Rodd & Gunn’s fall collection. The broader color palette shows that there’s more to men’s accessories than basic black, such as the Logan Terrace Boot in chocolate, $198, at Rodd & Gunn, Fashion Island. (949-706-2677;

Intricate detailing and a mix of fibers make a woven belt this season’s go-to style, like the Western Bay Belt, which adds color to an outfit and contrast to traditional leather accessories, $98, at Rodd & Gunn, Fashion Island. (949-706-2677;

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