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Desert Companion

Sharp is the season

Whether it's cooked goose or crafted cocktails, you'll shine in style this holiday season.
style

Blue Alert
The tuxedo originated as a deviation in formal wear, a deviation that at the time was considered scandalous, gauche and daring. These days, however, black tie constitutes a uniform - one whose elements are not to be messed with unless you want to be mistaken for an NBA star or a daytime Emmy winner. Stick with the classic combination: peak lapels or a shawl collar, in midnight blue. Black is fine, but keep in mind that even expensive black wool tends to look cheap and shiny under most lighting. Wear a self-tying black bow tie, an evening shirt with a modest cutaway collar (avoid the wing collar, unless you're a butler), onyx studs, a dark solid cummerbund and velvet slippers or patent leather pumps. Consider black tie an exercise in formal limits: Success hinges on the right fit and on following good taste. - Juan Martinez

Tom Ford navy tuxedo jacket, $4,260
Tom Ford Black Tuxedo Pant $1,195
Tom Ford Black Velvet bow tie, $220
Armani white shirt, $295
All available at Neiman Marcus

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Black Bombshell
How many times a year can you justify a full-length gown? If black tie is on the invitation, skip the cocktail look and go for full-on glamour with an ankle-grazing number that will catch eyes while keeping your calves warm in the December chill. Alberta Ferretti offered a series of silk stunners for fall/winter 2010, and Marchesa can always be counted on for red carpet-worthy gowns. If you find your budget somewhat below runway levels, be comforted by formal offerings from more wallet-friendly labels like Nicole Miller, Badgley Mischka and David Meister. When accessorizing, avoid standbys like shawls or clutches; it's best to have your hands free for the necessities, like a fine cocktail and a finer date. Essentials can be carried in your date's pocket, and you should leave your phone at home - anyone important enough to need your attention at a black-tie event will be there in person. Towering heels and elbow-length gloves add drama, but if that's insufficient, pin some sparkling jewels into your hair or start some sort of fight. - Sara Nunn

Phoebe Couture black gown, $390
Barrera earrings, $275
Barrera ring, $275
All available at Neiman Marcus

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