The summer is winding down and clothing retailers are rolling out fall’s thick knits and denims, so why on earth are people across the city hitting stores in a mad scramble to find crisp, white duds?
It’s because Dîner en Blanc Vancouver—the massive outdoor dinner party for more than 3,000 that happens at a secret location each year—is coming up this Thursday (August 21). And if you’re an invited guest and want to help create Instagram pictures as pretty as a postcard, you need to show up in style—all-white style, that is.
“The visual of white is mind-blowing. It could be any other colour in the world and it wouldn’t be as amazing; it looks magical, just that visual of everyone wearing head-to-toe white,” says Kerry Lawrence, who runs the wholesale agency Horton Berner Fashion Group (which reps brands like Dex, Ben Sherman, and MinkPink), speaking by phone from a trade show. Including 2014’s event, Lawrence will have attended Dîner for its entire three-year run in this city—the last two as a pedestrian or table leader. “If you see someone wearing cream or beige, you really stand out like a sore thumb.”
Ouch! With this in mind, we looked to the smartly dressed Lawrence for advice on not just what to wear but where to find chic white pieces in these dog days of summer. Her best advice is, of course, to plan early and buy well ahead when you spot the perfect white frock or suit jacket. Luckily for procrastinators, the fashion rep reports that with the event in its third incarnation, her buyers are intentionally stocking their stores with white.
Note that, overall, Lawrence has seen the fashion and general spectacle at the event go up several notches—excluding the usual smattering of attendees in West Coast–casual white shorts and jeans, that is.
“A guy at our table last year had a white Top Gun suit on; another woman had a full Marie Antoinette costume with a white face,” Lawrence says, adding that TV host Erin Cebula rocked a vintage wedding dress a couple years back. “So you can take it to whatever level you want.”
With that in mind, Lawrence suggests hitting Club Monaco (various locations) for its still-strong selection of white pieces; last weekend at its Metrotown location, we found the killer, flowy “Davie Bow” cocktail dress, with a big, loose tie at the back ($249), as well as dressy little crop tops and skirts. Lawrence also tagged Plenty, where we stumbled upon a stunningly simple Monk & Lou shift dress ($79, various locations).
Elsewhere for the ladies, we suggest Barefoot Contessa (various locations), where there were still some frothy, free-flowing or A-line party dresses, and Blushing Designs (579 Richards Street), where offerings included a full-length gown with a lace overlay.
For the guys? Too late for the best-dressed men: Indochino collaborated with the event to offer a truly showstopping white tux, but it’s sold-out. Instead, Lawrence found a great men’s blazer at Club Monaco. “My husband is wearing a white linen suit from Topshop this year,” she says of her hubby, Dale Lawrence, who is a group leader.
As for accessories, this year Lawrence has hit Dressew (337 West Hastings Street) for white feathers to weave through her hair, and she’s all for the fascinators, ribbons, and headbands that have become popular at the event. “We found last year a lot of girls wearing the white flower crowns,” she adds.
She’s spotted some gorgeous, delicate silvery-white jewellery at Blue Ruby (various locations) that could dress up a simple shift, including the intricately lacy crystal drop earrings and bracelets by Miguel Ases, and Alexis Bittar’s celestial-looking bangles.
And Lawrence has some sage advice about footwear. “Most of the time, you’re outdoors on grass or sand. Stilettos will look the best, but they’re not necessarily the best for that,” she says, recommending Vancouver-created Heelio Dealios: little clear-plastic caps you put on the bottoms of your heels so you won’t sink into the lawn and damage your pumps. (They’re about six bucks apiece; see the Heelio Dealios website.)
As for white purses, smaller is better. “You want to bring as little as possible,” Lawrence stresses. “Generally, I find I’m bringing my cellphone for lots of pics. With your wallet, that’s it.”
So yes, looking wicked in white is going to take a little effort, people. But it’ll be worth it for what’s becoming, along with perhaps the Deighton Cup, the fashion spectacle of the summer.
“You really feel you’ve transported yourself; it’s like you’re in Paris,” Lawrence concludes, mentioning, of course, the city that started all this.