Black and White Ball Style Guide: What to Wear

Jennifer Hood, Contributing Writer

Cigarettes, lace, fur and ferocity. This is your last-minute guide to nail that perfect outfit for Haraya’s Black and White Ball while staying true to this year’s theme: “The Haraya Playhouse: Welcome to the Harlem Renaissance.”

First, consider history. The Harlem Renaissance was an era of artistic and social advancements within the black community. It was a time in which black excellence was first recognized for its intellectual contributions to society.

“I think the theme pays tribute to the people before us,” said Dionté Williams, Haraya’s vice president of activities.“They brought us here, and today it feels like we mirror that. We are in our own Renaissance. We are really still fighting for change.”

In an effort to reflect these advancements, changes have been made to the ball. Traditionally, the Black and White Ball has had a strict dress code: Black or white. With this year’s theme paying tribute to the black excellence of the 1920s, the dress code has been altered to any color, any accessory — as long as attendees dress accordingly.

“Go for the twenties or vintage [look],” said Williams between mascara-riddled blinks. “Know the era that you’re embodying, and don’t show up not in theme.”

With time running out, it may be too late to go for that all-out outfit; however, there are a few things you absolutely need to consider if you really want to make a statement.

Normally, women would be thinking of a flapper-like outfit. Sequins, lace and details. More is more when it comes to your dress. The intricate details are a must-have. This is the time to ditch the flats and pull out the heels. Sacrifice yourself and get the blisters — this night of absolute glam would not be complete without accessories.

“Gloves, headbands… and fur,” said Phoenix Totesau-Johnson, a Haraya member who helped put on “Finesse Your Fit,” a program co-hosted by Redhouse, St. John’s fashion organization. The program discussed the “do’s and don’ts” of outfits for the Ball.

According to “Finesse Your Fit,” it has to be one or the other. A simple dress with all-out accessories or an over-the-top dress with sleek accessories; however, because of the March 2 deadline, it might be more realistic for women to go a different route. If you choose not to wear the flapper-esque dress and want to go for the more cost-effective option, feel free to pull that a-line, black dress from your closet and dress it up with the accessories. This look may be more time-friendly, with the Ball less than a week away.

The plain black dress is a totally acceptable option, but to keep to theme, you will have to really step up the accessories.

“A long pearl necklace, feathers, furs, headbands or red lipstick is a good way to go,” said Raven Jackson, a senior Haraya member.

Men. We haven’t forgot about you and you’re in luck.

Tuxedos and suits are timeless. With little changes in men’s fashion over the decades, you don’t have much to worry about. To really stick with the trends of the 1920s, you could go with a slightly oversized suit, a vest or even a suit with stripes. Otherwise, a normal suit is fine, as long as you add details.

“Men are really going to have to rely on the accessories,” said Williams.“The hats, the canes, the handkerchiefs are really what’s going to help bring your look to the 20s.”

So, you have the ideas, but where can you find these hidden gems that are really going to take your outfit to the next level without sacrificing too much of your Saturday night funds? Amazon has a number of flapper costumes, but if you’re hoping to create your own, personal look, you will have to go elsewhere.

“Local thrift stores, ASOS, H&M, Forever21, vintage sites and D.I.Y.s are places where you can definitely find pieces,” said Totesau-Johnson. “You can even go to Party City and get accessories in bulk with your friends.”

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where you get it, or whether you choose to wear a costume or your own personally curated look. What matters most is how you wear it.

“The clothes cannot wear you. You have to wear the clothes,” said Williams. “You have to wear the clothes. You have to wear the fabrics. You have to wear the jewelry. You have to wear all of that. Then you have to have the confidence and commit to the look. That’s the real 1920s.”