Spies & Dolls – How to Dress for a Gala

7d57ed53877d3b78632873cfb6a306d9One of the great things about fashion is that it allows you to transform into various characters, especially when given a chance to showcase your creative style at events such as the “Spies & Dolls” themed 2014 Ottawa Gala held on April 26, 2014 at the Canadian War Museum. Since events with specific themes come with a dress code, I’m here to guide you in putting together the perfect look!

Spies & Dolls makes me think about the seductive and mysterious Dark Hollywood Glamour of the 30’s and 40’s. That’s right, think Film Noir for inspiration, which featured Femmes Fatales and Secret Agents.

Ladies, I’ll give you the fundamentals of a Femme Fatale’s wardrobe in order to achieve this sultry look that will turn heads. Gentlemen, you’ll be dressed to kill…with your style! I’ll guide you towards a few key items in your wardrobe and how to pair them together. You’ll rock a fabulous vintage look for this event!

Femme Fatale Look

The Femme Fatale is a mysterious and seductive woman. Her charms will ensnare you, your desire for her will enflame you, and she’ll lead you into compromising and dangerous situations. She uses sex to get what she wants, and it all starts with clothes.

Fashion has paid tribute to the glamour of Film Noir over the years. From Ralph Lauren’s modest indigo velvet dresses with ruched front that demands stroking, Lanvin’s slit-to-the-navel silk blouses nipped at the waist and paired with a pencil skirt, to Carolina Herrera’s dotted satin gowns with fur collars and cuffs. Oh, and let’s not forget, Versace! Can any of you remember Elizabeth Hurley in Versace’s “Safety Pin” dress circa 1994? If not, GOOGLE IT! Enough said.

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The basics to achieving the seductive Femme Fatale look are to opt for dark colours, and fitted silhouettes. Go through your closets and sort through your dark colours (ie. pencil skirts, black cocktail dresses or floor length gowns). Remember to keep it tasteful, and wear something that will flatter your figure. Visit Ottawa’s Holt Renfrew, Schad Boutique, BCBG Max Azria or Viens Avec Moi Boutique for some great finds.

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Invest in a classic and high quality foundation, eye-liner and lipstick.


Eyes: Black eyeliner: pencil or liquid (liquid is perfect to achieve the “Cats Eye”) or go for the Smokey Eye Look. Faux Lashes are a must!

 Lips: Lipstick should be Maroon or Red (Mac, Chanel or Tom Ford) have great reds *Be sure to practice applying red lipstick, so that it doesn’t smudge around your mouth or over your teeth!

Eyebrows: Define eyebrows with powder or eyebrow pencil
*Defined eyebrows are important… so break out those tweezers ladies, or pay a visit to your aesthetician!

Nails: Match your nail polish with your lipstick.


Side parted, wavy long length curls (Think Rita Hayworth & Veronica Lake) OR short pin curls (Think Elizabeth Taylor or Ava Gardner)

Nothing screams Femme Fatale like a pair of Christian Louboutin’s! However, if that’s out of your price range then other stylish brands will do. Just make sure not to wear any type of flat soles, stilettos are key. You can check out local spots such as Holt Renfrew, Wolf & Zed as well as Town Shoes for some great stilettos.


Christian-Louboutin         red stiletto

Key Wardrobe Pieces:

-Wrap & Shirt dresses
-Tailored skirt suits (pencil & slim fitting skirts)
-Floor length fitted satin gown with long slit
-Black lace
-Fur (faux fur of course)
-Cinched waist accentuated by a belt or corset
-Small hats with a veil
-Tilted hat
-Jewel encrusted broaches
-Long or short gloves (satin or lace)
-Black back seamed stockings, or fishnet (avoid leggings pantyhose or opaque tights)
-Discreet, gun-sized purse

*Tips – Don’t reveal too much! Wear clothes that flatter your figure. Remember, Femmes Fatales are mysterious and sultry.


For inspiration, look to 40’s Hollywood sirens Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, Ava Gardner, and Bette Davis. These red lipped vixens should help give you an idea of how it’s done right!


Rita Hayworth

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Secret Agent Look

The gents of Film Noir era are timeless figures of fashion. Opt for a tailored look that’s less than polished. You don’t have to go for the black suit. Wearing black to events tends to look a little bland. Sometimes that streak of vibrancy or a fine print can make you standout at any formal occasion.

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When investing in tailored pieces, be open-minded and go for patterns: plaids, dull tartans, tweed and herringbone are all excellent choices. If you don’t want to go for the full suit, pairing your shirt and trousers is another viable option, add some suspenders to accentuate the look.


Many of you I’m sure own a trench coat, but if you don’t, then invest! It’s a staple piece for any man’s wardrobe. The Burberry trench coat is probably the most identifiable and coveted in the fashion world. But if Burberry is out of your price range, there are plenty of other stylish options. When shopping for a trench, the belted beige knee-length is a classic, but grey, navy and black also counter a vintage-esque pattern. Pay a visit to Ottawa’s Morgante Menswear or Holt Renfrew or L’Hexagone for these classic looks.


The Shoes:
Vintage Brogues work best here. Berlutti, Dunhill, Canali, Grenson, J. Lindeburg, Kurt Geiger and Oliver Sweeney are all, my top pick brands for this classic style. Leather wing-tips and cap toe with laces in brown, black or two-tone colours are key. Ottawa’s Wolf & Zed and Morgante Menswear carry some great styles for men!

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A flyway brushed-back look is a fantastic option. Wear without too much wax or spray OR go for the slicked side parting. Ottawa’s House of Barons Barber Shop is a good place to go if you can’t achieve this look on your own!

Finally, complete your look with the classic Fedora. It’s undoubtedly the quintessential piece associated with Film Noir.


*Tips – When purchasing a trench, it’s incredibly important to remain traditional.

Key Wardrobe Pieces:

-Tailored Suit
-White shirt
-Pocket square
-Tie or bow tie
-Small crown, wide brim Fedora
-Trench Coat
-collar pins
-Vintage Brogue shoes

For Inspiration look towards Classic icons such as Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Clark Gable as well as Jack Nicholson’s style in “Chinatown”.