New Year’s Costuming, a Step-by-Step Guide

Merry post-Christmas! Did you manage to make it through without regressing and turning into a five-year-old version of yourself in the face of the gravitational pull of enshrined family dynamics? If so, well done! If not, that’s ok, that’s what New Year’s Eve is for– finding your way back to the adult version of yourself through fancy outfits and alcohol.

Confession: New Year’s Eve stresses me out. It’s one of those occasions, holidays, whatever that gets built up so much it’s inevitably disappointing.  It’s kind of like that time when I moved to Boston from Nashville and I was so excited about public transit that I took a different train line every day to see where it went. I was particularly stoked on a train that went to somewhere called “Wonderland,” which I thought was obviously going to land me in a magical carnival boardwalk scenario circa 1922. I thought this because this line also went to something called “Revere Beach“– trains that go to beaches! Wow! I should have known when I got off in Revere and saw gray sand littered with the former glass homes of various cheap American beers that Wonderland wasn’t going to be so wonderful. Long story short, it’s a dog track, folks. Can you think of anything more depressing than a dog track?? I can– it’s 19-year-old me, dressed for a weekend at the shore, staring slack-jawed at boozy men in dirty shirts hoping to win like $5 at the track.

Well! That was obviously a digression of epic proportions. New Year’s, yes. Ok. Every year I try to scramble to make sure I have a memorable New Year’s and nearly every year I wind up feeling haggard and a little wan. Half of the battle seems to be figuring out the right outfit– something fancy, but fun, dance worthy, but warm when walking from the train to where ever, etc. etc. These decisions are complicated by the fact that every year I feel the pull of the supremely eccentric aspect of my personality. I want to go extreme. Like Marchese Casati extreme, but there never seem to be the appropriate venues. I was born in the wrong time period, I think. Time and circumstance have cast me out of the era of the avant-garde. I am like Lot, but  instead of longing for the land of forced angelic penetration, I long for the land of occasional intensely performative aesthetics.

Maybe you’re queer and love performative aesthetics, or maybe you’re an adult tomboy and want options other than the little cocktail dress, maybe you like a little intimidating glamor to start your year, or maybe you’re choosing warmth over anything else this New Year’s. Whatever the case may be,  feel free to partake in my process of figuring out what to drape myself in this year.



The Empress Theodora

Step one: Imagine the evening persona I’d have with access to vast wealth. This is always a great place to begin compiling an outfit. I like to start with titles. Would I go with Baroness? Duchess? Marchese? Empress? Given that I’m way into that iconographic image of Empress Theodora, I’m going with Empress. I’m not promising I won’t even go so far as to make everyone address me as such on NYE.

Let me be clear, I come from shoemakers. Literally. My grandparents were Dutch, Danish, English, and Irish respectively. The Dutch side featured a cobbler from some tiny village who thought it wise to leave his tiny village and make for America, so as to enjoy the magical life awaiting him in Ohio. No one around here has ever had the stock to warrant “Empress.” But that’s what post-modernity was for– clearing the slate.




Karl Lagerfeld is almost always a good place to begin if you want to imagine a regal version of yourself. Where can I find a headdress to make me look like a demigod without paying through the nose these days?



Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel


And look! Pants.


More Bizantine Lagerfeld


Step two: Wherein I realize sadly that I have no vast wealth to tap into and I begin to peruse pictures of my friends for inspiration. I usually start with my friend Jen, who has an entirely different gender presentation than I do, but is as close to a contemporary example of Marchese Casati as anyone can get. Jen is one of the most interesting and endearing people I have ever met and I am always in awe of her ability to pull off the most imaginative and, at times scandalous, outfits. I want to be scandalous! She rarely wears pants (in fact, her motto is “No pants 4 lyfe!”), and has some sort of Hungarian wife situation in Budapest. Last year for Christmas she acquired a covet-able architectural sweater from Mara Hoffman for me. I give you Jen.


From, skirt by Dolce & Gabbana



No pants 4 lyfe! Vintage bathing suit and pattern tights


Step three: Feel pumped about all the possibilities and watch the dance scene from Bande a Part while pulling everything out of my closet, and trying on every ensemble imaginable before ultimately realizing that my gender presentation will always be somewhere in the realm of 60s French girl meets eccentric 1920s yacht owner.



Return to step one.


About Michael von Braithwaite

Does it look like I'd wear it on a boat, at an eccentric person's estate or accompanied by a peacock on a chain? Yeah, I'll probably buy that.

One comment

  1. Sloane

    I’ve been trying to learn that dance for years. It’s really hard, plus I can’t dance.

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