Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

By Patricia Yarberry Allen

Parsing the language of a New York invitation is not always easy.  I like basic Black Tie.  It means that the men are an attractive backdrop for beautifully dressed women who can choose to wear a serious short dress or a long evening gown.  Even this safe “Black Tie” requires some thought.  If it is opening night at the Metropolitan Opera, an evening gown is certainly appropriate.  There are events in New York City every night with invitations that request “Black Tie,” where a long dress would be inappropriate and a cocktail dress with some glamor would be just the right thing.

I at an important philanthropic event this past Wednesday night.  I wanted to wear a dress already in my closet, but nothing worked.  The invitation was for dinner and dancing.  Cocktail attire but not Black Tie, so the men would be randomly attired: never good.  Since it wasn’t black tie, I couldn’t wear a long dress.  Since it wasn’t black tie, even most of my cocktail dresses were too glam.  But I was also an Event Committee Member; the cocktail dresses that weren’t glam in my closet were too plain for my role.  What to do?

I also had no time.  On a Friday six days before the event at the end of my work day, I did the marathon shop at Bergdorf Goodman with Lindsay, PJ’s assistant in the personal shopping department.  5th floor, 4th floor, NOTHING.

It was 5:45 pm….tick tick tick.   On the 3rd floor as I was heading out into the night without a thing to wear, I spotted it; a simple long-sleeved black velvet dress, with an unusual squared neckline that extended slightly beyond the shoulder line.  Urgent call to Lindsay. Quick change into dress and perfect fit…not easy for me.  I scheduled a return on Sunday for the sleeves to be shortened.

On Sunday I arrived at 5pm for the dressmaker to do his magic.  I tried on the dress and it was not what I remembered it to be in my desperate state on Friday.  As I was taking myself for a walk through the Akris boutique looking in mirrors to assuage my uncertainty, I saw the unmistakable silhouette of a friend with the best taste on the planet.  She saw me at the same time and gave me a look.  I had seen that look before.  “Patty,” she said in a tone. “Where did you get that?”  “On the 3rd floor,” I replied and then in a rush, “I am buying this because I don’t have a thing to wear to this event on Wednesday and I don’t have another minute to shop and and it fits”.  “Patty”, she said with a kind tone, “You simply cannot wear this dress.  Frankly darling it looks like a “Star Wars- Dancing With the Stars” kind of combo”.  Who knew that this paragon of good taste was home at night watching reruns of Star Wars and Dancing With The Stars? “Take that off.  Go home.  Come back tomorrow.  You will find a dress.”

I have never known a woman who has not been in this situation at least once in her life.  Desolate and fearing public nudity as the only option for Wednesday night, I agreed to her suggestion since I knew that I had only been trying to talk myself into buying this dress out of desparation.

On Monday morning I reached PJ.  Lindsay had given him a head’s up about my crisis.  He would be ready for me at 5:30; at the end of my work day and 30 min of New York traffic to get 30 blocks.  I arrived breathing heavily from the run up the four escalator flights.  Suddenly there were lots of choices.  PJ had pulled six knee length dresses.  Three of them were just the right thing.  Elegant, but with a touch of glamour. I tried them on and was almost sure that an ivory dress with ¾ length sleeves and a jeweled neckline would be perfect.

Then PJ came back with a simple black dress with ruching on the bodice, fantastic thin wool crepe fabric, built in corset, and a magnificent mini shrug sewn into the sides of the dress; a shrug that just kissed the sides of the shoulders as it slid down the arms for a romantic hug.  This creation could have gone to the dinner dance without me.  I would have just been the dress hanger.  PJ called the dressmaker.  He knew that the reconstruction had to be completed in 24 hours.  On Tuesday I picked up the dress at 5:45pm.

I felt great on Wednesday night.  In this economy this could be my last cocktail dress for a long time.  At least it is the perfect little black dress.

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