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How to Attend a Black Tie Event While Backpacking

by Andrea and John on May 15, 2011

As you can probably guess, we’re travelling with about one tenth of our wardrobes. While not the textbook definition of a minimalist in regular life, Andrea should win some kind of award for the tiny pack she’s travelling around with all year. John has a little more in his arsenal to choose from, but we think it’s safe to say that nothing in our on-the-road collections is worthy of a formal event.

packing light How to Attend a Black Tie Event While Backpacking

Andrea is travelling with only 15 kg and a daypack for the entire year.

When we heard that our friend and fellow blogger, Andi Perullo’s wedding was happening around the time we’d planned to be in Buenos Aires, we couldn’t pass up the chance to be there. But this was to be a lavish, formal affair at one of the most prestigious hotels in Argentina’s capital city, which can only mean one thing: black tie. Having planned our own wedding for September of last year, we know how important it is for guests to look the part. And who are we kidding? It’s great fun getting dressed up and having such a fun, exciting event to go to when you’re travelling. We rarely know anyone in the places we visit, much less get invited to fabulous, oh-so-special parties like a friend’s wedding.

So how does one doff their vagabond attire and scrub up for such a function?

Step One: Get Haircuts

John tends to let his hair and beard grow when he’s on the road. So he started off with a trip to a men’s salon in Montevideo a few days before we set foot in Buenos Aires. For about US$17 he got his usual buzz cut (number two) and coffees for himself and Andrea while she waited. The delicious chocolate-covered dulce de leche biscuits served with them were a bonus.

Andrea started off with a smart cut before we left in December, has been trimming her own fringe (bangs) for the past five months and felt like it was time to see a stylist as well. After consulting with Andi’s fantastic wedding planner, Julie Watson for some recommendations, she made an appointment at Volver Peluqueros in Palermo for a cut and style. If you’re travelling to Buenos Aires and need help with anything related to your trip, I can highly recommend Julie. She was so helpful to us during our time here.

updo How to Attend a Black Tie Event While Backpacking

Step Two: Find Appropriate Attire

We headed to the Etiquet suit shop on Las Heras to get John fitted for a tuxedo. After explaining to Raul that we were going to a very formal evening wedding, he asked us to look at the suits on display in the window and tell him what we were after. Our animated discussion to each other in English went on for awhile before Raul gestured to us to follow him. He was a professional so why not just leave it to him? Within half an hour he measured John, suited him up and sent us on our way with instructions to return on Friday to pick up the ensemble.

suit fitting buenos aires How to Attend a Black Tie Event While Backpacking

suit hire buenos aires How to Attend a Black Tie Event While Backpacking

The next day Andrea headed off shopping for shoes and a dress. Buenos Aires is huge, with many different shopping districts. Since we were staying in Palermo SoHo, which is full of trendy boutiques, it made sense to start looking there. The first stop was the Alto Palermo Shopping Centre, a large indoor mall between the barrios Palermo and Recoleta. It’s autumn here in Argentina, but the weather has been beautiful and on this particular day it was 23°C. Despite the fact that there was no need for heating in the shops, it felt like summer inside and Andrea could only take one sweat-inducing trip to the fitting room before she fled the mall. After wandering the streets for hours she finally found the perfect dress at Veronica Far (and returned to the mall in the evening for some shoes to match).

dress shopping buenos aires How to Attend a Black Tie Event While Backpacking
We were surprised to find that shopping in Buenos Aires is not cheap. Yes, one can find many outlet stores and good bargains in boutique shops dedicated to up and coming designers (such as those found in Palermo SoHo), but in general clothing wasn’t much less expensive than what we would find in Australia.

Step Three: Enjoy the Party

We wouldn’t dare spoil the wedding coverage that is sure to appear on Andi’s blog, but we can reveal that it was truly a beautiful evening. You could feel the love and excitement in the room and everyone ate wonderful food and danced all night. We also enjoyed meeting so many online friends in person this week. It does take a bit of extra effort to prepare for a formal event while travelling but it was definitely worth it.

wedding2 How to Attend a Black Tie Event While Backpacking
Congratulations to Andi and Lucas Ledesma! We felt so honoured to be there to celebrate their special day.

 How to Attend a Black Tie Event While Backpacking

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy Sweeney May 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm

You both look fabulous! What fun getting ready for a big, exciting event.

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Andrea and John May 15, 2011 at 7:15 pm

It was great fun – and a wonderful way to see Buenos Aires. Thanks, Cathy =)

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Anonymous May 15, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I love the transformation from backpacker to black tie!  You both look fantastic!

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Andrea and John May 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Thanks so much, Angie =)

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Anonymous May 15, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I love the transformation from backpacker to black tie!  You both look fantastic!

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Dalene May 15, 2011 at 5:37 pm

You guys clean up nice!  :)

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Andrea and John May 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Haha – thanks, Dalene! =) We try

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Christy @ Ordinary Traveler May 15, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Aww.. you guys look great! I love that dress, Andrea! 

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Annie May 15, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Haha did not mean to just post almost the exact same comment! Funny! ;)

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Andrea and John May 15, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Thanks so much, Christy! I loved having a good excuse to buy it =)

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Annie May 15, 2011 at 6:48 pm

 You two look fab! Love that dress Andrea!

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Andrea and John May 15, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Thanks so much, Annie! =)

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The Travel Chica May 15, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Looking good!  Now what are you going to do with the dress and shoes? 

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Andrea and John May 15, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Sneak them into John’s pack, haha =)

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Jade May 15, 2011 at 9:07 pm

 YOu guys look great!! I can’t imagine searching for a dress last minute- I seem to never find anything, but I love your dress!

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Andrea and John May 15, 2011 at 9:11 pm

I don’t like to do last-minute shopping either but luckily it worked out this time! Thanks so much (but wait til you see Andi’s) =)

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Jan Ross May 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Are you going to carry that lovely dress around in your backpack for the rest of the trip???

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Andrea and John May 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm

When we get to Europe I might consider sending it to John’s parents house but I’m way too nervous to ship it from here. Our last adventure at the post office wasn’t much fun…

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yTravelBlog May 15, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Stunning backpackers!! Love the outfits. Would so loved to have been at that wedding. Can’t wait to read about it and see the pictures

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Andrea and John May 16, 2011 at 1:12 am

It was so beautiful – wait ’til you see how gorgeous Andi looks =)

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Ayngelina May 15, 2011 at 10:10 pm

 Wow you two clean up nice :) So nice to finally get a chance to meet you in person

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Andrea and John May 16, 2011 at 1:13 am

Really nice to meet you too, Ayngelina! Enjoy the rest of your time in Buenos Aires =)

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Juno Kim May 15, 2011 at 11:10 pm

 Lovely!!! :D 

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Andrea and John May 16, 2011 at 1:13 am

Thanks so much, Juno =)

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Anonymous May 15, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Great job putting this together on the fly!  I can’t imagine preparing for a formal event after weeks on the road. 

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Andrea and John May 16, 2011 at 1:14 am

Thanks! =) It was actually nice to pamper ourselves a bit. And a fantastic excuse to do so!

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Megan May 16, 2011 at 9:22 am

You guys look awesome! I got kicked out of a fancy hotel in Hong Kong last year (my sister and I wanted to have high tea but they didn’t like my flip flops. There was a scene. I may have used bad words) – it can be hard to come up with something remotely dressy while you’re backpacking but wow – you guys did really well!

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Andrea and John May 16, 2011 at 8:49 pm

It is really difficult! We had to hire and buy things, which we would never have done if not for a wedding. Sometimes I miss being in Australia and the US where things are really casual. Though we have had issues with being refused entry because John’s shirt, while nice, did not have a collar.

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Andi Perullo May 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm

You 2 are SUCH a gorgeous couple!!!  Thank you X 100 for coming to our special day.  Much love and I hope we can see each other again SOON.

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Andrea and John May 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Thank you for having us, lovely! We had a blast and yes, really hope we can see you and Lucas again soon…since we’re all moving around all the time shouldn’t be too difficult, right?? xx

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Nicole May 16, 2011 at 6:55 am

How fun to get to dress formal while living out of backpacks! You two looked great! :) 

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Andrea and John May 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Thanks so much, Nicole! It was fun =)

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Jeremy Branham May 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Love the photos!  You two look great – almost as lovely as the couple themselves! :)  And congrats to @AndiPerullo as well!

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Andrea and John May 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm

That’s a huge compliment, Jeremy – thanks so much =)

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Randy Kalp May 16, 2011 at 9:54 pm

You guys looked fantastic. After being on the road wearing the same clothes, I bet it felt pretty good to get dressed up.

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Andrea and John May 17, 2011 at 4:01 pm

SO good, Randy =) Thanks so much!

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Scott - Quirky Travel Guy May 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Cool! I think in such a situation, I would be stuck hitting up thrift stores… if there are any around.

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Andrea and John May 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm

That’s a great idea – I’m sure that there are. We suspect that we could have had one made or possibly bought one for cheaper than the hire cost but were short on time.

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Krista May 18, 2011 at 3:08 am

Ohh, you guys look fantastic!!! So glad you were able to be there for Andi’s wedding. I know it must’ve meant so much to her. :-)

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Andrea and John May 18, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Aww, thanks Krista =) It certainly meant a lot to us!

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Claire May 18, 2011 at 12:58 pm

How fun!! I had been reading about her plans for the big day-sounds like it was awesome! It’s always nice to get dressed up and enjoy a fine evening out anytime-not just on the road either. I think it’s probably  more appreciated when living out of a  backpack though!  

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Andrea and John May 18, 2011 at 9:50 pm

It was awesome! Have you seen the photos?? So beautiful…we definitely appreciated the opportunity =)

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Lenche May 18, 2011 at 11:10 am

You are both absolutely gorgeous, sounds like you had a fabulous time, what fun dressing up during your travels xxxx

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Andrea and John May 18, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Thanks so much, Lenche! It was a beautiful svadba – and so much fun to be a guest rather than a bride this time, haha ;) xo

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Anonymous May 18, 2011 at 3:16 pm

You guys look great! I’m headed to California for my sister’s wedding so I had to “clean” up after my trip to Ireland with a much needed haircut. Great tips!

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Andrea and John May 18, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Ahhh – a California wedding will be so beautiful, what a nice setting. Haircuts are tough on the road…it’s been a language barrier issue for me as I only know a few words related to haircuts. But it turned out ok! Enjoy the wedding =)

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Akila May 18, 2011 at 3:31 pm

 Y’all look gorgeous!  We’re so used to looking like scrubs that something like this would have completely shaken up our usual attire.  :) So glad you got to go to Andi’s wedding.

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Andrea and John May 18, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Aw, thanks so much, Akila. We’re heading to Bolivia and Peru next so probably back to scrubdom, but it was fun while it lasted =)

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Kyle May 19, 2011 at 4:23 am

 You both looked amazing. I would’ve never guessed you were backpackers :P

Also…that photo in the corridor of the hotel = not allowed! I’m too scared to post any of the photos I snuck in though! You’re brave.

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Andrea and John May 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Really!? Had no idea? Why??
(is it because of JC?) hehe =)

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Charu May 19, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Love this post! You guys clean up good! 

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Andrea and John May 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm

You are so sweet! Thank you =)

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Sherry May 20, 2011 at 1:00 am

Forgot to comment on this days ago – cause I did want to say that you both look absolutely fabulous!  I love your daypack, Andrea.  I wish I can find something like that for me. Wonderful you got to go to the wedding in Buenos Aires, no less.

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Andrea and John May 20, 2011 at 3:47 am

Thanks so much, Sherry! That’s not my daypack, though…it’s my main everything pack. It’s Berghaus. The new Deuter day packs are looking pretty sweet. We’ve been looking for one here but apparently you can only get them in Chile.

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GRRRL TRAVELER May 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Great transformation and backpacker makeover! Bravo! Just curious– did it hurt to have to roll all those up and shove it all those cool digs back into your backpack so you could carry through the rest of the trip? Or did you just mail those clothes home?

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Andrea and John May 26, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Thanks so much =) It did hurt, haha! Poor wrinkled gown…we plan to send them back at some point but didn’t want to chance it from SA…and it is really expensive to ship things from here. Maybe when we get to Europe we’ll do a shipment… ~Andrea.

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Dan and Casey May 26, 2011 at 10:46 pm

15 kg and a day pack for a whole year!!! nicely done

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Andrea and John May 27, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Thanks =) Everything is pretty much squashed in and I wear the same clothes over and over again, but I’d rather not carry more weight!

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Erin in Costa Rica May 28, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Backpacker makeover – love it! :)

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Andrea and John May 29, 2011 at 4:11 am

Haha – thanks, Erin =) We needed it!

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Abigail Van Gelder May 29, 2011 at 12:07 am

I would like to feature this post on my blog tomorrow, as our “Post of the Week”.  Very lovely.

Abigail

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Andrea and John May 29, 2011 at 4:11 am

Thanks so much, Abigail – that would be wonderful! Really appreciate the compliment =)

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Catherine_mary May 30, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Just popped over from Roving Van Gelders as they recommend your blog for this amusing post – how to get dressed up for formal event while backpacking.  You ‘cleaned up’ good!!!!  Bet you don’t get many comments from dogs lol!!!

Enjoy your travels
Hector the Scottish Terrier from Derby, UK.

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Andrea and John May 31, 2011 at 2:25 am

Haha – thank you very much! We love dogs =) Dog comments are the best!

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whoseyourmaddie March 22, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Bravo on the little pack for one year!! I don’t know if I could do it!

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Andrea and John March 22, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Thanks! You wouldn’t believe it if you saw my closet =) Definitely something I’m sure I’ll look back on and be proud of someday!

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