How to Attend a Black Tie Event While Backpacking

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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).

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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.

Congratulations to Andi and Lucas Ledesma! We felt so honoured to be there to celebrate their special day.


  1. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Wedding Vendors in Buenos Aires, Argentina « NUEVAMERICANA 28 June, 2011 at 14:55 Reply

    […] travellers Jonh and Andrea Spirov took my advice to heart and loved all that I had to offer.  I will let their amazing article tell the […]

  2. Catherine_mary 30 May, 2011 at 07:23 Reply

    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.

  3. GRRRL TRAVELER 26 May, 2011 at 14:36 Reply

    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?

    • Geert @ Inspiring Travellers 26 May, 2011 at 17:47

      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.

  4. Sherry 19 May, 2011 at 20:00 Reply

    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.

    • Geert @ Inspiring Travellers 19 May, 2011 at 22:47

      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.

  5. Kyle 18 May, 2011 at 23:23 Reply

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

    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.

  6. Akila 18 May, 2011 at 10:31 Reply

     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.

  7. suzyguese 18 May, 2011 at 10:16 Reply

    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!

    • Geert @ Inspiring Travellers 18 May, 2011 at 16:51

      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 =)

  8. Claire 18 May, 2011 at 07:58 Reply

    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!  

  9. Lenche 18 May, 2011 at 06:10 Reply

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

  10. Krista 17 May, 2011 at 22:08 Reply

    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. :-)

  11. Randy Kalp 16 May, 2011 at 16:54 Reply

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

  12. Megan 16 May, 2011 at 04:22 Reply

    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!

    • Geert @ Inspiring Travellers 16 May, 2011 at 15:49

      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.

  13. metsbwd 15 May, 2011 at 18:30 Reply

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

  14. Jade 15 May, 2011 at 16:07 Reply

     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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