NYC sommelier Levi Dalton just wrote a great post covering sartorial sommelier tips, focusing on both functionality and style. He’s a dude, clearly. So, it was written for dude somms. Well, what about the ladies? I got Levi’s blessing to do a female take on the whole shebang. So, here goes…
Let’s start with how I dress. I happen to work in a casual trattoria style Italian spot. Don’t get me wrong- we don’t have brown kraft paper and crayons on the table, but we definitely don’t have any linens. We pretty much wear whatever we want, but always wear Italian sommelier aprons that Max gets made for us. This Fall/Winter, we’re having a camouflage moment. Other looks are dark denim, heather gray (my favorite), orange and canvas.
1- A headband. I don’t like to wear my hair completely up too often (I have a lot of it and it’s heavy) but, I need to keep my hair out of my face. Some bobby pins work too for a half-up, pinned on the sides type thing.
2- Mini pockets for a pen (which I never seem to have) and my beloved Pulltap’s corkscrew.
3- Nails. Gotta keep the nails done did. My hands are very visible to patrons, so I don’t want them all chipped and/or dirty. I could keep them just buffed and clean, but I’m a bit nail polished obsessed.
4- Large pockets! This is KEY (more on pockets later). I love that I have an apron with roomy front pockets that allow me to put corks, foil, dirtied serviettes, etc in them discretely and effortlessly while I’m at the table. If I had only my skinny jeans’ pockets, I’d be screwed. Speaking of skinny jeans….
5-Pants. I always wear pants and not skirts/dresses because it’s not conducive to my work environment. One of our cellars is accessible only by ladder. Even though our friendly dishwashers nearby would be happy to catch a show, I know better. I go with black or dark wash denim in a skinny, non-baggy shape.
6- Shoes. Flats are a MUST for me when on my feet for several hours at a time and running around hustling. I wear dark colored TOMS, my new fav Sam Edelman flats, loafers or tall leather boots.
Now that you’ve seen me, let’s look at how other lady sommeliers that I dig dress! Every restaurant has a different vibe and style of service, therefore there are no hard and fast rules. But rarely do any of us ever have to wear something like what Pascaline and these guys are sporting anymore…
From top left going clockwise: Pascaline Lepeltier of Rouge Tomate in NYC // Dana Farner of CUT in LA // Shelley Lindgren of A16 and SPQR in San Fran // Caroline Styne of AOC/Lucques/Tavern in LA // Laura Maniec of Corkbuzz in NYC.
There are some common themes here for sure; darker neutrals with pops of color or pattern, simple jewelry or none at all and the blazer and cute top combo. Oh yeah- and pretty hair.
Dana (center), whom I used to work with at CUT, always looks together and professional but still feminine. I learned a few things from her, most importantly being- anytime you see a skirt or dress with pockets BUY IT. Buy lots of them. This is the perfect way to be able to still wear skirts and dresses if you don’t wear an apron, since you have to have pockets as a sommelier. You just do. It’s mandatory. Also, you don’t always need to wear a blazer. Throw on a little cardigan or sweater to switch things up.
You know who else has great style? Helen Johannesen of Son of A Gun and Animal here in LA. She always looks great. Simple but never boring, stylish but functional and seemingly effortless. Click here to see an uber hip photoshoot of her and her closet.
Levi has a “work kit” with all kinds of helpful stuff in it. I don’t have such a thing, because I have something called a PURSE. I’m ALSO a Type A female, so I have a “life kit”…which doubles as a “work kit.” There’s lip balm and lig gloss, my corkscrew which I have at all times and most importantly stain remover! I not only use it myself (wine stains are a bitch), but for customers too. I have saved the day many a time! I don’t keep any mouthwash around like Levi. My go to fresh breath aid is a natural one- the cut lime and lemon wedges at the bar. I’ll suck on one real quick, drink some water and I’m set.
Hope you found this post informative or at least entertaining. Thanks for the inspiration Levi!