As I’m walking to PJ Clarke’s Sidecar to meet the founders of the popular DC-based fashion blog Necessary & Proper, Lauren and Van, I find myself oddly nervous. Am I dressed appropriately (that’s silly, of course), will they be nice, down-to-earth, absurdly well dressed, and easy to talk to? The answer to all of the above, as I soon found out, is a resounding “yes.”
Launched in January 2012 as a site to showcase their personal fashion sense, trending styles, local brands and entertaining concepts, Necessary & Proper soon became a top blog for social-style in the District. Not taking themselves too seriously, Lauren & Van show the masses how to combine patterns, colors, and textured fabrics into cohesive outfits. Haven’t we all struggled with what is the proper attire when walking through the park in the snow? Or what to wear when playing in a pile of leaves? Is my Smith Point outfit acceptable to wear again to Martin’s Tavern brunch (the answer is no)? These are some of the fun and admitting outlandish, photo-shoots (sans the last one) that Lauren and Van use to showcase their fashionable combinations.
Their site isn’t about “you must wear this brand or that,” it’s more about giving people an idea of what can work together with some creativity, confidence, and imagination. And no, they don’t take themselves too seriously. “We want it to be upbeat, and at some point you have to poke fun at yourself because you’re just taking pictures of yourself – if you don’t have a sense of humor about it then you can really lose site of yourself,” joked Van. “I mean, doesn’t everyone dress up and have pool parties every day,” joked Lauren laughing as she spoke. Ok, I thought, these two are kind of awesome. Oh good, our drinks are here.
In addition to attending Lily Pulitzer Palm Beach photo shoots, Lauren and Van do love to entertain and they do like to cook. “Cooking and entertaining is a big part of my life,” Lauren says, “and it’s something we want to start showcasing on the site a bit more. We both do a lot of entertaining for our friends here in DC.” Van noted that having lots of out-of-town overnight guests on the weekends sort of sparked his drive for entertaining here in DC. There are only so many times you can take guests to the Smithsonian or the White House (probably like, one time is enough), that one should find creative ways to entertain. “I love to just whip up a cocktail or make a punch and have some people over. It’s a lot of fun,” Van says. “I learn a lot by cooking for other people. That sort of trial-and-error hands on experience is very valuable,” he adds. Lauren notes that she grew up in a house where entertaining was a big part of weekend activities. However she admits cooking is a new thing for her. “I’m starting to get into it, and [my friends] are giving me lots of tips and advice. I started to read cooking blogs about things you can whip up for people, but I’m still trying to get the timing down,” she notes. Van, on the other hand, is a bit more advanced. He likes casual and warm cooking and entertaining styles – nothing too intimidating.
A big tip from me, is having your bar prepared. -Van
Apart from cooking, much of the aspect of a dinner party is entertaining. “A big tip from me,” Van says, “is having your bar prepared so, if you’re going to be cooking dinner and have your hands busy, you want to be able to say ‘fix yourself a drink.’” I couldn’t agree more. Arriving at someone’s house where they don’t have alcohol ready to serve is equivalent to force-watching a Battlestar Galactica marathon, I would imagine. Van is also a big fan of making a large bowl of punch, as you can prepare it easily beforehand and it’s something different than standard fare. “That way you can just say, ‘pour yourself a drink and make yourself at home.’”
Lauren focuses on the cooking side and suggests, “Never try a new dish for a party.” I agree, unless everyone agrees ahead of time that this will be an experiment, and this theme works best if others are helping cook as well. “I tend to favor heavy apps…and heavy drinks,” Lauren adds. “And don’t try to make everything from scratch.”
Never try a new dish for a party. – Lauren
Entertaining and food aside, since I am in the company of the fashionable, let’s mix the two topics. It’s always interesting when one arrives for a dinner party, with no specific theme or attire specified, to see the mix of outfits and varying degree of formality. So I ask Lauren and Van how should one decide what to wear to a dinner party? “Rule one is probably don’t try and out-do the host,” Van says. “Because they’re making the dinner and it’s their night, so you don’t want to show up…it’s like wearing white to someone’s wedding…you don’t want to try and out-do the host at their own party.” Van adds it’s appropriate to talk to the host, get a feel for the food and the evening, and what other guests will be there (a co-worker or work superior for example). Lauren notes that it is a bit easier for girls. “Everyday it’s like, ‘what are you wearing?’ to this, or that, so it’s customary for girls to ask.” Both agree that knowing the hosts personality and preference are key – so if you don’t, ask someone who does.
Regardless, Lauren and Van agree you should always bring something. Never food unless asked as it might throw off the hosts theme or cuisine of the night. Alcohol or a cooking-related item (a nice bottle of olive oil for example) – Van mentioned truffle oil, I was polite and didn’t imply truffle oil is the root of all evil and tastes like Satan’s tears. Never bring flowers unless they are already cut and in a vase. Plain flowers require your host to stop what they are doing, cut the flowers, find a vase, etc. Preferably one should send flowers earlier in the day.
Enough about hosting and being polite, the drinks are strong, and the Feasting Famously Fast Five is generally better when I left my questions at home and have to just think of random words for Lauren and Van to say the first thing that comes to mind.
Congress – Senate (Lauren) / Toothpick (Van)
Tomato – Ketchup / Vegetable
Bourbon – Boys / Steak
PJ Clarke’s – Sidecar / Paneling
Yellow pants – Spring / Max (a friend of Van’s who apparently wears yellow pants)
Well, that’s about it boys and girls. Check out their site and learn how to never wear pleats again, connect with them on the online interwebs, and don’t be jealous of the well-dressed; with practice, you too can combine red shoes, white pants, a green shirt, 1980s track jacket and a rope for a tie (ok, so I made that up, I don’t think that’s an outfit on the site…is it?).