When you're hosting a dinner party, your outfit has to do double duty: It must be suitably festive while freeing you up to cook. Even when she expects to be busy in the kitchen, chef Giada De Laurentiis believes in dressing up for guests. "I want people to feel like I made the effort to look nice because I'm excited about having them over," she says.
When she entertains in her Los Angeles home, Ms. De Laurentiis, who is a judge on season seven of the TV show "Food Network Star," as well as hosting her own show, often chooses an ankle-dusting cotton dress. The length "looks sophisticated," she says, but it's still somewhat casual because of the less dressy fabric. She likes cottons with a little stretch and flowing quality—jersey knits are a favorite—so that her movements aren't constricted.
The fabric must be lightweight, as a kitchen "tends to be a lot warmer and can get overheated," she says. She avoids silk, which shows perspiration easily.
The chef also likes empire-waisted styles, as they are loose but "just fitted enough so you don't look like you're wearing a sack." Sometimes she may wear black jeans, which she finds "elegant" when paired with a "floral or printed blouse that adds a little dimension of happiness and color on the top."
Ms. De Laurentiis likes her cooking blouses fitted so the fabric doesn't snag, and she favors three-quarter sleeves. Wrist-length sleeves, on the other hand, "get in your way," she says. "You don't want to be constantly pushing up your sleeves." Ms. De Laurentiis rarely wears skirts in the kitchen as she doesn't want to worry about baring too much when moving around or bending down.
Ms. De Laurentiis typically wears dark colors such as burgundy, black or gray. "Things can splatter and spill at any moment," she says. Although chefs sometimes wear patterned pants in professional kitchens so stains are less noticeable, Ms. De Laurentiis, who is 5 feet 3 inches, believes a printed fabric on the bottom would overwhelm her petite frame, so she limits patterns to her blouses.
To spice up dark outfits, Ms. De Laurentiis relies on accessories such as striking earrings or necklaces that aren't too long. The chef, who wears her hair pulled back from her face to avoid "hair dropping all over" the food, often wears large faux-diamond hoops in the kitchen, saying they "don't get in the way of what you're doing." But she avoids bracelets or rings. "I'm always touching things with my hands. I don't want to get food in my rings," she says.
Ms. De Laurentiis generally avoids aprons, which she feels restrict movement. But the chef sometimes ties on a frilly, colorful half-apron to "add punch" to a solid, dark outfit. Ms. De Laurentiis picks styles with one or two pockets, to store frequently used objects such as a tasting spoon.
One thing Ms. De Laurentiis doesn't dress up: her feet. Eschewing heels, Ms. De Laurentiis usually goes barefoot when entertaining: It "gives a relaxed feel to the whole evening," she says. "I don't believe in wearing heels in the kitchen. I need to move around easily, pull things out of the oven, bend down to pick things up. [With heels] I'm afraid I'll slip and fall."
Whatever you choose, the key is to "wear what you're most comfortable in," Ms. De Laurentiis says. "If you're constantly pulling and tugging at your outfit, you're fidgeting and your heels are burning your feet, your guests are not going to be comfortable," she adds.