A sense of place.
It's what separates the expert dressers from the OK dressers. First Lady Michelle Obama (and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis before her) has mastered it as an art form, wearing a dress by Indian American designer Naeem Khan for a Diwali celebration at the White House and an outfit by a Nigerian designer on a trip to South Africa, for example.
But too often, this particular sartorial skill is in short supply when it comes to the red carpet.
Not so over the weekend at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, where the best looks evoked the retro resort lifestyle of the place and the low-key nature of the events, which serve as a relaxed warm-up for Sunday's Golden Globe Awards.
Even Lupita Nyong'o, this awards-show season's fashion sweetheart, seemed to be camping it up a bit in a retro-looking Elie Saab coral and gold brocade cocktail dress and matching coat. (I swear my GoMommy had an outfit just like that.)
And then there was Matthew McConaughey's metallic gold Saint Laurent blazer with black satin lapels ... it just screamed Rat Pack.
Made me wish I were there to throw back a martini.