Dec 092008

(Almost) my entire formal wardrobe:

white-ball-gown.JPG  Ball gown:  purchased thrift this year for $1, with brand-new tags still attached.  I love it!  But where will I ever wear it?

red-evening-gown.JPG  Evening gown:  not brand-new, although it might as well be.  Purchased the same shopping trip as the dress above, and for the same price!  Plans to wear this include a fancy dessert out with my daughters and their friends, where we can all dress up.  Preferring to precisely embody the epitome of propriety, I probably won’t wear this to my hero’s company holiday party.

long-gunmetal-metallic-skirt.JPG  Separates: IMO, this look is a little matronly, but apparently that’s okay because when I actually wore it to an event the other night (with silk long pants under!) I received very generous and very genuine compliments from RLFs whose opinions matter.  Like my daughter, who said it doesn’t matter if it looks matronly because it looks good.  And my real-life fashion hero, the young mom in our circle who I consider the most artistically styled.  I’ll leave it to you RLFs to figure out who that is 😉

Missing from this post:  the silver, three-quarter sleeve, silk-and-metallic top that makes the skirt above into a dress.  Also a similar, sleeveless, red combo.  And a party dress.  (But if I ever had the appropriate place to where it, and I could work up the nerve, I’d wear my mom’s wedding dress as a party dress.)

I think part of what makes the formal lifestyle segment such a challenge, and brings about the peer pressure to eliminate it, is the whole cost-per-wear thing.  On the other hand, thrifting (or even borrowing) formal-wear can bring it into the realm of reason.  BTW, the gunmetal skirt was also $1, with the tags on it still, and I’ve worn it several times, as well as loaning it to a friend to wear with her own sweater.

Cocktail clothes are another subject.

  33 Responses to “Formal Wardrobe”

  1. hey you! at what thrift store do you shop @ where you buy such fun things for $1?!
    love the haircut also!!
    hope to talk soon.

  2. I think that you would look fantastic if you paired a crisp, long sleeved, collared white shirt with the silvery skirt. You could wear it with the sleeved either rolled or pushed up, and the neck a little open. And wear it with a really cute statement necklace, like something jeweled. Maybe in a dark color. It reminds me of what Sharon Stone wore to the Oscars years ago, and she looked so great amongst a sea of fluffy ball gowns. Or you could wear a 1/2 sleeve to 3/4 sleeve black turtleneck with the skirt, again with a statement necklace. Just my immeadiate thoughts…:)

  3. I love, love, love the red dress! But you know me, I’m partial to red. 😉 Love the price too.

    I don’t have any formal dresses like that. I don’t really need them. That said, I would love a closetfull, but I’m not sure I would do them justice wearing them to clean toilets… 😉

  4. I’m impressed that you even have a formal wardrobe. I don’t own a single formal piece of clothing simply because I have no where to wear it.

    I did have 3 bridesmaid dresses that I gave away last summer because I needed to clean out my closet. I even gave away my wedding dress since I couldn’t think of anything to do with it and it took up too much space. Guess I’m not very sentimental, eh?

  5. I think that your silvery skirt would look fantastic paires with a crisp, white collared shirt. Kind of like what Sharon Stone wore to the Oscars years ago. With the sleeves pushed or rolled up and the neckline slightly open, you could add a really cool statement necklace to it. The Gap and Target and some really nice and colorful options, some with big jewels. Or even wear a nice 1/2 to 3/4 sleeve black turtleneck with the skirt and a necklace. That is what popped into my head, just a thought! 😉

  6. I think if you have something special you can make an occasion to wear it. And if you haven’t spent a great deal of money, then it’s great to have something on hand just in case!

    Of course I have no formal wardrobe. At all. But I do have a few smashing cocktail dresses!

  7. Wow–a formal wardrobe? I am impressed. My husband is a scientist, and fancy events are few and far between here in our college town. I make do with a knee-length black wrap dress and a longer (but not floor length) velvet skirt, which I pair with various tops and blouses. I trot out my glitziest accessories–shoes, purses, some vintage jewelry, and shawls–as needed.

    We recently had a dressy night out in the Big City–an elegant dinner followed by the ballet. It’s been long, too long, since we got so dressed up. I am a bit ashamed to admit that I had to go to our daughter’s “dress-up box” to reclaim a beaded evening purse. I paid the child a Tootsie Roll to rent it for the weekend! 🙂

  8. Sarah – I love your idea!

    Sheri – No need to be ashamed! There are always ladies who do that at the fancy event I went to the other night. 😉

  9. I love both of the new ball gowns, esp. the lighter colored one. It’s a shame you won’t wear the red one to the party… couldn’t you throw a shrug or wrap on to make it more modest or whatever?

    I have one long formal (black) and one short cocktail dress (wine) and that’s the extent of my dress up wardrobe. Of course, I have only needed one every year or two.

  10. Actually I guess it’s a party dress, not a cocktail dress (but you already knew that).

  11. I love your party dress!

    It’s not that there is anything wrong with the red dress – and no, I would never wear a shrug or wrap or anything like that, ever, under any circumstances, period – it’s just not as perfectly “office Christmas party at the Country Club on a Thursday night” as what I am planning on wearing. I know that at least one lady who is planning on wearing a long dress, hers is green and she bought it to wear this past October when Phantom of the Opera was here, so this is my second choice and will be fine if I change my mind and wear it.

    It’s not obvious in the picture, but some of the little crystals beading the neckline are pink. In the old days, our church put on a fancy couple’s dinner for Valentine’s Day. Maybe I should inform the new pastor … 😉

  12. Wow, you look soooo nice, so glamourous!! Honestly though, I would trim everything to about knee-length and wear them all the time w/ various cute cardigans — I adore the last outfit w/ sheeny grey skirt and pink top the most — imagine the skirt knee-length, you could wear it on a regular basis!! On the other hand, your thrifting prowess is stunning and for a few dollars why not have some formal outfits in wait for who knows when you might need it . . . I actually have a shimmery deep fuchsia/grey floor-length skirt very similar to yours, I often wear it on the last day of school before winter vacation, sort of to “celebrate’ the end of the year — but I think I’ll shorten it to get more use from it!

    to Jennifer S: about your wedding dress, a fun thing I do is try it on every year to check the fit — after 20 yrs I can still squeeze into it, but that’s about all I do/want it for — my husband won’t let me get rid of it though

  13. My girls loved to see your fancy dresses. As for me, I love the red one! Beautiful!

  14. Ellem – you raise a good point, and I meant to throw this thought out there:

    What does everybody think about cutting the red dress off to just below the knee? I have seriously been considering that thought.

    Your comment also reminds me that I think a knee length version of the grey skirt was “one that got away” somehow. Like I saw one on sale or at a thrift store and didn’t get it, but probably should have. But, honestly, I don’t wear skirts that often, so I probably wouldn’t be ahead to cut this one off. But, hmmm, there is the dark red one almost like it …

  15. I really like the red gown, it’s very elegant. I just discovered this blog, gosh I love it! Your advice is wonderful, I’m a fan. :):):):)


  16. Thanks, Lory! I’m looking forward to checking out your blog; I’m trying to get motivated to sew! 🙂

  17. I kind of have to say, the white dress immediately strikes me as bridal – does anyone else have that reaction, or is it just me? I mention it because I kind of doubt that’s an effect you’d be aiming for.

  18. The red one would be fabulous shorter! I say do it. It will then have a 1950’s kind of feel.

  19. I agree with Mella about the white dress. The red fits you perfectly and flatters the best! Especially with your red eyes!!!

  20. “Especially with your red eyes!!!”


  21. Mella, I had the same thought about the white gown. It looks to me like it should be worn by a bride or someone at prom. Then again, I probably would have bought it too, for a dollar… could it be dyed? I adore the fit of the red dress… it is so flattering! I agree with it being a great candidate for shortening to knee length. The gunmetal skirt is fabulous, too.

  22. What material is the white?

  23. Hmmm … dying the white dress. That’s an intriguing thought. But then there’s just something I love about white, especially on an older person at the holidays. It’s just so unexpected. On the other hand, I don’t know if I’d ever wear strapless.

    I was also wondering if I hacked off the red dress, could there possibly be enough left to make a jacket? It’s very long.

  24. Wow, you have a great formal wardrobe! If I had to pull something out of my closet for a formal event…well, I’d be in trouble.

    I love the grey skirt, and think you could wear it as is, or with a white shirt as some suggested, even for around the house on a festive evening.

    I do have a tea length red strapless dress and it just sits in my clloset. So if you shorten the red dress…it might be kind of neither/nor.

    I think you should wear your long dresses, and start a return to elegance in dressing up.


  25. White dress is 100% acetate which, from what info on dying I’ve been able to find, is impossible to dye at home. So much for that idea! Perhaps adding a trim or something?

  26. Rebecca, your hair is awesome! I like it so much. I like your new image in the upper right side also. It’s been a while since I checked in, it’s new to me!

  27. Aw, thanks Karen! 🙂

  28. The red dress is fabulous and I bet if it was shorter it would get a lot of wear. Great deals!

  29. I think the hem on the white dress is what strikes me as being particularly prom/bride-esque… I’m not against white evening wear in general 🙂 I think it could look elegant in a non-prom way if it were shortened to remove the frou-frou hem and worn with something elegant on top?

    It’s hard to say re: a jacket from the hem of the red dress… it looks like there could be enough fabric there for a shorter jacket. I say lay the pattern pieces out on the skirt & see!

  30. Another idea for the left-over red would be as lapel-collar on a (darker red?) jacket.

    Just for fun: How about making the frou-frou a scalloped edge (drawn up 6 inches and stitched every 2 feet or so) and wearing a white lacy top over the bodice. The point being to reduce the skin display and bring attention TO the frou-frou AND the glitzy-glamorous heels you are wearing.

    I agree that white in the winter is especially tantalizing.

  31. I’m not certain I follow what you mean on the hem of the white dress, but you can show me in person pretty soon. And, of course, I have the white lacy top. But then why would I go through all that work when I could just wear your wedding dress? 😉

    I’m thinking perhaps I should have just left that dress for some girl to buy for prom.

  32. White washes you out and the dress looks dated. (There is a reason for those $1 price tags.) The red fits you very nicely. I like evening skirts with sweaters.

  33. […] Dress, I talked about having a go-everywhere dress on hand; I have a simple one. I also have a formal. And the $20 black dress I referred to in Cost Per Wear is still hanging, unworn, in my closet. […]

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