Dressing way up, part 1: what to wear

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I’ve got a quite fancy party to attend in a few weeks, and the dress code is “festive,” which—all due respect to my  hosts—is just so confusing. I appreciate that it is also very open-to-interpretation, but I have a hunch that at this particular gathering, “festive” will most frequently be interpreted as a shade less fancy than black tie. I’m willing to shell out for something I think I’d get a lot of wear out of, but I would of course prefer not to (and will probably just end up shopping my closet).  I’ve thought about just wearing a pretty party in a top like  this one (with a cami, of course), and pairing it with a long-ish straight black skirt.

Conversely, I’ve considered wearing a statement-y skirt (this one exceeds the GOACA price limit, but is so damn good) with a simple top.

But I’ll probably end up in a dress. I like this one because of the barely-there dot-and-square print and feminine silhouette.

I’d have to wear a pair of breast cutlets with this Nili Lotan dress, but I love the easy, flowy shape of it.

This dress is a touch on the casual side, but I think that with the right accessories it could work.

A very graceful Vince dress that I’d pair with a ton of necklaces.

This has a pretty universally flattering cut, and the dot print is fun.

A very elegant and streamlined choice.

The touch of embroidery here is kind of sweet on an otherwise quite sophisticated option.

Here is the number-one contender if I do buy something new for this party: I like when a dressy dress looks like it would also be quite comfortable, and this one does.

Another one I’m seriously considering: this sequined dress has such a simple shape, but would make such an impact.

And I’m kind of intrigued by the notion of this leather dress.

The multi-tiered situation here should come off as way too much, but somehow it doesn’t.

 

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25 Thoughts on Dressing way up, part 1: what to wear
    Kara
    25 Aug 2018
    9:27am

    Oooo fun!
    I end up going to 4-5 of events per year that require similar (delightful) anguish. Anyone else use consignment? My online shop of choice has well-vetted brands and quality, and I can pick something stunning and well-made for a third of the costs above. I usually get about 12 dresses sent , try them all on and send all but one (ok, sometimes more than one) back.
    More on topic, I agree with the consensus on the blue … I love the ceffin too . They each feel like they’re for different events/seasons though …

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    Lynn in Tucson
    24 Aug 2018
    11:57am

    To me, nothing says “festive” like sequins. I’m the only one I know who wears them but they’re just so fun.

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    Mamavalveeta03
    26 Aug 2018
    12:24am

    That sounds like a really cool fancy party you’re going to! Especially one that calls for a new dress. Kim. You’ve got all of these great options and you’re going to shop your closet??? Girl, go with one of your top choices! You deserve a splurge. (Says me) I’m a fan of the silk slate blue twirly number – comfy and sexy. And it’s a downright BARGAIN compared to some on the contender list. Haha!

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    Candy
    23 Aug 2018
    7:50am

    The top contender is lovely, as is the Cefinn dress. You also could use Rent the Runway, as my DIL and daughter have done for several fancy occasions.

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    c.w.
    23 Aug 2018
    9:10am

    Say “festive” to a GOCA from Texas and the first thought is “sequins” which is probably why Chico’s stores do so well there. (did I just throw shade at Chico’s?!?!) I love the black and white polka dot, but if the “festive” occasion is a wedding reception or fancy pants fiftieth wedding anniversary then it might not do. And, hell yes, the leather dress is intriguing, but could also be incredibly inappropriate depending on the occasion (probably not the best choice for a WASPY christening in Connecticut which I assume this is NOT) and also looks hot (as in sweaty hot, not “take me to your dungeon” hot). The clear winner to me is the truly lovely blue satin/chiffon number and as a runner up the sequin dress––although if there is a sit-down portion to the festivities sequins can get tricky. Really fun weighing in on your options!

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      Mamavalveeta03
      26 Aug 2018
      12:38am

      A few years ago a dear friend of mine was being honored for her philanthropy at a country club party in TX. She was freaked out over what to wear & asked me to help her shop. The best part of the story is that she was just coming into her OWN, coming out of the CLOSET, and she wanted to shake things up a bit with the country club set. I’m more than happy to enable a little adventurous behavior, so I was delighted when my top pick for her, a black leather Michael Kors dress, fit her to a tee and made her feel like her outside matched her inside. No more Lilly Pulitzer! (And it was a big hit!) 😊

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    mlinky
    23 Aug 2018
    10:46am

    I love the blue chiffon skirt dress. Goodness, it could even go casual with a denim or leather jacket. My personal fave though, is the Vince dress. I could see reaching for it as THE cocktail dress in my closet for the next twenty years.

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      Mamavalveeta03
      26 Aug 2018
      12:40am

      Which one? There are several by Vince?

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    MaryAlice
    23 Aug 2018
    10:56am

    I’m with cw, love that blue dress – so easy and elegant. My second runner up is the Vince dress. I personally save sequins for New Year’s Eve – any other time it just feels like trying too hard (but that’s just me. Others can pull them off, and more power to them).

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    Viajera
    23 Aug 2018
    11:07am

    Now I am curious. Is it a night-time event? They didn’t tell you anything more, or are you being discrete? (Or discreet? can never remember difference) If you’re really in the dark, I agree a long-ish dress is probably safe. I think if people are going to be coy about their parties though, you should feel free to turn up in a powder blue ruffled tux. It’s festive!

    Personally I am sick of so much black. The blue is fine (not a fan of dropped waists) but if you feel comfortable with the people, why not the Nili? (Dooooooo itttttt)(I love fashion enabling!!!!)

    Otherwise, I’m with Candy, just rent. If you spend, get something fun.

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      viajera
      23 Aug 2018
      11:12am

      Oh, also … the cutlets. Couldn’t one just pin the neckline up a bit higher? Maybe they would do it for you in the shop. Wouldn’t the dress be more wearable then? And look better? The super-low necklines do not seem to flatter anyone, and if they are inconvenient, why put up with them?

      See, I realize that this is exactly what “fashion” is, partly, which is exactly the place where I part ways with it. Why do we humans like to do dumb things all together like this? Especially when we know it will be “out” next year, and that’s a gorgeous, not to mention $$$$, dress. (Notice I didn’t say it was not worth it though.)

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    Heather
    23 Aug 2018
    11:07am

    I have to go to a museum event at the end of next month with dress code “cocktail” and I’m having the worst time finding something that isn’t (1) so short my bits are on display, (2) has a lining that is the same length as the dress and not 6″ shorter, or (3) $1,500.00. There are a few Ted Baker options I’m considering, but their sizing is so weird and I tend to run between (the 2 is too tight, the 3 is too big). Plus I live in the middle of nowhere so likely will have to be ordered vs trying on. Blurgh blurgh blurgh.

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      Mamavalveeta03
      26 Aug 2018
      12:46am

      Can you have a tailor make a few minor adjustments, Heather? Fit always makes the outfit.

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    Kirstjen
    23 Aug 2018
    11:18am

    I seriously love that leather Vince dress & especially that they paired it with sneakers! But I agree that the blue dress is my favorite. You’ll probably stand out just enough in a sea of black, too.

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    Michele Godwin
    23 Aug 2018
    11:36am

    I love the blue one too. And the leather! Yesssss to leather!
    I’m going to the Beyonce (plus her boyfriend) show next month and I need to look GOOD. I’m thinking about something red, slippery and shiny, ala Datura Studio, but wondering: do I have to wear heels? Cuz I don’t wear heels, especially when I’m about to dance my ass off.
    How can one be fancy without heels?

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    Mimi
    23 Aug 2018
    11:47am

    This is my favorite post in ages! In descending order, I endorse 1. The Acne plaid dress with a sparkly brooch at the V or near the shoulder. It’s so cool, could be dressed down and seems to fit your aesthetic, as I understand it In a sea of black dresses, it would stand out brilliantly. 2.Nili Lotan leopard print. What about a leopard print cami to fill in the low plunge? I wouldn’t even mind if it was a different leopard. 3.Black Vince dress. Understated, but I love the tuxedo-like lapel. Maybe with a skinny rhinestone belt? 4.The blue Malene Birger is a beautiful color and won’t go out of style. 5.The cut, length and sleeves of the polka dot dress are fantastic. I’m not always a fan of big polka dots, but it would depend on how it looks on your body. 6. The sheer black blouse and long pencil skirt would look pretty. Maybe that’s what I was thinking needed a skinny rhinestone belt.

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    Mae
    23 Aug 2018
    12:29pm

    Get the blue one!

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    Cara
    23 Aug 2018
    1:18pm

    Both Vince dresses will work well in any number of settings. However, the Acne dress is aces.

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    Kathi
    23 Aug 2018
    1:25pm

    What a great post!! I say go with the front runner, it is beautiful. I have a wedding coming up in December and so many of these dresses would fit the bill since her colors are blue & black. If it were in my budget, I would get the RIXO London polka dot, the Vinces (not the leather, too progressive for Iowa!!!!), or the Cefinn. I would love to get the blue one & let my upper arm jiggle jiggle the night away! The only thing about weddings here in Iowa is that people just don’t get fancy schmancy so I have to tone it down a bit.
    I am so happy that you always post dresses with GOACA adult hemlines. Can’t wait to see tomorrow’s “festive” post.

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    HickfromStyx
    23 Aug 2018
    3:29pm

    Lucky you.

    I spend much of my time lately figuring out what to wear to funerals. I wear black, natch, but try not to repeat outfits too closely together. With the most recent one, I pulled out a top with a certain pattern that was the guest of honor’s favorite. I didn’t even know that.

    Anyways, have fun!

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    Emily
    23 Aug 2018
    10:26pm

    I bought a Vince leather dress about 5 years ago – leather panel front/knit back and long sleeves. It is the most versatile dress I own! It dresses up with good shoes; it goes to work with tights and ankle boots. It’s hot (not temperature) without showing any skin. I feel like a million bucks in it. So this begs the question – does a person need 2 leather dresses? Because I’m tempted…

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      Kim France
      24 Aug 2018
      11:11am

      As I always say, it’s not a question of need.

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      Mimi
      24 Aug 2018
      10:32am

      My first reaction was no to two black leather dresses, but if the one you own is long sleeved and this one is sleeveless, then they’re rather different right there/ Besides, you’ve heard of buying in multiples, right? Jackie Kennedy did it: when you find something you love, buy it in several colors or variations. You be you.

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        Eloise
        24 Aug 2018
        1:45pm

        I’m with Mimi (and Jackie) on the multiples. I have (no exaggeration) 13 dresses by the same wonderful woman (Angelique St. Croix of the now unfortunately defunct Way Off the Beaten Path in Annapolis, Maryland) in different prints and wear one every day!

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    Michelle
    23 Aug 2018
    11:02pm

    Thank you finding dresses with sleeves. I find this is always a challenge. And please never hesitate to post amazing items you love – price limit be damned!

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Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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