Glamming it up

Once in a while I find myself in need of a fancy dress for a night on the town. Usually it's related to something for G's work--a black-tie charity thing or the holiday party, basically Mom prom--and I greet it with mixed feelings. On one hand, it means a great night ahead with G (who will be consistently and easily handsome in a tux). On the other hand, it means some anxious wardrobe quandaries in the meantime. (Shh, I know. Talk about first-world problems.) 

Here's the deal: I'm in my early(ish) forties. I'm no young ingenue or prom girl and, for me, covered shoulders and some length (at about the knee or longer) are non-negotiable. But here's the other thing: I'm not a (grand)mother-of-the-bride or the aging Dowager Countess/grand dame either. And, sadly, those seem to be the two main categories in the world of formal dress shopping. 

Maybe you're in the same boat now and then? Let's crowdsource this, ladies! I'll show you mine if you show me yours. These first two are dresses I've worn in the last couple of years:

Both were from Nordstrom (which ships quickly to Australia, by the way) and I was happy with both dresses--the one on the left was a bit more flattering and the other one was more comfortable. 

These next dresses are currently in stock at Nordstrom. Apparently I like dark dresses:

I also really like the idea of separates, like a ball gown skirt paired with something dressy or modern on top, like these:

 Interesting belt detail--I kind of like it! Michael Kors Fall 2013

Interesting belt detail--I kind of like it! Michael Kors Fall 2013

 Oscar de la Renta blouse and skirt, no photo source found

Oscar de la Renta blouse and skirt, no photo source found

 Great skirt; I'd choose a different top...

Great skirt; I'd choose a different top...

In my dreams, I wear something vivid or flamboyant or a bit over-the-top. Maybe I'll work up the courage for something like these someday (Lauren did bring me home a formal sari from India, after all):

 Issa London formal kaftan

Issa London formal kaftan

 In the right materials and for the right event, this could be fantastic

In the right materials and for the right event, this could be fantastic

 Photo source unknown (anyone know?)

Photo source unknown (anyone know?)

 Elie Saab, Spring 2013

Elie Saab, Spring 2013

I'd always rather be just a bit underdressed than overdressed. These little black dresses have the advantage of being classy and versatile (and generally cheaper) and could be dressed way up or way down, depending on the occasion:

 Photo via Say Yes to Hoboken, dress by French Connection

Photo via Say Yes to Hoboken, dress by French Connection

 Broderie Dress by Boden

Broderie Dress by Boden

 Olivia Palermo in Christian Dior

Olivia Palermo in Christian Dior

Okay, admittedly not every invitation requires a new dress. I'm a big fan of rewearing a black dress or great long skirt over and over again by using different accessories and looks. I'd be thrilled with any of these:

 Curtailed bolera via BHLDN

Curtailed bolera via BHLDN

 Source unknown. Sadly.

Source unknown. Sadly.

 Evalina blouse, Anthropology

Evalina blouse, Anthropology

 Sequins!

Sequins!

Finally, if you have more time, these are some great options for ordering something special:

  • Eshakti allows you to customize a dress: length, neckline, color, sleeves--everything. 
  • Rent the Runway allows you to rent high-end designer dresses at a fraction of their price. There are some really great dresses there and I like that they have photos of real people wearing their dresses to real events.
  • Sarah's post on ordering customized prom dresses from an overseas company may help with ordering formal wear, too, for those of us who are at the post-prom stage of our lives. 

Okay, friends. Now it's your turn. If you find a dress or trend you like or have any ideas or resources, will you put a link in the comments?