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? 

Prom 2013

Prom happened this weekend.

There are a few important mother/child interactions that I feel comfortable with, competent even. I feel pretty good about helping proofread an English paper or scholarship application. I enjoy talking with my kids about friends, and life experiences, and dating. I can remember being a senior in high school and am happy to share my wisdom (such as it is). But prom? I feel completely at sea amongst the rhinestones and fancy hair and glittery nails.

It's not that I'm against the frou-frou. Not at all. I'm frankly amazed at women with the motivation and skill to carefully coordinate accessories and shoes and handbags. And I bet those women make awesome prom moms because they KNOW something about all of this fanciness. Me? I'm merely guessing. When it comes to prom, here's what I try to do for my girls: 1. Let them know I'm excited for them. 2. Support them by listening to what they envision in terms of dress, shoes, hair. 3. Follow them around and pay for stuff.

I guess mostly I don't want to force my own predilections on my kids. And, obviously, you can't show up to prom in a t-shirt and jeans. It's just not done. So, I do my best impression of a sparkly mom. I even went to Charming Charlie's and thoroughly investigated the entire fake diamond/silver section. That's love baby, because costume jewelry is about 1, 637 steps down on my personal priority list.

And, as promised, the dress:

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Maddie had a great time at prom. There was a lengthy gathering wherein all of the parents played overly-excited paparazzi. There was a white Hummer limo. There was a fine dinner. There was dancing. And there was an after-party that lasted until 5 AM. While she enjoyed the dressing up and the fanfare, she seemed even more engaged with the people, enjoying her friends and their last grand hurrah.

In the flurry of all of the preparations, I tried my best to live the prom moment, to remember my willful, blue-eyed toddler now changed into this silvery butterfly. But, quite frankly, living the moment is difficult. First of all, it's hard to help with the jewelry, and carry the clutch, and manage the manual camera settings AND live the moment. And really, the moment, as it stands, is a little much to bear. The prom moment screams so loudly, "LOOK AT ME. I'M ALL GROWN UP." And I look, I do. But then I have to turn away and shield myself a little from the glaring truth. That she's all grown up. 

And then I curse prom and go home to chocolate doughnuts and The West Wing, which are my only true friends at the moment.


In other prom-related materials, did you know that the asking is a huge deal? It is at our school. Even The New York Times has something to say about it. Read it here.

Time recently published a 1979 prom picture of  President Obama, along with a note he wrote to his date. I'm not sure where my prom date is, but I am sure he's not holding high public office. Darn.

Getting ready for prom

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It's prom week around here, so we are thinking hair and nails and long fancy dresses. Personally, I don't hold any idyllic, water-colored memories of senior prom -- mostly I remember a date who kept sneaking off and a very scratchy dress. Still, it's PROM. We spray-tanned just yesterday. Yep, I'm serious. 

I realize it's a little late in the game to be sharing prom tips, so you'll just have to file this info in the "just-in-case" portion of your brain. But it's a good one -- if you are a risk-taker.

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Last year, with Jordan, I knew finding the right dress would be tricky. Jordan is particular about her fashion choices, and we wanted something that was modest (which is exceedingly rare in formal wear). So when she proposed ordering a prom dress directly from China I was willing to give it a try. There are any number of web sites with pages and pages of dresses to choose from. (We bought Maddie's from this one.) You can filter them by neckline, by hem length, and even by color. So far we've bought three dresses this way, and the girls have been thrilled with the results. 

When ordering a prom dress, there are a few considerations. Here's what we've learned:

  • Order early. These companies generally quote 4-6 weeks for delivery, and while one of our dresses came early, the other two arrived a full five weeks after purchase. Madison's was finally delivered last week (only a week and a half before the dance).
  • Measure well. Some companies ask for actual measurements, while others have you convert measurements to a dress size. Either way, break out the old measuring tape and be thorough. Each website has measuring instructions with illustrations showing exactly where to measure. 
  • Plan on alterations. Chances are, even with proper measurements, the dress will need a few nips and tucks to achieve a perfect fit. I've taken all three of our dresses to a great neighborhood tailor, who has shortened hems, tightened bodices, and even altered details the girls weren't initially pleased with. The dresses themselves are relatively inexpensive, but plan on between $40 and $80 for alteration fees.

I'll post pictures of Maddie's dress soon, after the big unveiling on Friday night. Cross your fingers for no rain!


Check out more dresses here, here and here.