this month’s obsessions + I didn’t have anything to wear. really.

November 15, 2012 |  Category:   happy purchases

I attended this event last month which had me scrambling at the last minute with a wardrobe “crises” when I realized that it might be a dressier affair than what I had first thought. My friend Nichole and I traded emails throughout the day, throwing out outfit possibilities and changing our minds multiple times, down to the last few hours before the event. It was like being back in high school.
I know everyone goes through this experience where you think you “have nothing to wear”, but I quickly realized during that moment of panic that I’m so not prepared to attend anything that requires me to dress up in formal clothing. I can manage business casual if I have to and I can certainly come up with an outfit for a nice dinner, but my lifestyle of freelancing at home and conducting most client meetings via conference calls just doesn’t support the need to have dressy clothes. What made it even worse was that the few items I had that I always thought were my go-to dressy outfits neither fit well anymore or were very badly outdated. This includes a beautiful silk Mayle dress that I bought at a Barneys Warehouse Sale 12 years ago that just doesn’t really fit me all that well anymore (oh yeah, they never really tell you that you can get broader in the shoulders permanently it seems after pregnancies, do they?). I also had saved these fancy expensive strappy high heel sandals that I bought for a project launch party we held one year at MoMA 12 years ago, but they too were completely outdated (we’re talking severe square toe beds from the late 1990s). So off to the Goodwill pile they went.


So now what? I managed to come up with an outfit for that evening, but just shook my head at the ridiculousness of someone my age not having anything remotely appropriate in her closet for anything dressy. I’ve set a goal to stock my closet with at least 1 dressy appropriate outfit for cold and summer seasons whenever I have the extra budget to do so, which means online window shopping!
So on that day of outfit panic, I used a coupon code to buy these short Madewell high heel booties. They’re not super dressy, really, but they can certainly be dressed up more than my high heel clog Swedish Hasbeens, that’s for sure. I’ve been wearing them a lot since I’ve gotten them and I love them. They are perfect with jeans and dresses.
Bur for more fancier shoes, I am sort of at a loss because I am not a stiletto or pump wearing kind of person, but I do enjoy thinking about these Michael Kors strappy sandals, but have to admit that I would probably be a lot more comfortable wearing something like these high heeled mary janes from Frye (in black). I do have vintage navy Ferragamo t-strap heels, so I think my search will be more focused on dressy sandals.
So…dresses! Why is finding a dress so hard? I really LOVE this Maje dress, but why so short? I don’t necessarily have a problem doing short, but I really wish this dress was at least a few inches longer because then I think it’d be perfect. Too bad!
Now if I were a person of a certain budget I would wear pretty much anything from Ann Demeulemeester. Even though these black dresses here and here are styled down (and it’s styled perfectly in my opinion, I might add), I think they would work as cocktail dresses with the right shoes and accessories. But I’m not. So…moving on…
On the other end of the spectrum from these black dresses is this flapper inspired beaded dress. I can’t help it. I like shiny and beaded things. I think the model is standing a little weird and therefore making the front of the dress a little awkward looking, but the back is beautiful. I can’t really tell whether I love this particular dress or not, but I’ve learned from window dress shopping that I gravitate towards simple black dresses or beaded neutral flapper craziness. Ok!
Now, you can’t be all fancy and lug around your everyday canvas tote bag or even your casual leather shoulder bag. You just can’t. Luckily I do have a few options for dressy handbags which I inherited from my mom from her fancy bag carrying days in the 60s, but I am mesmerized by this woven metallic clutch from BCBG. I can’t stop staring at it and I want to play Q-bert on it. For something less flashy, I love this simple Calvin Klein evening clutch. That rose gold color is really pretty, plus it’s shiny! I told you, I like the shiny!
So I haven’t actually bought anything yet other than those boots so I’m not any more prepared for a dressy occasion than I was last month, but I’m still looking. It might also require actually shopping in person in actual stores, something that I usually don’t have much time for or really enjoy all that much anymore. We’ll see…I will keep you posted.

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  • Laura November 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    What about Fluevog for shoes? Incredibly cool.

  • Jenna November 15, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    @Laura I haven’t worn Fleuvogs in 20 years! I have no idea what the styles are right now.

  • Rebecca November 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Have you checked out COS ?
    It’s not for everybody but they can have beautiful things, and from what you say/show, I’m thinking it could be your style…
    + not too expensive !

  • Jenna November 15, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    @Rebecca Ooh interesting! I do like these dresses. But…they only ship within Europe?? I don’t see a US option unless I am missing something?

  • Rebecca November 15, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Ooooh I’m afraid you’re right, I don’t see it either… Sorry !
    A good sensible reason for a trip to Europe… 🙂

  • nichole November 15, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Nostalgia! Wait. Can you be nostalgic for something that happened a few weeks ago?

    It feels like months. WIth Sandy and all the chaos, especially.

    I, too, have vowed not to be in a wardrobe pickle ever again!

  • Liz November 16, 2012 at 8:41 am

    I find grown up dressy clothing difficult. I’m not great with sparkle and I’ve developed quite a narrow wardrobe. It’s nice – I’m closer to knowing what works for me – but it’s also terrible. Events put me out of my comfort zone and not having anything to wear makes me more nervous.

    I suspect Cos will arrive in NYC soon. I’ve been buying in there since it arrived in London and I think the dresses and coats are great…knitwear too. I’m going to go and look for an event dress for me – thanks to Rebecca for the prompt.

    Have you tried Chie Mihara for shoes? (Mary Janes made me think of her.) I’m not great in heals but hers are so wearable. I’ve not looked this year so not sure if this season one I’d like but I recently saw someone wearing black suede sandals from (I think) last year with thick black tights and a fantastic simple black dress and I had wardrobe envy. Bad wardrobe envy. I think the website ships to the US but I’m sure there will be a stockist in New York. (I bought a pair years and years ago in Otto Tootsi Plohound but I know that isn’t an option anymore.)

    My other shoe suggestion will either be a bad idea or a terrible idea. Tracey Neuls and TN_29. I have an addiction to her designs. They are very spendy (I have to save and wait for sales) but they are comfortable pieces of art that last. (As proper shoes they can be repaired over and over again.) I live in the chelsea boots (called Jane) I bought last year. And contrary to my sparkle phobia, if I wasn’t in a no spending phase, I would be saving every penny to buy Slide in Oxide. Yes, I know they aren’t proper sparkle but having tried them on I think I could do some good grown up dressing with the right dress. (They do ship to the US but I’ve heard rumours that there will be a US stockist next season and there’s always Gravity Pope…)

  • Anh November 16, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Have you checked Zara?

    Maybe not high end enough for your event but very affordable even though the quality can be meh…

  • sylvï November 16, 2012 at 9:12 am

    is there no chance of having the silk dress altered to fit?

    oh well, thanks to rebecca it seems i will be spending an evening looking at dresses i do not really need but desperately desire… for inspiration, surely?

    i am incredibly lucky to have found a pair of black heels simple enough to go from casual to dressy and vaguely vintage enough to never look outdated, or so i hope. they are nice and comfy, even! truly a miracle go-to pair for any occasion year-round. the are by MARC, which is a german brand i think, not of marc jacobs fame… so, affordable to boot. i’m hoping they will last me a lifetime. i only wish i could have a spare pair in ruby red, because sometimes a spot of colour would be lovely.

  • Jen November 16, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Oh man, I LOVE the block heeled boots that the model is wearing in the picture of that first Demeulemeester dress you linked to! Practically speaking the heels are too high for me, and the almost $1,400 price tag is so far outside the realm of my reality as to be almost laughable. But a girl can dream, right?

  • Jenna November 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    @Liz I will look into your shoe ideas, thank you!
    @Anh, Yes, I’ve been to Zara. It’s really hit and miss and I do think the quality for something dressy is not that great. I think the conclusion I came to is that at my age, I’d want to spend a little more on quality.
    @sylvi It’s possible to alter the dress but knowing my track record for getting around to things of that nature, it’s not likely to happen
    @Jen YES, a girl can dream!

  • Christina November 16, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Get thee to Kimera on Atlantic Avenue. The owner/designer will custom make things, and she has superb taste–telling you what will work and what won’t. You will be very happy with the result, and you will be giving business to a very talented, kind local person. I had five (!) weddings to attend this year, and I had a dress and jacket made, plus a shawl (to wear instead of the jacket in hot temperatures) and a beautiful handbag. I received tons of compliments at each event.

  • Jocy November 17, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    I’m making a few dresses in Southeast Asia before I go back to the world of dress-up. My wardrobe before the move was quite dressed up, but I’ve completely slid to the other side of the scale for nearly 3 years.

    Your shoulders change in pregnancy? Good to know.

    Also, if you’re interested in getting rid of the Mayle dress, there are a few blog sites where Mayle fans would buy:

  • krystal/village November 19, 2012 at 4:50 am

    i love the booties! i’m in the same boat trying to figure out something for a christmas party coming up!

  • Simone November 19, 2012 at 6:12 am

    What about the MartinMargiela for H&M collection? It just came out last week and I saw a great long dress (white with photo-print on it) amongst the collection.

  • Jenna November 19, 2012 at 9:51 am

    @Christina – oh I know that store, and they’ve been around for a long time too. Good to know, thanks.
    @Simone, H&M is one of those stores I have a hard time shopping in. Maybe it’s just too overwhelming or something!

  • Simone November 20, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Jenna; I can relate to the H&M stress (especially on saturday) but look at this:
    and this:
    you could easily visit the queen in the last one and not feel out of place for a minute (living in a small monarchy makes you think that way, to a degree).
    Have a wonderful day!!!

  • Lena November 29, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    I think you might like t by alexander wang dresses. His silk slip is gorgeous.
    Something about length and cut make it look elegant yet edgy. I’ve cought one on sale.