meet Katie…

If you don’t go to Biker Barre, you might not have met co-owner Katie Fouts. She’s a badass on (and off) the bike. And the woman can dance, if her spin room moves are any indication. I suspect she teeters on the edge of crazy fun to go out on the town with. She’s inspiring. (I’m a sucker for the whole “I was unhappy in my previous career and made a complete change” storyline.) She’s energetic, smart, and gorgeous.

I was most honored when Katie approached me a few weeks ago and asked if she could engage my services in finding her a gown (make that two) for Inaugural festivities in January.

By way of an aside, let me note that Katie plans to attend the balls regardless of who wins the presidency, though she assures me she does have a preference as to who emerges victorious. Attending an Inaugural ball just happens to be something on her DC Bucket List.

Initially, we met to discuss strategy, over wine of course. We decided she needs a black dress for Inauguration Eve and a spectacular dress for the big night. She set a budget. She started a Pinterest board, Cinderella Time. And we scheduled our initial date to shop.

Who knew our shopping date would fall on Frankenstorm Eve? Being ever the cautious one, I questioned the sanity of heading out to Tyson’s after her Sunday Brunch Spin class as planned. We discussed rescheduling. But the endorphin high after her class pushed us both to go for it. (I mean, it wasn’t even raining yet.)

We hit two stores: Neiman Marcus and Saks. At Neiman, I suggested we look at every dress. I pulled gowns we had pinned and gowns we were unsure of on the hanger because I wanted to push her boundaries.

Of the ten gown we brought into the dressing room, the first three I suggested she try emerged as favorites.  I will hold back on sharing a photo of the top contender for now, as we want to see her in a different style by the same designer. (We may stage our own little public opinion poll.) While we loved the David Meister Animal-Print Gown on her (pictured at the top) I feared that she’d be yanking up the strapless bodice all night and that the sequins would chafe her underarms. We also loved a Catherine Dean gown (pictured below) for its edgy factor, but it was way over budget. (I don’t normally endorse trying on dresses over your budget but in this case, we wanted to try something out of the ordinary.) Both dresses were flattering, but neither was our favorite.

Our Inaugural Gown Pursuit continues. Stay tuned for the next update.

In the meantime, if you can introduce Katie to an eligible bachelor who’s tall, hunky and able to match her dance moves step for step, maybe she’ll comp you a spin class.

Brick and Mortar Shopping

Taking a step outside my comfort zone.

One would think that the buyers for Saks, Neiman and Bloomingdales would have heard that 40 is the new 30 (ten years after 30 was the new 20).

But their dress selection does not suggest such.

During a brick and mortar excursion for the guest of a wedding style dilemma, I was struck at how the high end department stores offered two types of cocktail dresses: frumpy or slutty. (Honestly, the same could be said for their bathing suit collections.) One would think grandmothers and their teen granddaughters are their only demographic. It leads me to ask: who’s looking out for the urban professional woman in her late 30s/early 40s who works out, has a good (but not absurd) budget for clothes and an excellent sense of style?

Apparently those buyers shop for boutiques.

My goal is certainly to look amazing at this wedding, not ridiculous. The so-called flirty styles are garments I would look askance at a 20-something for wearing. (Just to clarify, I’m not a prude. I believe in flaunting assets. I just don’t believe in flaunting all the assets at one time, except in the privacy of your own space.) On the other end of the spectrum, heavy lace, too much adornment and not enough skin exposure are the dominant features of most available dresses. I struck out at Saks. I tried on one subpar dress at Bloomingdales. I had luck only at Neiman Marcus and even then, the only designer who had remotely appropriate dresses was DVF, which I’m thankful for, but I was hoping for better variety.

I made the best of it. I broke my rules to try different styles. As you have seen the pictorial evidence of, I tried strapless. I tried a maxi dress. I tried this horrible flowy dress pictured here that is best described as the female version of something Hugh Hefner would wear (in other words, it felt like boudoir attire). I could only envision myself wearing it with feathered slides, surrounded by heavy velvet couches and drapes, maybe a whip in hand. It’s a dress for “entertaining” at home, not a dress to wear to a wedding. But I’m determined to leave my comfort zone with increasing frequency moving forward, and you don’t know how you are going to react until you try something new.

As you have now read, I’m struggling between two dresses, the poppy flower shift and the black lace shift. The black lace is more forgiving of those pesky trouble zones and has an elegance that is timeless and could be worn in three seasons. Plus it has this totally edgy zipper all the way down the v-shaped back to give it a departure from funeral garb. The poppy is happy and colorful and exudes a retro vibe. But would I only wear it once so as not to hear  “here comes Chelsea in her poppy dress again.”

Needing to sleep on the decision before making a purchase, I return this morning for another round of trying on these two options. I’ll be equipped with the correct underpinnings, the right shoes, and most importantly, the invaluable input of my trusted social media advisers.

Operation Chelsea: Dress Reject #1

On Monday, I ordered a David Meister black fitted dress with interesting ruffled detail down the front and a jeweled neckline that looked so pretty on-line. This wildcard dress, not pinned on my Pinterest board, was going to serve as a backup to the navy lace sheath.

Well, it arrived today and it has been declined. The jeweled neckline is, as our intern Marlene described it, prom-y. Frankly, the jeweled neckline looked cheap and the whole thing was just bad. I didn’t even show the bride before sealing it back into the box to go back to its home at Saks Fifth Avenue.

I promised a twitter fashion show, but I don’t want to dignify the dress by trying it on. However, I am happy share this photo of the offending neckline.

Fingers are crossed that the navy lace works out better (and that it isn’t 85 degrees on the day of the wedding).