Update: the military ball

Belle of the Ball? Style Dilemma? Who has time to shop for a ball, even a Special Forces Ball? Oh right. I need to make time. I promised my assistance to Lee. But this week has been nothing short of pressure-filled, and suddenly it’s Thursday without a dress contender in sight. Don’t you hate it when your day job and adult responsibilities keep you from your hobbies?

Lee says her top three dress options thus far are: a Tadashi Shoji One Shoulder Belted Gown that is sadly no longer available; this Jim Hjelm beauty; and the Amsale Back Cutout Gown in a merlot color that would be gorgeous with her hair color.  It’s a good start, but my anxiety level might be a little high given that she hasn’t tried on a single gown. Let’s keep in mind my own guest of a wedding style dilemma dress was discovered after many many misses. (To be precise: two online ordered and returned dresses; one unsuccessful visit each to Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Bloomingdales; and two visits and one purchased and returned dress from Neiman Marcus, all before I found the winner at Betsy Fisher.)

Lee is going to have better luck. Lee is going to have better luck. Lee is going to have better luck.

My favorites, sight unseen?

I adore this Dalia MacPhee gown and while I pinned it in silver, the designer informed me that it comes in other fabulous colors too. Last night, a mutual friend pinned this Notte by Marchesa slik-chiffon gown which has an appropriate level of sex appeal. (I hear there is e-flirting going on.) And the dress I’m yearning for is this 1951 Schiaparelli. I know, this exercise is about Lee’s impending ball, not my fantasy one.

But we all dream about being the belle of our own ball.

the military ball

This week’s edition of Must Have Monday is being postponed in order to bring you this special bulletin. Over the weekend, I received somewhat of an urgent email from a friend I’m going to call Lee. The message read something like this:

Help! I was just invited to attend a military ball out of town in mid June, and I want to wear a fabulous dress. I enjoyed reading about and seeing pictures from your own adventures during the guest of the wedding style dilemma, and I would like to put myself in your hands and be your project.

Devotedly Yours in Fashion,


As it turns out, DC Celine and I have been dying for a good fashion project since successfully finding me a dress for Kaitlan’s wedding.

There’s not a lot of time to act. The event is a Special Forces Ball, and the location is some place not subject to high heat and humidity this early in the summer the way we are here. Lee is a busy professional with an active social life so we’ll have to jump immediately on the project. Her open mind on the specifications of this dress should make her an easy candidate to dress. She wants a floor length gown. Unlike me, she doesn’t have a bunch of absurd rules about what she will or won’t wear. (In other words, she’s open to strapless and one-shouldered options.) And she looks fabulous in bold colors. No black dress is going to win this challenge if I have anything to say about it. Lee also works out regularly and will look good in just about any style of dress.

There will be a Pinterest board: belle of the ball dress challenge. (If you want pinning rights, comment here or send me an email and I’ll add you to the esteemed list.)

There will be a Twitter hashtag: #belleoftheball

There will be shopping (of course) and pictures of dresses Lee tries on.

And at the end of the project, there will be a beautiful dress on its way westward for an evening of dancing with men in uniform. While her relationship with her date is platonic, it doesn’t mean the dress won’t get potential date use some other time when she gets back home.

I’m thinking Inaugural Ball.

the day after

Kaitlan is married. The bride was beautiful; the ceremony, heartfelt. Her groom was not highly intoxicated, as was the groom from the 2:00 ceremony, whom we all witnessed make a fool of himself and his bride as they proceeded through the Arch of Sabers while we waited patiently (albeit awkwardly) to enter the Naval Academy Chapel.

They exchanged vows. They kissed. They walked elegantly through the aforementioned arch. And as the afternoon and evening proceeded, the clouds held their rain, and the wine flowed.

I wore the navy last-minute-purchase dress, which seems anti-climactic to write about now. It had, as my friend Sheila described it, a Judy Jetson neckline. It was fitted and sleeveless with this fantastic zipper up the front. And most importantly, I felt amazing in it.

But what fueled me the most (aside from the cosmos and the wine and the champagne and the wine and the beer and the champagne) was being approached by the mother of one of the bridesmaids and being asked when I’m going to write a book. There’s nothing like hearing that someone you don’t know enjoys your writing to make you want to write more. I need those two weeks of solitude to get a jump-start on said book, and I came back from Annapolis determined to find that time.

As Kaitlan and Adam begin this next chapter of their lives together, I will be inspired by new beginnings. I’ll review my 2012 goal board and keep the promises I made to myself and others.

And that is my solemn vow.





the reveal

I do believe I promised that yesterday was decision Saturday and that I would be forthcoming with my dress selection. Did Team Poppy win out over Team Black Lace with their heaps of praise over the color, their insistence that the Sarita Tulle Lace is more wedding appropriate and their argument that black is too somber for a May wedding? Or did Team Black Lace prevail with their promise that the Zarita Lace is timeless, more elegant and can be a closet staple for years to come? Maybe a dark horse emerged, something that missed my eye when I was shopping the other day.

I know I made a promise, but sometimes promises are cruelly broken.

I did buy a dress yesterday, but I’m not going to reveal which one. I will tell you that I’m going to wear nude pumps. I will tell you that I’m in need of a clutch. I will tell you that I haven’t decided on jewelry yet. But if you want to see pictorial evidence of the happy ending to the guest of a wedding style dilemma, tune in next Saturday, May 5th. My morning starts early at Michael Anthony Salon where Mickey either will or won’t cut my hair short again, then continues on to Annapolis, where I hope to check in early so I can change into the mystery dress before heading to the Naval Academy chapel for Kaitlan and Adam’s special event.

The suspense is maybe not quite as high as it was one-year ago today when the world caught first glimpse of what dress Kate Middleton chose to wear to wed Prince William. But one element will be the same at Saturday’s nuptials.

There will be lots of men in uniform.

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.