As Inauguration festivities ramped up, the Washingtonian published a story answering the question on everyone’s mind: What do I wear? Their answer – to my horror – suggested you dress down for the inaugural balls and presented a series of excuses as to why you shouldn’t wear a gown, including the weather, informal venues and the metro. These [terrible] suggestions were all wrapped into the following [terrible] thought:
One of the biggest lessons of dressing for evenings out in Washington is that it is better to be slightly underdressed than overdressed. Overdressed is just plain awkward. Underdressed can be chic.
Have you recovered from this dreadful piece of advice, or do you need more time? Take a deep breath; we can get through this together.
The author also suggested you wear a coat that’s “nice but not special;” that way when you get to the event you can “turn it inside out, roll it into a ball, and stuff it under a table” – all in an effort to avoid coat check lines.
Um. In lieu of shoving clothing under tables, may I be so bold as to recommend you and your date plan ahead. As the evening winds down and you know they are about to announce last call, have someone head to coat check and retrieve your items before all the other partygoers cram into the coat check doorway en masse.
After I had the shock of reading this article out of my head, I journeyed to the magical land that combines upscale shopping with the headquarters of government contractors – Tysons Corner. I already had a slew of fallback dresses but wanted something extra dazzling just to spite the idea of a cocktail dress to a black-tie ball.
For the best deals I headed to Neiman Marcus. Neiman Marcus for a deal? Absolutely. They are a surprisingly fantastic option for gorgeous dresses at unreal prices. Every now and again they have their Last Call sale and when this sale is on their gowns are close to 70 percent off. As luck would have it, they were having their Last Call sale the week leading up to Inauguration… Credit at the ready ladies!
As I arrived at the evening dresses section I found four long racks of dresses begging to be tried on. After sifting through each and every rack regardless of size – you’ve got to look through everything with markdowns like this! – I took my armful of David Meisters, Badgley Mischkas and Carmen Marc Valvos into the dressing room.
I was already a bit let down at Neiman Marcus’ service as they hadn’t offered me assistance as my armful of dresses multiplied. But my biggest letdown was yet to come.
Dress after dress was tried on and they were all average. Slip dresses, a-line gowns, the tired and true black sheath dress. Until I finally tried a Tadashi Shoji blouson gown with lace overlay. The lace was a taupe made up of matte sequins and there was also a gorgeous bow to tie the look all together. It was unique, dramatic without being gaudy and, best of all, fit perfectly. Original price: $490. Sale price: $120.
As I twirled with glee in the dressing room I realized the bow wasn’t tied “just so” and I stepped out of the room to get help with tying the ribbon. Patricia was kind enough to help me and as I admired myself in the mirror she asked me if she could be honest.
Sure, I said. And she proceeds to tell me the color is all off on me and I should instead try on that gorgeous green gown, gesturing to another dress I had hanging, because it matched my green eyes. The dress was from Jovani and I had selected it to play dress up because it was the kind of dress you would find on the cover of PromGirl. Oh, and my eyes are blue.
I was frustrated beyond belief. It’s one thing to lend an opinion. I appreciate Patricia calling me out for being pale and attempting to wear a taupe dress. But back up that opinion with a recommendation that doesn’t include a prom dress. Or incorrect eye colors for that matter.
I should have stuck to my guns. But I crippled under the criticism. In the end I lost the battle and walked away from Neiman Marcus empty handed. I may have lost the battle but I did win the war. You see, I didn’t attend the ball underdressed. I was in a gown and so were all the other attendees there but three. Yes, I counted. Let me tell you, their bare legs did not look chic.