Recently I had the great joy of celebrating my daughter’s bat mitzvah.
There was a ton of organizing and planning. Working with my daughter to help her learn all the material she needed to know. Fine-tuning the details of multiple events. Meeting with the rabbi, taking my daughter to tutoring. Lots and lots of things to do.
Not least, of course, there were the many outfits we needed for a weekend of celebration — not just for her but for my entire family of four.
You’d think it would have been a piece of cake, right?
But somehow it wasn’t.
Like a lot of women facing major events, I fretted and stressed about what to wear. For months.
There were important events: a Friday night dinner and the service itself. (My daughter’s party was a kids-only rock climbing party, and I wore jeans.) The way I finally figured out which dresses to wear reminded me that there are two basic ways we arrive at our decision to buy and to wear a particular garment.
1. We instantly fall in love with it. This was what happened with my Friday night dress. I was wandering around Anthropologie, really just browsing and not looking for or intending to buy anything. I saw this particular dress and it was love at first sight. I even knew exactly how I’d wear it — very old coral necklace and black boots.
So I bought it. This was about three months before the bat mitzvah, probably more — so, yay! Check that task off the to-do list, right? Yes, except that I was in the process of losing weight, so I couldn’t be sure what size to buy and how it would look on me by the time March 14 rolled around. (I ended up having to return it and get a smaller size.)
But I wore it and loved how I looked (and got a ton of compliments). Here’s a snapshot from before the sun set on Friday afternoon.
2. We hunt and hunt for the “right” piece, we waffle and prevaricate, and even while we’re getting dressed, we’re not quite sure. It’s only while we wear the piece that it grows on us.
This is what happened for me when I had to find a choose a dress for the service itself. I knew I looked best in a fit-and-flare silhouette, and I knew the colors that look best on me (warm bright colors, since I’m a spring). I tried on many dresses at Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor. I let myself try on lots of black dresses. I shopped extensively online. I fell in love with a few dresses at Anthropologie. Nothing was quite right.
Meanwhile, the amount of money I felt willing to spend kept going up.
Three days before the bat mitzvah, I still hadn’t decided. I had several lovely dresses to choose from.
This really beautiful (and super-comfortable) Tadashi Shoji dress. (I love and look good in ivory.)
I had this dress by Kate Spade, also really pretty.
Plus one I was pretty sure I didn’t really like.
This is the point at which many of my clients call me, if I haven’t been working with them on their special event from the very beginning. And I needed a stylist of my own, I really did! So I did the next best thing: I called in my style team. (I don’t currently use an image consultant, which many stylists do.)
First was my husband. He liked the ivory dresses but thought the black laser-cut dress was very special and cool. But I still didn’t like it.
Then another friend pronounced it sophisticated. Sophisticated? I can get behind that. (She didn’t love the ivory dresses, especially since I would be wearing them with a very lightweight ivory cashmere cardigan.)
And then I hit a wall. I decided I couldn’t think about it any longer, and that I had other things I needed to be doing with my time and energy. I bought earrings I love that were perfect with the dress (not too dramatic but definitely sparkly and pretty) and a cuff I love (not this one but a similarly bold one). The shoes were a done deal, because I’d bought a pair that would work well with anything.
By the time the morning of the bat mitzvah arrived, I was excited to wear my dress, in an outfit that looked like this.
The deal was sealed, though, when a friend of my daughter’s walked into my room and burst out with “That’s such a beautiful dress.”
Bottom line: There’s more than one way to fall in love — with a dress as with anything. Do you feel great in it? (I did in both of them, and no one should settle for anything less, not for a special occasion — not ever, really.) Do people tell you how great you look? (They should!)
How have you managed the process of dressing for a special event? Leave a comment and tell me about it!
(Ketura Persellin is a wardrobe and style consultant in Washington, DC. If you’d like to get out of a rut, identify your best colors, get help making fabulous, please contact her at Ketura@JoyfulCloset.com)