Gala prep: Need more help!

Hello, all -

I'm back from my travels and happy to be home. But I regret to say that my Calgary shopping adventures, while fascinating and a lot of fun, were also less than successful. In fact, the main result of the day was that I lost one of my favourite earrings! And no wonder. I must have had at least 60 dresses on and off during the day. 

Guess what? Not a single one worked. 

So I'm coming back here in case anybody has any leads on a dress that sounds like a possible bet. 

What I already tried: 

You name it. 

I tried on many  dresses at Holt's, and then throughout the mall - The Bay,  Melanie Lyne, Judith and Charles  -- everything from Alice & Olivia (the ones that Holt's had were too short), Adrianna Papell (too short - and I'm not tall!!!), Elie Tahari, Lida Baday, Pink Tartan, Ralph Lauren, Suzy Chin, Maggy London, Helmut Lang (I was so sad that one didn't look fab on me - it sort of hung and clung all wrong, alas...), and on and on. 

If it wasn't the style, it was the fit (many were too long waisted for me  -- no petites to be found, and anyway, if regular length was already too short, there was no way I was going there! In some cases that could have been fixed with a simple shoulder adjustment, but in some cases the adjustment would not have been all that easy due to shoulder or neck detailing. And anyway, none of these dresses sang to me. They looked "okay" but not great. 

My friend was so patient with me! And super helpful with the sometimes pushy SA's too. She deserves a YLF award!

The best thing I found was a simple Helmut Lang knit dress. Although it, too, could have benefitted from a small alteration, I could have worn it as is in a pinch. But it was expensive, and it was black. And it would have looked utterly indistinguishable from a hundred other black dresses. So I left it. 

The other "possible" was a pretty ink and black peplum top by Judith and Charles. (Pic 1) I could have worn that with a pencil skirt or even (maybe?) the Leith track pants. Or a pair of slim cigarette pants. It fit well and looked good -- so if I want it, my friend will buy it for me and send it. It was very expensive for a top, however, and I wondered about the longevity of a peplum. Angie, if you read this, can you weigh in on that? Ordinarily I might not care, but at the price point I thought I might want to wear the thing at least a few times! 

Also, the pants I tried with it were not all that flattering. Size 2 felt awfully snug to me, but size 4 wrinkled up  in a weird way that suggested they were too big, but not in any part of me I could identify, if you know what I mean (i.e. it wasn't just a simple - nip it at the waist issue.) So it would be a case of trying to make an outfit out of pieces, and you know how tricky that sometimes can get.

I also tried this dress, which was quite nice on me, but would have needed to be brought up in the shoulder. And it did seem a bit more like a work dress.  

My needs: higher neckline -- no Vs, plunges, wide Us, wide open cowls, etc. Knee length (at least) -- no minis. Dressy -- this is a fancy event. Sophisticated vs. cute. Preferably NOT BLACK!! Size 2 (usually...though I had on everything from 0s to 4s the other day, depending on the brand and the cut). If petite, then a 2 or 4 petite, depending...and in that case, it pretty much has to be a midi, because a shorter petite dress will be too short. 

Note: I do have 2 possibilities still. One has arrived (the Jax dress Diana recommended, which I will show as soon as I can) and one will be here next week (a navy Nicole Miller sheath). But in case those don't work, I'd like to get busy looking for alternatives while I still have a couple of weeks before the party. 

Thank you! !

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Mona replied 7 years ago
    Suz, I am sorry that you could not find any dresses that sang to you and lost one of your favourite earrings. You know I am no help when it comes to dresses but I am sure you will find what you are looking for. I can't wait to see the pics of Jax dress on you.
  • Ingunn replied 7 years ago
    I'm sorry that you had to go through all that trouble and still had no success. I love the peplum top, so that might very well be a very good solution if you find the right skirt/pants for it. 
  • Gaylene replied 7 years ago
    Ah, Suz, that is just so discouraging, especially since you gave it such a good effort; trying on 60+ dresses in one day is a mind-boggling marathon.

    Hopefully you'll get a lead on some dresses that turn out to be perfect--the YLF crowd seems to be great at finding just the right dress when faced with this sort of challenge.

    As a fallback alternative, I just want to suggest that the your idea of separates might be a good one. That's the route I've taken for my dressy capsule because it offers more versatility than a single fancy dress. If the peplum top works, it might be easier to match it with a bottom that would also work with other items in your closet. That makes the top a good buy, especially if you can dress it up or down with other items. That J&C top could be the core piece in a dressy capsule.

  • catgirl replied 7 years ago
    Wow, that sounds exhausting!  It's good you had a friend with you as it can be crazy-making trying on by yourself like that.

    I had to go to a black tie charity event this weekend very unexpectedly.  Ended up wearing an old dress, but went dress shopping for a friend and happened to try this on - it was fantastic although the neckline was too high on me - did you see it?  I realize it's black but it fits the bill in every other way.
  • bj1111 replied 7 years ago

    Embroidered skirt...wear with dressy silk tank.


    Jcrew dress...may be too sweet but looks long enough. Great color

    Jcrew coated tweed, super in royal blue. Dressed with jewels and gala shoes.

  • replied 7 years ago
    Blech, sounds horrible.

    I have no idea if any of these will work, but here are some links:

  • Suz replied 7 years ago
    You guys are the greatest! Some of these might well be worth trying. I really like that Adrianna Papell, Una - and it looks so much longer than the ones I tried on - plus it comes in petite! And BJ, I love the blue J Crew, too, if I could find some blingy accessories. And that one is easy to order to try. The Jacob watercolour one is really pretty, too, Ceit. I didn't think of Jacob! 

    By the way, I hope I didn't sound too gloomy. I actually had a lot of fun shopping and wasn't feeling desperate because I knew I still had a few options on the way. And now I am feeling more "down-to-business" about it all, you know? Not panicky - just practical. Got to make sure I am not wasting my time not ordering when I should be ordering!  :-) 
  • bj1111 replied 7 years ago

    Dkny...too much?

    Dvf...too miami?

    Dvf. Reminds me of the hl dress shape

    Kay unger...may be a smidge short.

    Too graphic?

    Just for giggles.

    Eta...ok, these may be way too spangly.

  • replied 7 years ago
    Oh dear bad luck...
     I do hope all the fab US ladies help you to unearth something wonderful. There's already a lot of possibles for you to look at. All the best.
  • Sona replied 7 years ago
    I suggest you look at tadashi shoji styles online at Nordstrom and neiman marcus. he wins every time in my book.
  • rachylou replied 7 years ago
    What do you think of Tadashi Shoji  or Kay Unger? They're in the $400 range, which is a bit of money...

  • Angie replied 7 years ago

    Your dress style needs are my dress style needs too. I GET IT!! Have you tried the original Nicole Miller ruched sheath yet? The one I have in turquoise.
  • Mia replied 7 years ago
    Good for you and not "settling".  I have had similar experience trying on mountains of dresses and not finding a thing as I have pretty much the same criteria for my "corporate spouse" capsule.  The SA's always bring me sleeveless, cut down to here and up to there numbers and try to tell me how great I look.  Argh.  

    I do love that J. Crew blue one for you but that might just be because it is so my thing  as well.  Looks like it could have a nice life beyond the gala.  They will give you exact measurements of the garment if you call them so no nasty surprises when it arrives re length.  

    I really like some of the "spangly" ones from BJ1111 too. 

  • sarah replied 7 years ago
    Ugh, you poor thing. I understand where you're coming from. Have tried Maggy London's website? I only ask because they are available from Amazon and Zappos (many of them) - which might be available in Canada? Plus, I had to return the one that Janet wears so well because the neckline was too high for me without a jacket - perfect for you! The regular size fit me well as a petite, so maybe it would you, too?

    Otherwise, what about building something around those AT pants that you got recently? Jacquard, if I'm remembering correctly?

  • Glory replied 7 years ago
    Have you looked at Mexx? Here are a few that I thought might work for you.
    Of course I absolutely love this rasberry one - Does it tick all the boxes?

    Water print
  • Glory replied 7 years ago
    Another thought is a leather skirt with a top. Two from Danier might fit the bill:|979797&mc=yes|666666&mc=yes

    Then they have this amazing black and white leather dress|979797&mc=yes
  • Suz replied 7 years ago
    Thanks so much to all of you! 

    Angie, the Nicole Miller dress has not arrived yet. I have my hopes pinned on it, but want to order others just in case, you know? Especially given the fit issues I encountered the other day, I don't think I can feel confident it will work. 

    The Jax dress is still possible - I will show it as soon as I am able to snap pics. I am worried it is a bit too "prom" like, if you know what I mean. Very body con. But it's the best thing I've tried yet. 

    Glory - thank you. I like the Mexx dresses! I think they are a bit too daytime, though. This is an evening gala -- some people will be in long gowns. (Not me, but you get the idea). 

    Sarah, thank you - I will try that. Amazon ships to Canada but Zappos does not. Sadly, the AT pants are not dressy enough. More like jeans, really. 

    Mia, you're right, the J Crew one could work, potentially. I might order it. 

    Rachy, Sona - I was hoping to spend less than that but if I found the "perfect" dress, I would go there. So I'll peruse the sites! 

    BJ, you are so sweet to take time to find those links! Love the spangly dress! That would be so much fun! I think the OUtnet ones got sold before I could even get there, alas. Gotta move fast there! 

    Thanks, Diane! 

  • Angie replied 7 years ago
    I hear you Suz! My fingers are crossed!! xox. If I come across more frocks that fit the bill, I will pass them along.

    The Tadashi sheath dresses will need a slight alteration in the smallest size - just giving you a heads up. They are exquisite though. At least he gives us length!

  • Zapotee replied 7 years ago

    Check the " unusual" suspects: Have you looked at Express or AllSaints ? I had this event last year, where nothing seemed right and I found this draped dress at Allsaints. It is the most commented dress I own.
    ETA: Here it is. Allsaints brought it back. I thought you might like it. The dress does come in other colors. />

  • Debora replied 7 years ago

    I'll be back later to read more thoroughly and look at all the links. Just wanted to say that DD tried on the dress that Una linked to for a cocktail event. She ended up with a different dress, but the Adrianna Papell was very flattering.

  • rachylou replied 7 years ago
    I'm a bad reader, I didn't see that Sona had already suggested Tadashi!
  • Stephmonster replied 7 years ago
    David Meister and Karen Millen have some REALLY gorgeous dresses this season. Well-made, elegant and classic without being boring. If I only had a fancy event to attend this summer! Good luck in your search :)
  • Beth Ann replied 7 years ago
    So sorry, Suz!  There are wardrobe needs that test our patience!  I love the Allsaints dress that Zap linked too --- and it looks close to taupe!
  • Suz replied 7 years ago
    It's beautiful, isn't it? I think the neckline might be too low for me, and a person might need more curves than I have to look special in it. Would be fun to find out, though....

    PS thanks, Zap!! 
  • Zapotee replied 7 years ago
    No Suz, the dress has no "cleavage issue" because you adjust the draping, it looks better if you allow the fabric to come a bit higher in front... and no curves needed either. That is the beauty of the draping. The sales associate actually told me that the dress flies of the shelves each time they have it because it looks great on everyone.
  • annagybe replied 7 years ago
  • Joy replied 7 years ago

    Suz, I sooo sympathize after searching for a MOTGroom dress. I suggest you measure dresses that fit the way you want from the shoulder to hem and from the waist to hem and refer to those numbers. The models can be misleading. For example the first dress that Anna linked to looks knee length but the measurements are 38" regular and shorter for petite. I'm 5'3" and even the regular would be too short (above my knees) as I need 40" minimum shoulder to hem or 23" for a skirt. That hits right on my knee, not below. I carry a small tape measure when shopping and it saves lots of pointless trying on.

  • L'Abeille replied 7 years ago
    Probably late to the post and off the mark here but...if all the dresses don't cut it, have you considered the Carolina Herrera option? (Neat white shirt, galmorous long skirt?) It seems to me it would fit with your princely style...
  • catgirl replied 7 years ago
    Suz, I own a Tadashi dress I got from consignment.  It's a deep magenta with amazing tiers.  It's fitted but so flattering and easy to wear.  I NEVER look good in dresses, so when I tried this one it was a total no brainer.
  • Caro in Oz replied 7 years ago
    Good luck:) What about a beautiful skirt & a fabulous white shirt a la Angie, Carolina Herrera or Sharon Stone?
  • Angie replied 7 years ago
    Actually Suz, L'Abeille makes an excellent suggestion!!! You have the shirt and the footwear. All you need is the bling and the skirt (and you can sport a shorter skirt - which you can wear with a denim jacket for more casual occasions). And you might even have the bling :)
  • Suz replied 7 years ago
    Hmmm. Okay then. I have my leaf print skirt - perhaps I should try that on and show you all. I think I would need more bling but that is do-able. 
  • Transcona Shannon replied 7 years ago
    I admire your tenacity Suz and good for you for not settling on anything less than perfect. That is SUCCESS!

    I have a sneaky suspicion that the Nicole Miller ruched dress is going to work. And if not, you have time yet and other possibilities.

    Would love to see the leaf print skirt idea...
  • shevia replied 7 years ago
    So frustrating, but eventually you will have your dress style and what works so well honed you will be able to pick dresses in your sleep (you probably are already doing that actually!). I also have hopes for Nicole Miller, hope it comes soon!
  • Suz replied 7 years ago
    Thanks, Shannon. I am also very intrigued by L'Abeille' s skirt and shirt idea - I could go for that. (Thanks, L'Abeille!!!) Not sure my leaf print skirt is the right one, so I've been doing an online hunt for skirts as well, without a lot of luck. But something may turn up yet! 
  • krishnidoux replied 7 years ago
    I just wanted to chime in to give you a virtual hug. So sorry about your earring, doubled by disappointing merchandise. With all the advice here, I am sure you will be the best dressed at the Gala! 
  • marija replied 7 years ago

    Today I tried on a steilmann dress at a small boutique. Here is the link:

    It was beautiful and fit so very well.

  • Sylvie replied 7 years ago
    Have you tried anything by Elie Tahari?  Their sheath dresses fit me well and I very shortwaisted.  You'll probably want a 0.

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