Well, my big event is this weekend! As you may recall, I’m attending my husband’s company holiday party in Chicago, and I’ve been ordering and trying cocktail dresses like it’s my job.
And I guess it sort of is. Considering that I’ve made a business of sharing my personal style online and helping everyday women like me figure out how to dress appropriately for any occasion so they can feel good about how they present themselves to the world, I feel a little extra pressure to “get it right” for this particular event.
Plus, I just think it’s fun to shop and come up with “the perfect outfit” for any big occasion. Which, I guess is how I ended up with a fashion blog!
Eliza J. Faux Fur Capelet (S) // Norma Kamali Strapless Midi Dress (M) (more sizes) // Sam Edelman Kia in Gold (8) (also at Nordstrom) // Loeffler Randall Rhinestone Baguette Bag // Ettika Crystal Chandelier Earrings // old Victoria Emerson bracelet c/o // J.Crew necklace
In my last Try-On Haul, where I first showed you these three dresses, someone suggested that I style each one as if I’m going to the event and share them with you all and let you vote.
Even if I didn’t have this blog, that is exactly what I would have done, and what I recommend you do whenever you’re trying to make a decision between several outfits. So here we are!
When planning an outfit for a big event – or for any reason, really, but especially when it’s an event where I will be meeting people I don’t know or don’t see very often – there are a few things I try to keep in mind.
First and foremost, who is my audience? Not that it really matters what people think of my outfit, but I feel more comfortable and confident when I feel like I fit in rather than stand out, so I always consider where I’m going and how others will be dressed.
The other thing I try to keep in the forefront of my mind are my personal style goals. I want my outfits to look modern, polished, and understated whether I’m going to the grocery store or to a gala.
It can be tempting to dress for a different style persona when attending an event that is outside of your typical routine, but it’s more important than ever to be true to yourself in those situations, so you feel comfortable and confident and authentic in how you present yourself.
And finally, I want to be comfortable. Meaning, I don’t want to wear something I will have to fuss with all night, and I would rather not be excessively hot or cold. Although for this event, I’m willing to sacrifice a little bit of comfort to love how I look.
After trying on many dresses, I’ve narrowed it down to three… actually, two, but I’m sharing all three finalists here today because I have the photos, so why not use them?
Plus, it gives us an opportunity to discuss how I decided to accessorize each option, which is something many women struggle with.
First up, this Norma Kamali Strapless Midi Dress.
Norma Kamali Strapless Midi Dress – 25% off (M) (more sizes avail) // Sam Edelman Kia in Gold (8) (also at Nordstrom) // Loeffler Randall Rhinestone Baguette Bag – 25% off // Ettika Crystal Chandelier Earrings // old Victoria Emerson bracelet c/o // J.Crew necklace
I love this dress for its simplicity and understated appeal, and it’s way more comfortable and figure-forgiving than it looks.
The fabric is high quality, and I feel like it looks like I just pulled a dress out of the back of my closet at the last minute and threw it on and made it look fabulous with modern accessories. You know, kind of like… Oh, this old thing??? LOL!
But that’s also partly what’s holding me back from wearing it. I know that I did buy this dress with this event in mind, and while I like it more than I ever imagined I would, it still seems rather plain in comparison to most of the other options I tried. And accessorizing it has turned out to be more challenging than the others.
First, let’s discuss my jewelry choices. I tried the dress both with and without a necklace, and I like it so much better with a necklace. I feel like this J.Crew square faceted crystal necklace set in gold tone metal is perfect. It’s oversized and modern, yet in keeping with the simplicity of the dress.
I also wore crystal and gold statement earrings that I feel coordinate with the earrings but don’t compete too awfully much, although I wonder if a simple stud would be better.
And then I grabbed an old mixed metal cuff out of my jewelry box, but I don’t love it. If I were going to wear this dress to the event this weekend, I would want to come up with something else.
Because it’s so bare on top, I wanted some type of covering that I could wear inside if I feel I need it, so I pulled this faux fur capelet out of my arsenal. I’ve had it for a few years, but it’s still available, and on sale at Bloomingdale’s!
I like the look in theory, but I wonder if it leans towards matronly, and I also find it awkward to keep on my shoulders.
When it’s fastened, it looks more like outerwear, and when it’s unfastened, it feels like it’s going to slide off at any moment.
I’m not sure I’d want to wear it inside, anyway, and if I don’t, then I’m back to feeling bare on top.
The other option is a sheer metallic wrap, and I just so happened to have this silver one from a wedding a few years back, so I tried it on to see if I like the look. (I’ve ordered the gold, so I have it if I decide I want it.)
I like that my shoulders are adequately covered, but it also covers up my waist and ruins the shapely silhouette that the dress provides, in a way that the fur wrap did not. Plus, the wrap is hard to keep in place, and I don’t want to be fussing with it all night.
Before I eliminate this option entirely, I’d like to try it tied the way the silver one is shown on the Nordstrom model and see if that works better, but I would still need another coat or jacket to wear to and from the event. It just seems like more trouble than it’s worth.
Okay, moving on! My second option is this one shoulder velvet sheath dress. I really like the combination of velvet and satin on this one.
The fabric combination seems like a good match for the formality of the event, and the satin foldover detail gives it the modern touch I need to feel authentic to my personal style, while still allowing me to wear my favorite sheath-style silhouette.
I also really like the side slit, and although I feel like it could be a little shorter, I do like the below-the-knee length. It looks more formal than the shorter styles, and since this event is black tie optional and there will be some in floor-length gowns, I feel like this helps to walk that line of formality.
Also, Alison helped me figure out how I’m supposed to wear the satin foldover piece. I was wearing it on my shoulder, as pictured on the Bloomingdale’s website, and it was doing wonky things in the back. But she found another photo online where it was worn off the shoulder, as I’m wearing it here, and it looks so much better from all sides.
It’s also more comfortable than it looks. It stays in place when I move around, and it gives me just enough coverage to feel appropriate for a work event, but not so much that I feel frumpy.
I really love these earrings, especially with this dress. I wish the clear crystal that I have wasn’t sold out. They’re lighter than they look because they’re on a fabric backing, so smart!
I also really love this square-shaped crystal tennis bracelet. I didn’t want to wear it and the matching necklace with the strapless dress, but since I’m not wearing a necklace with this one, I would definitely wear this bracelet.
It’s a bit of a splurge, but it’s currently part of the Blooomingdale’s Friends & Family 25% off sale, as is this dress, by the way.
The Eliza J. one-shoulder dress is probably my top contender at this point, but then there is this metallic sheath.
This dress has an entirely different vibe than the two above, and that’s what I’m unsure about because it’s a perfect fit, and I absolutely love it. I’m just not sure it’s the look I want to present at this event.
Vince Camuto Embellished Cap Sleeve Sheath Dress (10) // Sam Edelman Kia in Gold (8) (also at Nordstrom) // Loeffler Randall Bailey Pleated Clutch – 25% off // J.Crew bracelet – 40% off // Ettika Crystal Chandelier Earrings
I feel like you see the dress coming before you see me, and it has more of a fun festive aura about it that seems more appropriate for a New Year’s Eve party than a corporate black tie optional affair.
As an aside, I do not know why I look so awkward in these pictures! (All of them, except maybe the first one.) Shooting inside the house is weird. I can’t move around like I do when we’re outside, and I feel like I always look stiff and awkward, when in reality, I feel quite comfortable in this dress.
It’s also so easy to just slip on and go… although, now that I figured out how to arrange the satin foldover detail on the one-shoulder dress, it’s pretty easy too.
I kept on that gorgeous square-shaped crystal tennis bracelet with this dress, but I decided a black bag would look better than the gold, so I grabbed this pleated clutch about halfway through our photo shoot.
It has a gold chain that tucks neatly inside, but I will definitely use it at the event when I want to be hands-free
I went back to the Ettika crystal earrings for this one because the dress is such a statement on its own. I feel like these complement the dress without competing with it.
And I really should have taken this outside and photographed it with the black faux fur jacket I would wear with it. I think it would look so good together.
Here’s the dress with the gold baguette bag, but I feel like the black looks so much better. And I love the matte gold sandals look with this dress.
In fact, it is because I pulled them out to wear with this dress that I even bothered to try them with the two black dresses. I had ordered other options for those, but in the end, I think I’ll wear these no matter which dress I choose.
So yeah, after all that, I am still not sure which dress I want to wear. I’m leaning towards the one-shoulder because I feel like it might be more appropriate for the event, and it best exudes the overall vibe I want to present.
At the end of the day, they are both good options, and it really doesn’t matter which I chose, so I might just bring both and see which one feels most comfortable to me once I get there.
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photos: Alison Cornell