Tips and Advice
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Dressing up, even once in a while, can easily become expensive. Anyone who is familiar with the marathon of weddings that begins in one’s 20s and never really ends knows that dressing up can feel like an expensive chore. You can’t really help it that you’re popular or that your friends are in love, but preparing for these celebrations and gatherings doesn’t have to break the bank.
- Shop smart: Knowing where to buy occasion wear is half the battle, and not everyone’s recommendations will fit your idea of what’s affordable. The easiest and least expensive option is to browse what online retailers like Lulus and Asos have to offer. There are also fairly affordable sustainable brands like Reformation whose garments may incur a smaller carbon footprint. Second-hand and consignment stores can also have gems from high-quality labels. If you can’t find any such stores locally, the RealReal and thredUP resell clothes from luxury and midpriced brands.
- Rent, don’t buy: Truly no one needs to own a ballgown. Companies like Rent the Runway (now offering an Unlimited subscription service) and Armarium let you pick from a trove of designer offerings, then return the wares after your special occasion is history.
- Rewear your look: It can be costly to buy a new outfit for every occasion on your social calendar. If you purchase pieces that are basic enough (the simple black cocktail dress, for example) you can wear them over and over again. Tiffany Haddish has done it on the red carpet, and we all stand to learn from her eco- and budget-friendly example.
- Ask a friend: Maybe you know someone who has a dress or a suit you can borrow. Think of it as a rental, but free! But make sure to offer to pay for their dry cleaning so that the loan is no imposition.
How to Make it Look Good
Speaking of which, clothing – especially dressy clothing – should not simply be worn. It often requires alterations or D.I.Y. hacks to look as good as possible. And, crucially, garments should be cared for, especially when they are costly or beloved. Here are some things to consider:
- Alterations: If you’ve purchased a piece that doesn’t fit quite like a glove, or you have a well-worn outfit that’s due for some fixes, you might want to visit a tailor or a dry cleaner who performs alterations ahead of your event. Before you just walk into the nearest shop, it’s worth asking friends for recommendations: Once the fabric is cut, it can’t really be restored. Wherever you go, make sure you drop off the garment at least three weeks before you’ll need to wear it.
- Shapewear: Let’s start by saying that everyone’s body is wonderful and nothing must be done to make it look good in a dress. But, if you would like your clothes to lay smooth and flat on your person, there are plenty of things you can buy. The folks at Spanx and Commando produce seamless undergarments that are virtually undetectable underneath even the slinkiest dresses.
- Tape: If after the alterations and shapewear, something about your outfit still feels precarious, there’s always good old tape. Kim Kardashian proudly uses it to secure her dresses and decolletage, and she says gaffer tape works best. There’s also fashion tape and toupee tape, which are really just two types of double-sided tape with fancy names.
- Ironing and steaming: Creases can put a wrinkle in anyone’s plans to look great, so before you go out, consider ironing or steaming your outfit and putting it on a hanger so that it retains its polished appearance. Our friends at Wirecutter recommend Maytag’s M400 iron for those who are in the market. Handheld steamers are a great investment, too, as they travel well and work like a charm.
- Cleaning and other garment care: It’s worth noting that your wares will get dirty. Our friend Alainna Lexie Beddie at T Magazine has solutions for all of the stains and scuffs your clothes and shoes are likely to incur given your busy social schedule.
How to Upgrade Any Look
Sometimes a dress code can feel rote – more like a uniform than an expression of personal style. This is especially true if you’ve built up a wardrobe of rewearable pieces and they’ve each made appearances at several occasions. Here are a few ways to make sure your outfit comes together and feels fresh:
- Accessories: By this point, you’ve picked the perfect outfit. You will look great no matter what. But if you have the time and means, consider the distinguishing details. Have you thought about jewelry? What tie you’ll wear? How you’ll carry your necessities? Whether you’ll need a coat, and which one to wear? These questions are best addressed at least a week prior to the event, so you have time to shop or borrow from a friend if needed. Or maybe the answer is in your closet. If you always sport a silk tie, for example, you could try that knit one you got as a gift but haven’t worn yet.
- Hair: Maybe you show up to work with wet hair every day. That’s O.K.! But you probably don’t want to do it on your best friend’s wedding day. Special occasions can present an opportunity for a haircut (at least a couple days in advance), or a hairdo (likely the day of). As long as your hair doesn’t appear visibly slept-on, greasy or otherwise unkempt, you’re doing fine.
- Nails: Again, none of this is obligatory, and you should only do it if it makes you feel happy. Does getting your nails done make you feel happy? Yes? Then do it! If not … maybe just cut them and make sure they’re clean.