Wardrobe 101

Choosing an Evening Gown

Thinking it Through

Happy day, reader dear!

What was I thinking?

We have a family wedding coming up. Evening. Formal. In a cold place.

Normally, I would reach into my Special Occasion Capsule and grab something in there for a wedding.

But this one feels extra special.

Like a new dress is in order! A long dress.

So join me as I talk through some of my options…

To be blunt. I don’t NEED a new dress. I want a new dress.

Long ago, before Mr. CP retired from active duty in the Navy, we had a formal every fall. I had two dresses and traded off from year to year. Since we spent three years in each location, most of the people from year one were no longer there in year three. If they were going to notice that I was wearing the same dress, they clearly did not have enough to worry about.

I have one of those dresses still… But it’s black. Which I’d like to avoid. I will get it out of the roof and take another look.

Meanwhile, let’s do some shopping…

Yes, I could rent. And regularly suggest it to my clients! Unfortunately, everything I’ve seen in my size is too floofy OR super sleek and body-con. Where’s that happy medium?

What I Don’t Want

Why am I starting with the “negative”? Often, we are more sure about what we don’t want, than what we do! That’s okay. Human nature notices the negative first, because spotting the saber-toothed tiger approaching is more pressing than spotting the tasty mango. I may need both, but the mango won’t do me any good if I don’t see the tiger first!

I don’t want a black dress. I’m not beholden to the myths about black, and I’d like something less heavy and more wearable. (I don’t even think you need an LBD!) I don’t do strapless, nor do I want a floofy ballgown style number. I don’t want to feel constricted or like I’m in a corset.

What I DO Want

I’d like to find a dress in a Colored Neutral. I know that may not happen, but let’s aim high. I’d like sleeves. The wedding is in New Jersey in February, and this Georgia transplant will be freezing. Even in a sleeved dress! I own an eggplant colored sleeveless number (You’ll see it below.), but BRRRRRR! I want a long dress that is sleek and has movement for dancing. Many of the sleek dresses I see are column (or mermaid style) woven dresses. Lovely, but not the best for comfort or dancing, so jersey is probably my best bet.

I want simple. With some interest. That I can wear again.

Some Options

Here are the dresses I’m weighing…

Eggplant. Navy. Forest Green.

Note: No makeup or anything here. This is all about the dresses, not styling them!


Get ready for the back story… I found this dress for $15 at my favorite local consignment shop. I grabbed it thinking, Hey! Eggplant! Best color for a long dress. I’ve got a gala coming up, so why not? After the gala, my brain went into overdrive. I only have one cocktail dress and it’s black. I’d like something more friendly to my less than youthful complexion. Shortening it would be a smart move. So I did. Easy peasy.

True to fortune and irony, less than a month after I get the dress back from my FABULOUS seamstress, Lois, we hear that we have an evening wedding in February. Swanky. I shake my head in awe, wonder and no little surprise. It’s summer; finding a long sleeved dress isn’t going to happen right now, so I start checking Ebay for the dress I just shortened. And voila! After a few searches over a month, up it pops! I know it fits and order it. NOT for the same price I found it, but still a bargain as I know it fits perfectly and only needs a few inches off the hem to make it work with comfortable shoes for dancing. Win.

Pros: Great color. Great fit. No sleeves. Already paid for and shortened.

Cons: Sleeveless. Brrrr.


This is the dress of my dreams. Long sleeves I can push up or shorten to 3/4 length. Slit for easy movement and dancing, but not SO slit as to compromise my virtue. Except it’s too darned large. I tried to order it starting in November; I would put it in my cart, process payment, and… No confirmation. I would be told there were none available. Argh. Week after week. So I ordered a size up hoping it would run small. No joy. Scoured pre-loved sites. Nothing. I keep checking the website hoping against hope that someone will return the size I need.

Pros: Everything I want.

Cons: Too large (You can see the excess fabric bunching at the shoulders. AND the waist is clipped in the back to help it stay in place.) and not a good item for alterations. Sigh.

Forest Green

When the navy dream dress fell through, I thought, I’ll try this one. (It also comes in burgundy.) The fact that I don’t have much to say about it might say everything.

Pros: Color is great for my eyes. Easy movement for dancing.

Cons: Those sleeve–too blousy/droopy. BUT they could be taken in and shortened? Green feels a little Christmas-y. Maybe I’d like it better in Bordeaux? I’m running out of time. A little large through the shoulders and waist.

As of writing, nothing is decided. The next size down in the green should be arriving soon. If it fits, I may try the Bordeaux.

How About You?

Which dress are you partial to? Let me know! Do you have a gown? Do you (or did you, Pre-Covid) have gown-worthy events?

Is cocktail as dressy as you (and your lifestyle) go? What color and silhouette do you prefer for a dressy dress? A dress is not, by definition, dressy. Dressy is about Level of Refinement and styling…

Thinking it Through has the feel of a new series… What are your thoughts? Do tell!

Stylishly yours,


  • Kim

    I’m partial to your sleeveless one. Instead of buying a new dress, what about adding an evening-style wrap/shawl to your formalwear collection? As someone who lives in New England (and is always cold), I would also be too cold with just the sleeveless dress and need a shawl. But if I was also dancing all night, I would warm up and the sleeveless would be perfectly comfortable at that point and the shawl would only be needed when leaving/going outside. Also, you wear/style scarves so well, I think you’d likely be able to style a larger version to utilize with some of your other dressier clothes in your wardrobe. Just a thought. Of course, if you have your heart set on a new dress, I hope you end up getting the forest green version but in the Bordeaux color. I definitely love the purple family!

    • Liz K

      Bordeaux would have been a lovely choice, Kim, but they sold out by the time I went back to order… The perils of life on-line. Now they have it again, but the green one is at the seamstress. I found a cute grey faux fur bolero on Ebay last month that would be great over the purple dress, so the jury is still out!

  • Lise

    My first choice was the navy one, until I heard you had to pin it. The green looks billowing so maybe it will be great once the alteration is done. I have not worn a long formal dress ever. Never been to a event that required it. I did attend my husband’s 50th school reunion in a maxi dress, but more of a lightweight fun one, there was no dress code.

    • Liz K

      Sigh. I’m with you, Lise. I’d have loved the navy. The green is with my seamstress and I’ve decided it’s going to be a better choice since the color is one of my signatures! Make a choice and make it the right choice.


    Liz, I Love the eggplant dress and the navy dress especially!! The green dress is beautiful but I would try it in bordeaux!! I don’t have many formal functions now that my husband is retired. Our church has one Christmas party a year. I haven’t been well enough to attend for a few years because it’s after dialysis!! I do have a few blouses, skirts and a velvet wrap blazer for any dinner parties if needed!! I like to stay covered just in case!! Just like having something for a funeral!! Have you thought of having the Navy dress altered no matter the cost?!! I would!! Of course, within reason!! Or the dress in green or bordeaux altered?!! Pray you find your correct choice soon!!

    • Liz K

      The green dress is at the seamstress as I write! She’s taking in the sleeves for me to make them more like those of the navy dress! That velvet wrap blazer sounds fabulous, Natalie, and perfect for SO many occasions.

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