If Wishes Were Dresses … Festive Dressing Decision Time

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So… the other day, when it was still November, I was on my exercise bike pedaling my butt off (not to mention other body parts that have grown in girth lately.) And I was flipping through magazines and Pinterest, and dreaming of wearing something like this dress to the deluge of festive parties that I will be attending this year. Okay, maybe not a deluge, exactly, but more than two. 
Sigh. If wishes were dresses this would be in my closet right now. A lovely full-skirted, red, satin dress with high heels and an edgy leather jacket to keep it from looking too ladylike. But… wishes are just wishes, and there is no lovely, full-skirted, red dress hiding in my closet.
Red full-skirted dress, black leather jacket, black hose, red fur bag, from Fashionmagazing.com winter 2017 issue
Fashion Magazine.com

I do however own a somewhat-full-skirted Lida Baday dress that I bought a few years ago, and still love. It has pockets, which I like, and a deep V in the back which is pretty swish. And it’s supposed to be kind of crinkly like this. But, you know, I think I prefer it as a summer special occasion dress to wear with flats and bare legs. And besides, I’m not attending any parties where I’d need to be this dressed up.
Black Lida Baday dress with self belt, black Stuart Weitzman block-heeled pumps with silver buckle detail. Turquoise pasmnina, gift.
Still love my Lida Baday dress… just not for a Christmas party.
I might be more partial to a little velvet number like this one from Gap. I actually prefer it with the tee shirt under it. But any dress, even a fabulous one like the red satin, has limited appeal for me. One or two fancy dresses sitting unworn in my closet are enough. 
Black velvet dress from the Gap.
Gap dress
So maybe something in a suit. Like a snazzy top to dress up my navy Veronica Beard suit. Or a vest to wear with my purple Tory Burch tie blouse and my black pants. I love these two looks below from the Canadian publication Fashion Magazine.com. Actually, the navy suit on the left is a bit severe even for me, but with a sparkly blouse under the jacket it would be lovely. Wouldn’t it?


Blue velvet pants suit with white blouse and white boots. Tuxedo  trousres, burgundy print tie blouse, burgundy boots, and black vest. Both looks from Fashionmagazine.com Winter 2017 issue
Fashion Magazine.com
So, off I went one morning this week. To see if I could find a little something sparkly, or velvet, to add some glitter and gleam to my navy and black minimalist pieces. I didn’t want to spend much. Cheap and cheerful were the words in my head as I trawled the stores at a local mall. But…. mall trawling can be mind numbing. And futile. If I were twenty-two again, and planning to head off on a Saturday night to Disco Viva in Hull, I’d have been in heaven. But I’m not. And all I found were tops and jackets that were cheap… and looked it. I don’t care how inexpensive something is, if it won’t get worn, it’s not a bargain. And besides, I think I swore off fast fashion last summer, didn’t I? As it happened, I didn’t come home totally empty handed. I caught the tail end of the Eddy Bauer Black Friday sale, and I picked up a new fleece and a turtleneck for skiing. But I was, however, back to square one when it came to festive party outfits. 
So it was time to put on my thinking cap, and trawl my closet, in particular the space in the hall cupboard where, in behind the winter coats, I keep a garment bag of things I rarely wear but can’t let go of just yet. Like this velvet bolero, which I had uncharacteristically forgotten all about. I bought this red jacket at the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show for $10.00… oh… must be almost twenty years ago. I removed the shoulder pads, and I used to wear it with a little black lacy dress I’d had for years, for Christmas parties and the like. In fact the last time I wore it was to my niece’s Christmas wedding in 2012. 
I tried it with my black Rag and Bone gauzy layered tank, and my Vince knit leggings. And these Stuart Weitzman block-heeled pumps from 2009. The layered tank does what it does best, drapes nicely, and covers what it should. I turned up the hem of the leggings so they hit me just above the ankle; they look better with the pumps that length. You know, I like this outfit. I’m covered, comfortable, a bit edgy, not frumpy, and I feel fabulous. Ha. I have an outfit I’ve never worn before…and I didn’t spend a cent. 
Rag and Bone tank, vintage red bolero, Vince leggings, Stuart Weitzman pumps, earrings by Holt Renfrew, Anne Marie Chagnon bracelet
Breathing new life into an old jacket
I’ve always loved the cut of my velvet jacket and how it dips in the back. And I have a pair of earrings and a bracelet which are the perfect colour. My Anne Marie Chagnon bracelet would be too heavy if I were wearing the jacket with my little black lacy dress… not that I can fit into that little black dress anymore… see comment in opening about recent girth growth… but with the pants and tank it works. 
Rag and Bone tank, vintage red bolero, Vince leggings, Stuart Weitzman pumps, earrings by Holt Renfrew, Anne Marie Chagnon bracelet  
You can see the earrings and bracelet a bit better, below. And you can tell that I had fun playing around with the lay-out ap on my i-pad. Now what colour would you call that jacket? Carmine? Maroon? Ruby? Wine? Maybe even pinot noir? Totally depends on which website you consult, and your computer screen. 
Rag and bone tank, red bolero vintage, Anne Marie Chagnon bracelet, earrings by Holt Renfrew
So that’s me sorted. I’m up one new outfit and not out any money. Win, win. I’ll still wear the outfit below, from last year, to the Christmas engagement party for our friend’s son that Hubby and I will attend. My Rag and Bone tank (quelle surprise), my Helmut Lang jacket, and my old faithful leather trousers, with my Stuart Weitzman loafers. I still really like this look. But I am getting a bit tired of my leather pants. I might have to retire them for a rest.
Rag and Bone tank, Helmut Lang jacket, Holt Renfrew leather trousers, Stuart Weitzman loafers
  Rag and Bone tank, Holt Renfrew leather trousers, Stuart Weitzman loafers.

And I’m pretty sure I’ll try to do something fun with my Veronica Beard suit for the big house party for the hockey gang. I just haven’t decided what yet. I’ll let you know how that goes. 


Christmas party season is often problematic for me. I usually dream up an outfit that involves something I don’t own, but wish I did. And I hate to spend money on something I will wear only occasionally. So I’ll look, as I did this year, for something inexpensive to cheer up what is already in my closet. And I rarely find anything that suits me. I guess it’s a good thing that when I do find something, like my red bolero, I stash it away and can haul it out for years to come. There is, of course, one tiny problem that can arise when one drags an item of apparel out of the closet so very rarely. And that is the girth issue. 


I’m thinking specifically of the evening of a work Christmas party about fifteen years ago. I had cobbled together an outfit from an old pair of black tuxedo-style pants, a fluffy cream silk blouse, and a beautiful black brocade vest that was new. But at the last minute when we were all ready to go, and Hubby was on his way out to start the car, I decided the outfit needed a really great belt. And I had just the thing in mind. Somewhere, stashed in a drawer, I knew I had a gorgeous, black patent-leather, cummerbund-style belt that buckled in the back. It had dressed up a jersey dress that I wore to a party way back when I’d worked in pharmaceutical sales. The dress was long gone, but I knew just where the belt was. Ah ha! As I hauled it out, I could see out the window, that Hubby was in the car with the motor running, headlights shining across the driveway. I whipped off my vest and wrapped the belt around me, grabbing each end to buckle it. What the…? No matter how much I wrestled with it, there was no frigging way the ends of that belt would meet. There was a three inch gap. Three inches! What the hell? 


Well. Let’s just say the belt went back in the drawer. The vest back on. Then my coat. And when I finally climbed into the car and Hubby asked incredulously, “what the bleep, bleep” I had been doing, I thought longingly of that beautiful, patent-leather belt, that would never again be the line of demarcation between my creamy silk blouse and my black trousers, and I simply said I’d had a slight problem with my horizontal X axis. Math teacher joke, for girth increase problems. Ha. Never, never store a belt for twenty years and then haul it out to wear at the last minute. You might, like me, be in for a nasty surprise. 


If wishes were able to be translated into wardrobe reality that evening, I’m not sure if I would have wished for the belt to be longer or the area to be covered a bit smaller. Three inches smaller. Sigh. I can say that I would not have chosen to turn back time, to the era when the belt fit me. Not for a moment. Despite the fact that I must have been some jeezley skinny when I was in my twenties. But as age and experience has taught me… being skinny ain’t everything. 


You know, “some jeezley” was perhaps the most commonly used expression of amazement when I was growing up in New Brunswick. Funny. I don’t think I’ve used it for years. Must be because Hubby and I are planning to go home for Christmas this year. We have, as you know, been home at other times. But not for Christmas. Not for a few years. 


And we’re some jeezley excited… as us New Brunswickers say.

Now, what about you folks? What festive dressing decisions have you made so far?  If wishes were dresses… or suits, or whatever…. what would you suddenly find in your closet? Or do you already have a closet full of party wear? Or are you adverse to party gear? I must say that after a couple of parties, I’m ready to go back to my jeans and turtlenecks. 




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30 thoughts on “If Wishes Were Dresses … Festive Dressing Decision Time”

  1. I had to laugh at the girth comments. I've lost weight and am close to what I weighed 20 years ago but boy, is it distributed differently! I held on to some great belts "until I lost the weight" only to find they still don't fit, since my waist is clearly not going to be that size again. I don't have any events requiring a dress, and haven't for a long time so I'm going for festive comfort. I'll be wearing navy velvet "jeans" or a pair of (stretchy) skinny pants with a subtle metallic pattern paired with some tops I found at off-season clearance or resale for pennies compared to the original price(s). I'll be looking forward to seeing what you wear with your VB suit – that was obviously a great investment for you. I wish I had your talent for identifying those items for myself.

    1. I've abandoned the idea that I will ever be the weight I was 20 years ago. I've crept up a pound or two every few years until I'm ten pounds heavier than when I was 35. A few years ago I made a concerted effort to lose 5 pounds, lost 7… and then over two years rebounded back to where I had been. And that was with more physical activity and a better diet. So I'm just facing the fact that this is me now. Still working out regularly, still eating healthy, no chicken wings and beer nights (not that I did that ever), and trying not worry about it. Only time that doesn't work is when I try on old belts!

  2. Some jeezley post Sue , never heard that before & love the bracelet . I'm swerving by the clothes rails now , avoiding the Xmas glitter & wondering where people wear it . We'll be meeting up with friends & family , plus some meals out but no party dresses needed . I prefer the variety of separates & putting different outfits together . I do have a few fine knit tops with a little sparkle in them , which might come out again – then I'll stick on an extra bit of jewelry & grab a smaller handbag than usual . Sorted .
    ( I see a Xmas tree has appeared behind you )
    Wendy in York

    1. Well spotted Wendy. That is a Christmas tree behind me because that is a shot from last year's party outfit post:) Separates work best for me too. Still… I love the ease of a dress… where you don't have to think about what goes with it. Except shoes.

  3. I've been doing exactly the same thing… going through my closet looking for and trying on combinations of items that have been hanging unused since past Christmases and trying to decide what to wear to the various upcoming parties and whatnot. In fact, I was also thinking about writing a blog post about it!

  4. I have never heard that expression…jeezley. So do you still have a New Brunswick accent? ; P

    I applaud you for pulling out some vintage and wearing it contemporary. It looks great! And I'm sure it one thousand percent higher quality than anything you would have found now.

    The weight thing…ugh…that creeps up on all of us. It's never a good surprise.


    1. I don't have much of a NB accent …except when I go home. Not sure my vintage bolero was ever great quality. Still it's better than lot of the fast fashion I saw.

  5. I'm going to say "cranberry" for the colour of your lovely velvet jacket as a seasonally appropriate descriptor.

    Do you happen to remember which lipstick you were wearing in the bracelet pictures? It looks right up my alley, which probably means I have about a dozen tubes that are quite similar, but I'm always on the lookout for THE lipstick!

    — Denise L.

    1. Cranberry is perfect… both for the jacket and for the season. My lipstick is "raspberry ripple" by Laura Mercier. I added a swish of the free gloss I had in my last gift from LM. It's called "tulip."

  6. Hi Sue! As always I like all the outfits you've shown us but as much as I like your burgundy/wine bolero, my favourite outfit is your Helmut Lang jacket over the black tank, either with your leather trousers or any smart black trousers that work with the jacket. With regard to girth issues …my tape measure and I constantly have a good laugh!! Better that than crying! Recently I read an article criticising Victoria Beckham for having a 24inch waist saying she was too thin. Through my teens and twenties my waist measurement was around 23 to 23 1/2 inches …I ate well and was healthy ..no one suggested I was underweight! I feel there's a constant focus on people being either underweight or overweight!! I had a similar experience to you with a soft leather belt …I was stunned when I realised it was more than a few inches too short!!
    I laughted at Denise L's comment re lipsticks. Whenever I buy a new one, I get home to find that yet again it's the same shade as many others I already have! I'm trying to stop myself from buying lipsticks! 🙂
    As for festive party dressing. I'll occasionally wear a dress but more often trousers or jeans with a dressy or cashmere top …depends on how cold it is!
    I just love the red dress and think you'd look amazing in it! If I looked good in that style it would definitely be a contender for my dress at my daughters wedding …although, not in red!

    1. Yea..I like that outfit too. I wore it again the other night to a Christmas/engagement party. That Helmut Lang jacket is a keeper, for sure.
      Wrt girth. I only use my tape measure now for measuring the scarf I'm knitting… or should be knitting.

    1. "Some" is used in NB as what us English teachers call an intensifier… like "very" or "really." As in…"That pie is some good, Mum." "Jeezly" is just a kind of swear word…modified to make it less "sweary." So "That pie is some jeezley good, Mum" means the pie is REALLY good.

  7. Reading this, jet-lagged and unable to sleep after 18 hours in transit, at 4:30 in the morning, and I thank you for the gift of your writing. Absolutely delightful, entertaining and inspiring (how to stick to our commitments not to buy fast-fashion, how to play with what we already have in our closets, how to reconcile ourselves to our changing bodies) — plus "some jeezley"? Totally inspired to find ways to use this in the next while. Husband's spent some time traveling through NB for work and has some friends there. I'll have to ask if he's heard this one.
    I've come home with two new pieces for the festivewear section of my wardrobe — like yours, it goes through cycles, and right now, I'm hoping that the tasselled, embroidered, long black skirt I bought from The Gap about 20 years ago survived my downsizing. I have a nasty feeling someone else may currently be finding a vintage piece to treasure at my expense, but I'm hoping it might be in one of the boxes. Meanwhile, you look just perfect in your outfits — I'm surprised to find I like the bare arms and leather pants one the best (and oh, I covet those pants–haven't had leather pants since about when you were discovering your belt didn't fit any longer, but I keep looking for the perfect pair or a great leather skirt, at the right price –when I find it I will snap it up!)

    1. Thanks very much, Frances. Bet you are exhausted. But also imagine you're happy to be home. Still…there is always such a feeling of anti-climax when returning from a long trip. Especially when one looks at the layer of dust over everything that must be dispatched, the laundry that must be done, kitchen restocked etc etc. Makes me want to sit right down in the middle of it with my book.
      Hope you find your Gap skirt. But there is that lovely dress you bought in France as a consolation, if the skirt is gone in the downsizing.

    2. Almost nobody mentioned the Lida Baday dress-it suits you so good and you look amazing!
      I like the other looks too-you could go to party every day and feel great!
      I am shopping in my closet,too! Wide silk trousers +white silk embroidered shirt (yes,I need new cummerbund belt !) or black velvet-silk blouse,taupe silk skirt with cashmere turtleneck,red cashmere dress-enough for every occasion! I don't have problems with repeating my favourite outfits,I actually enjoy it
      Or something quite simple for cozy home parties!
      Have great time partying!

  8. Oh Susan, reading your posts always get me chuckling and this one us so near to home, as I went through this process last week for just the one Christmas do I will be going to. It's tomorrow night but I think I've settled on an old brown velvet long coat and trousers. It's a bit Judi Dench! You look gorgeous in all lovely outfits you've chosen, and you have such beautiful legs to carry off the pretty dress and the leather trousers. I think I may be a tad envious, as I have to keep mine well covered!

  9. You always look lovely and slim to me! And I had the exact same thing happen with a very-old belt! That tiered top looks so great on you!

  10. When I'm out shopping, I also find myself thinking "will this be completely out of style in a year?" I too prefer to buy things I can wear for years.


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