I have to wear formal attire once a year, to a work event. No-one is looking at me, because it's a social event for the hoity toity, and I'm, you know, WORKING. I refuse to spend a gazillion dollars on a new formal dress every year, for reasons of both frugality and tiny closets.
I have found the perfect solution. You need:
1. A floor-length black silk sleeveless sheath like this one:
2. A knee-length 3/4 sleeve black velvet dress similar to this one:
2 simple dresses, black, that feel good and look good.
Either of these dresses can be worn alone or with a second layer or a wrap or shawl.
Wear alternate dresses (one year velvet, next year silk), and change the over-shirt/jacket. I promise, NO ONE WILL NOTICE.
Then, as you are bargain-shopping at the Maxx or Marshall's or Hudson's Salvage, find jacket-y things that you can wear over these.
Top layers are often far less expensive - especially if they've been separated from their other half on the way to the discount rack.
A sampling of top layers I have in my closet:
- a floor-length "coat" - cut kind of like a duster - in sheer, shimmery green/blue taffeta
($12, discounted from $250, at Hudson's Dirt Cheap)
- a red & black burnout-velvet jacket with flowy sleeves
($10, discounted from a $200 2-piece outfit, at Hudson's Salvage)
- a floor-length sheer black over-dress with beaded decorations and frog closures down the front (this was the original partner to the black sheath, the set about $125, but I've worn the sheath dress over and over)
I also purchased a pair of black, beaded satin flats that go with all of these outfits for $30, and I wear them with black tights. Again: no one is looking at me, I'm working and therefore on my feet all night, and I do not get paid enough to buy a new outfit every year. I'm pretty much set for the next 5 years, at least, but I am always on the lookout for another top layer at a bargain price.
I also have a long black tulip skirt and a beaded top (TJ Maxx, $25), but have yet to locate other good tops to go with the skirt. Actual formal tops have proved to be a lot harder to find than formal top layers.
And that, dear readers, is your sartorial advice for the day.
* Despite having developed this collection of interchangeable formal wear, I still have a yen for a tuxedo, which I could then wear to EVERYTHING for years, like men do.