There is nothing better than a party dress. A bit of sparkle. A touch of color. A swish of silk. If all my dreams came true, I would have reason to wear a party dress weekly. I live for a black tie moment or a semi-formal occasion, or a festive gathering requiring appropriate dress.
The trick I want to share with you today is more of a shopping strategy, and while it does not apply solely to party dresses, I find it particularly handy for special occasion clothing.
Assuming you know what you like, assuming you know what cuts and colors suit you, and assuming you have stores that are your go-to retailers, I have an idea for you. If you are in the market for party dresses, start shopping at the height of the season. For the holidays, this would be in November. For Easter, generally speaking, this would be in March. For summer weddings, early May is ideal. Don’t buy anything yet, but shop.
When you shop, you are looking for two or three pieces that you love. I’m not talking about middle-of-the-road acceptance. I’m talking about hard-core gotta-have-it love. Try them on. Walk around in them. Make sure that apart from minor alterations (hem length or strap shortening), the dress is a ten out of ten. You love it. It loves you. Your closet will love it, and it will serve you for the long haul.
For the sake of memory and future reference, make a note in your phone of the brand, size, and item number. If you have any impressions or thoughts you want to remember, add those too. “This would be great for Susan’s wedding next summer.” “Perfect for the annual corporate holiday party.” “Love the way this feels, and would be fun to wear at Easter or for a wedding shower.”
Now, put the dress back on the rack, walk away, and wait.
I know you know this, but it bears repeating. As the season wears on, retailers are going to put clothing on sale. And then, as the season comes to an end, they are going to put their sale items on additional sale.
When you see sale items go on sale, this is when we take action! Pull out the note on your phone, find that dress you loved, and see what kind of magic ensues.
No need to scrounge the sale racks at the last minute, hoping to find something that will work for that wedding or holiday party or vacation event. You know what you want, you’ve tried it on, the work is done, and now you are set to purchase it for a fraction of the cost without having to leave your home.
Every party dress and party skirt I own, with one or two exceptions, has come into my closet this way. I have purchased sequins, silk, and taffeta dresses that I love and that fit perfectly for pennies on the dollar using this method. When it happens, it feels magical, like I am getting exactly what I want, but for a steal.
An aspect of this approach that I love is the delayed timeline of when I wear a piece. If I am purchasing a holiday party dress, for example, I end up buying it after the holiday season which means I have a new-to-me frock waiting next year to wear to the annual parties we attend.
Obviously this approach does not apply solely to party dresses. It is a great approach for statement coats or blazers, seasonal shoes, and any other item that is timeless but pricey. Shopping sales is fun, but often we end up being reactionary in our choices. This shirt is cute, and it’s on sale, so I should get it! Or should I?
Waiting for an item to go on sale, one you already love and have tried on and have a purpose for, is intentionally choosing to play the long game and will reward you with years of wear.
I like to shake things up and wear one dress several ways over the course of several years. I will dress it down with a jean jacket. Dress it up with a black faux-fur wrap. Turn it into a skirt by wearing a button down shirt over the dress, tied at the waist. There are so many ways to take one dress and turn it into several looks.
Last week my girls and I did some window shopping, and I came across a holiday dress at Anthropologie that I have my eye on for next year. You better believe, at the end of December, when sale is on sale, I will be adding that red dress to my cart, and stashing it away for a future party!