What Not To Wear

Internet, this is an emergency. A fashion emergency, that is. My sister Susie, who lives in Singapore, is searching for a dress for her summer formal---she is 16, so this is the most important! thing! ever!---and I have volunteered to help her find one. (From 30,000 miles away, yes! Isn't that how you do your shopping?) The other day, though, she sent me an email with a few pictures of styles she thought might be cute, and I yelped. YELPED! Because somewhere in what I ASSUMED was our mutual appreciation of flattering and appropriate fashion, something has gone horribly wrong. I'm fairly certain this is not to be a costume party---the Dress Like Mary Kate Olsen Summer Formal! Door prizes for Most Jutting Sternum! Extra points for the most creative use of a Venti Non-fat Soy Latte!---so I think perhaps she must be SERIOUS. But Internet, really! We cannot let her wear something like this:

Seriously, what is this? What's going on here? These dresses do not flatter MISCHA BARTON, for god's sake, and she is seven feet tall and sixty pounds, so I don't know how they would ever look good on a normal person. And what is Mary Kate doing with the TIGHTS on the far left?

Now I can sort of see where she was going here. Susie is something of a fashionista, and her one edict when describing the kind of dress she wanted to find was this: "I don't want to wear, like, a green satin halterneck, like everyone else. " And I can see her point! (Please don't get angry if you happened to wear a green satin halterneck out to dinner last night, because I bet your green satin halterneck is gorgeous and expensive and lovely; the green satin halterneck of which I speak is not ACTUALLY a green satin halterneck, it's just representative of every boring, traditional, OBVIOUS prom dress worn by every single boring, traditional, OBVIOUS girl over the years. The green satin halternecks we're talking about here are worn by people like Puff Daddy Sarah from Tennessee, people who have eight pairs of khakis from the Gap in their closet and think Olive Garden has the best pasta in the world. A boring green satin halterneck is not for the modern and discerning young prom-goer; it does not scream EDGY BUT DEEP SEEKS SAME! PLEASE FALL IN LOVE WITH ME UNDER THE DISCO BALL AFTER WE HAVE DISCUSSED OUR MUTUAL APPRECIATION OF BELLE & SEBASTIAN!)

So we don't want Susie in a green silk halterneck. But we also don't want her in one of the boho-hideous NIGHTSHIRTS above. We need to find her something cute and original and vintage-y looking. So I am issuing a challege! Can you find my sister a dress? Can you point us in the right direction? Since the entire extent of my research so far has been browsing the clearance rack at TJ Maxx---and Susie's has apparently been looking through old issues of Us Weekly and scanning the pages to send them to me---I guess you could say that we're both pretty open to ideas. Send me a picture of a pretty dress, and if it's not too pricey, Susie will cajole my mother into buying it. If it's terribly expensive, we will go with the idea and hit Marshall's. One caveat: you must remember that Singapore has a dearth of thrift shops---are you kidding me? Selling used clothes? In a country that is so proud of its cleanliness that it has MADE CHEWING GUM ILLEGAL?---so it's not like she can scour the racks for boho ideas.

Do you need more inspiration? Susie told me this might happen! And she told me to play the guilt card! So perhaps I should mention that SHE IS THE ONLY GIRL IN HER GRADE NOT TO HAVE A DATE! This is really a sad state of affairs, and certainly something that I don't understand, given that she looks like this:

But perhaps Ashton Kutcher is just WAITING for the right moment to ask. However, he will never ask if she plans on wearing a bizarre Florence-Nightingale-on-acid gown with tights, will he? (For one thing, where would you pin the corsage on a getup like that?) So let's get crazy with the links, embrace our inner Clinton and Stacy, and find Susie a demure, flattering, one-of-a-kind formal dress for less than $100. Or we could just find her a date! Which actually might be easier.

Mar 02, 2006

the boys are afraid because she is so pretty! and i am a fan of the whole what would Audrey wear idea because you can't really get it wrong if they rules are followed. tasetfull, elegant, a bit of sexy in the details plus good accessories. at least that is what my mother told me! and so far it has worked. slave to the trend regrets it in the end... another mantra. if she needs a fashionista fix go with shoes, or jewlery. and i will go look out something when my son is asleep. good luck!

Mar 02, 2006

I have no clue about fashion but even I know that those are the most hideous dresses I have ever seen. What the heck is that? And really, if all of the "stars" are wearing them, isn't that Hollywood's version of the green silk halter thingybob?

How can Susie only be 16? My God, I'm old.

Mar 02, 2006

um.... did susie not see the "FASHION DON'T" over that page of babydoll dresses?? oh my goddess those are HIDEOUS!
i say go for the always appropriate little black dress. :) but maybe that's just my age showing.

Mar 02, 2006

Dear god, we cannot let your sister wear an ugly beige shift with black tights. Go to www.anthropologie.com and check out the "toreador dress" (she would look stunning in red) or "the ivory dress" (true Audrey wear). And one day, all the boys will be going, "What the f--- did I miss?"

Mar 02, 2006

your sister is gorgeous. she could wear a sack and look fantastic.

Mar 02, 2006

Oh my God, if my husband's friends could see Susie they would just fall on their swords and have done with it. What is UP with your family? Could y'all come out and reproduce with some of us to spread around the GORGEOUS GENE?

Dress. I am not the person to ask, because this very day I went and bought a Lucky Jeans sweater bag at Macy's, as big as a chandelier in a zillion colors and fringe that hangs down to my knees. I also own a Partridge Family T-Shirt! Thank you! I say dress her in a burlap bag with her middle finger jutting up just to make the point. Susie, you are gorgeous, and you have yourself one awesome big sister, too.

Mar 02, 2006

I thank everyone in advance for helping me find my dress in the Nationwide (Including Canada) Dress Search - or as I like to call it NICDS. I, however, will excuse you from this most fun acitivity if you happen to be good friends with Jake Gyllenhaal and let him know that I will be standing under the disco ball alone at 8:30 and that I won't be wearing the white t-shirt and black tights combo.

Mar 02, 2006

Oh, if only you were HERE. My mother is a famed seamstress who has made everything from wedding dresses to men's bespoke suits. The woman has a wicked sense of style and design, and fabulous connections at hole-in-the-wall fabric places where the most lovely things are hidden away from the teeming masses.

That, and she can make ANYTHING from a picture. I took a photo of Sophia Loren in this busty fifties girl dress and she reproduced it exactly. And then I said I wanted it a bit toned down, a la Audrey. And she delivered.

She has made dresses for at least 10 bridesmaids and eight brides in my life, and if you add on the formal wear for special occasions, she... well, she can do anything.

Mar 02, 2006

Believe it or not, someone told me their very picky daughter found a prom dress at JC Penney, and they have a "prom shop" online. No idea if that tip will pan out, but any shopping you can do online is a godsend IMO.

krista- the silent k
Mar 02, 2006

Clearly she is way to cool for the people in her class. I'm with the other commenters that she'll look rockin no matter what she wears, but that's not the point I guess. The point is to look as rockin as humanely possible. It's PROM for Christsake.

I think anything Mary Kate or Ashley would wear should likley go in the what not to wear pile, but hey, I'm no fashionista. baggy is not cool though.

Mar 02, 2006

Argh - flashback! When I was 16 I wore a babydoll satin dress of the palest blue with white (!) tights to my high school ball. I also donned frosted lipstick. Susie would do well to learn from my terrible mistakes...


Not a green satin halterneck among this lot, and if you need help with the shipping etc, I'm on hand.

Mar 02, 2006

I'm not sure if either of you watch Gilmore Girls, but Rory wore a beautiful dress on this week's episode. I have yet to find a screen cap for it but I'll keep looking. It had spag. straps, empire waist...really pretty.

Mar 02, 2006

bluefly.com! bluefly.com! bluefly.com!

Maybe a tad bit over $100, but such nice things by real designerish people. Luuuurrrv it.

Mar 02, 2006

Okay, I just checked out anthropologie.com and I heartily second this as the place to shop. The dresses are drop-dead gorgeous. So many choices. They may be a bit pricey, but there are a couple nice ones in the $100 range. (Surely your parents can be persuaded to spend a little more to compensate for the lack of date. Try the sympathy card.)

Other thought is that you could check out vintage shops in Charleston and buy Susie something. This, obviously, has a few drawbacks (namely sizing) but it could work.

Wow. I just realized that the last time I went to a formal dance/prom was 22 years ago. Man, I'm old.

Mar 02, 2006

Lindsey actually looks proud to be wearing that thing. At least the other three have the sense to look embarrassed!

Overstock.com is a good place to check. There are the 2 requisite satin halters and quite a few blah, boring dresses, but there are a few fun ones as well. And they're all cheap!

Ole Blue
Mar 02, 2006

When did wearing patato sacks become fashion?

Ali G
Mar 02, 2006

OMG, DO NOT LET HER WEAR THE NIGHTSHIRTS! does she realize the wardrobe malfunction that is INHERENT in such a design... i mean, even beyond the ugliness she is pretty much GUARANTEED to flash everyone her underwear. and unless she is a very different 16 yr old than i was (like, perhaps she is looking to jumpstart a career on MTV) i would think that could possibly be horribly embarassing.

i like the audrey hepburn idea... something slightly demure, but well-cut and showing off her cute little figure. i'll see if i can scrounge up some examples and email them to you...

Mar 02, 2006

how about this?
and it is on sale for $99! and the colour would look great on her, thinking back to the pictures of your new years.

this one is almost $200 but is also lovely:

good luck with your search.

Mar 02, 2006

OMG just re read the post, SORRY about the green halter neck!!! ignore!

Mar 02, 2006

Oh, my. And it has begun. My work day is now wasted, as I will not be able to focus on anything other than finding a dress for Susie.

I think you should post all the dresses here with a poll, and we should get to vote on them. When is the formal? How long does she have? And can she buy a dress here for you to ship to her?

These are the things your adoring audience want to know.

Mar 02, 2006

Want to know?
Wants to know?

I do not know, and I am ashamed.

Mar 02, 2006

And, what color?

Mar 02, 2006

I don't know her style AT ALL. But here are some cute things:




Still looking... checking eBay for vintage!

Daydreams and Musings
Mar 02, 2006

Your sister is sooooo lucky to have you here to help her! And she is fabulous and gorgeous and it's hard for the Internet to believe that she doesn't have a date. All I can say is that 16 year old boys are dorks.

I am the last person to give fashion advice. I rely on my 8 year old daughter to tell me what to buy. She actually once said "Mom, how many times do I have to tell you that you cannot wear that color." And also "Mom, those are not work shoes. Those are going out to dinner shoes."

For what it's worth, I loooove the Anthropologie dresses - I wish I could wear stuff that cool.

Mar 02, 2006

Ooh yaye dresses - haven't worn one in, gulp, has it been years. That's what I get for being pregnant 2 out of the last 3 years. If I could wear something dressy, preferably with a waste I would choose something tea-length and strapless with an embellishment at the waste. The anthropologie site had a pretty good one in the strapless category - the red version is drop-dead and the black verison is quite subtle. Pair it with some height-scaring heels or cute embellished flats if the walking is a problem. Also add a shrug for some Audryesqueness.

Mar 02, 2006

I'm not exactly what you would describe as edgy, but here are my suggestions (for what they're worth):


Now, I know it's a halter, but I think the hemline makes it a little more interesting. And the color's pretty. And LOOK HOW CHEAP!! $47.99!



(A little pricier and not quite as edgy, but SO pretty and classic. And the shoes that the model is wearing with it? Rock my world.)

Mar 02, 2006

I have found so. many. delicious. vaguely boho-trendy but still adequately authentic so as to not piss off this independantly paisley-loving trend-whore-hating ahead of the curve fashionista herself. AND they would look LOVELY with your sister's BEAUTIFUL BONE STRUCTURE.


Mar 02, 2006

I am an anthropologie whore. I wish I could afford to shop there but I simply cannot justify 200$ for a skirt. The thrift shops around here are all renamed "vintage boutiques" and you can't get a receipt from one for less than 750$.

Nothing But Bonfires
Mar 02, 2006

Oh, this is so much fun; I feel like I'm in Steel Magnolias, the way we're all rallying around and helping to find a dress! We're a COMMITEE! I love commitees. All your suggestions so far are marvelous -- thank you all so much.

And Jes, I think the formal is in May or June, so we have a little while. But my dad is coming to Charleston in two weeks, so if I had something by then, I could give it to him to take back to Susie, thus saving on shipping to Singapore! Don't think color matters -- although if it's an unusual color, we then have to repeat the whole search effort with SHOES....

Mar 02, 2006

I am afraid that my research has not taken me far. i very much agree with anthropologie but unfortunately there is a law which states NEVER BUY A DRESS ONLINE IF YOU CANNOT SEND IT BACK. seeing as you live in Sinagpore by the time it gets there and back your one month time period will be over for returning. Luckily you have a couple of months and i promise that i am coming with a head full of ideas! i think that NICDS is well on it's way!

Mar 02, 2006

So many cute dresses! I want to go shopping! Especially at www.edressme.com! Except, the cute ones I have found are $300+.

Maybe Susie should find a dress she likes, take TONS of pictures, and then buy material and have one sewn for her.

Thespian Libby
Mar 02, 2006

What the hell is up with Lindsay Lohan's shoes???

Unfortunately, Susie is gorgeous, smart, and wicked funny. 16 year old guys cannot handle that combination. (Now that I think of it, most guys cannot handle that combination at any age.)

Mar 03, 2006

I love Anthropologie (although I'm always a little thrown by any store that does dresses AND housewares, but that's just me), although Nina has a good point about the returns dilemma. Susie, are you at all a Banana Republic girl? They always seem to have fabulous dresses that I would buy in a heartbeat except that I never go anywhere requiring, well, a dress. So there.

I believe that the return for asking us all to shop for you (and perhaps for ourselves as well, which we shall blame you for of course as you live in Singapore and are so very cute) you must agree to let Holly post pictures of you on the Big Night.

And Thespian Libby, the real question is simply what the hell is up with Lindsay Lohan? Her shoes are just the tip of the iceberg . . .

Mar 03, 2006

Oh my god! What about this?


Yes, it's green, but it's not a halter! And it's so pretty.

Dammit. I may have to go try it on. I'll let you know how it looks. (PS, what's with Banana Republic now carrying size DOUBLE ZERO? Really, who WEARS a 00? Sheesh.)

Mar 03, 2006

Okay, can I ask why you got sent to boarding school at the age of 11 and Susie--at the advanced age of 16-is still living at home?

Mar 03, 2006

Gabrielle Solis from Desperate Housewives wears a 00, that is whom.

She also flew into a rage when someone suggested, when she was four months pregnant, that she go up to a size 0 when her dress wouldn't zipped. She claimed he was calling her "fat."

That is why I hate Desperate Housewives.

Mar 03, 2006

P.S. to Holly (again, God I seem to comment here an awful lot), I think Heather over at Dooce might be blogstalking you. Her new masthead this month is looking awfully Bonfires-ish. :)

Mar 03, 2006

ok here is another, with the right accessories it has good potential. http://www.edressme.com/cynthiarowley3.html
possibly it is not formal enough but if you are going stag, looking a little (just a wee bit) sexy wouldn't hurt, right?
will keep looking! o and also is on sale for $100!

Mar 03, 2006

A-hem.... would like to CONFIRM that you (actually, more like Jason) are indeed being admired (not stalked) by Heather. Check out her latest entry: Kitty. A Note to Jason: You are going to get MAD HITS for those brushes - and as soon as I can figure out how to use them (directions, thanks) I'm totally going to do so! Yeah for Jason's new career! May the Dooce-link give him a big kick-start!

Mar 03, 2006

Okay, so I didn't find anything under a hundred. Because online shopping for pretty dresses always seems to lead to very expensive pretty dresses. Anyway, I found two overpriced pretty dresses, but maybe if she liked them you could find something similar at a non ridiculous price. Basically what I'm saying is, I am not helpful at all, but look, dresses! ;) Oh, and also, your sister is gorgeous, those boys are clearly morons.

here's one...

and another...

Oh, and someone mentioned Rory's dress from Gilmore Girls this week. I think it was a bit like this one.

Nothing But Bonfires
Mar 03, 2006

Meepers, I don't know who Jason Gaylor is. But he's not Sean!

Mar 03, 2006

okay, i was going to suggest holt renfrew, which is a classy shop in canada that i have never been able to afford, because they have beautiful clothing made with beautiful fabric, etc., etc. and let's face it, susie wants to look and feel like the goddess she is. AND on their website, it says they have pictures of '20's - '50's VINTAGE PROM DRESSES. i'm not talking about the reese witherspoon type vintage. i think susie would look amazing in something from the 40's - not the a-line frumpery, but something sleek and with the slightly marcelled hair...(damn. i think i should re-have my prom).
and, although i agree that susie would look insanely gorgeous in whatever, i have to put in my vote for a colour other than a)the normal prom colours and b) red. because red is ALWAYS the back-up colour for people to wear if they want to be the "mysterious woman in red by the punchbowl".
i am not internet savvy enough to pull up a picture of said vintage dresses, but wi will leave the holt renfrew website, just in case, http://www.holtrenfrew.com/english
good luck!

Mar 03, 2006

bee: love that you're suggesting Holt's. Excellent choice.

Susie: the reason you don't have a date is the boys in your class are BOYS. And they're scared shitless of you. (okay, that's what my mom told me ... and I believed her.)

And you could TOTALLY DO the shift, just make sure
a) that it has long sleeves (like Lindsay's - otherwise it looks like ... well, like the other three)
b) that you have really REALLY cute under-things on (as mentioned above, there's absolutely no way you'll get through the night without flashing someone)
c) that you wear opaque silky nylony-things (NOT TIGHTS. For the love of all things good & right NOT TIGHTS)
d) that you wear light-coloured shoes (contrast is NOT what we're going for here. What we're going for is, 'my god, her legs DO NOT STOP')
e) that the shift is the tiniest bit fitted (note the Olsens wearing volumes of fabric? BAD. That's what gives it that SACK feeling. )
f) that it has a neckline (like Lohan's), not something that looks like an after-thought hole.

RockStar Mommy
Mar 03, 2006

Has anyone recommended Nordstrom dresses? They're always a favorite of mine.

Just, uhhhh, ignore the fact that the front page has a green satin halter.

I've been lookin at this one.
and this one...
and this one...
for an upcoming wedding I have to attend, all much more flattering than the above sequined garbage bags.

But whatever you do, do not steer her in the direction of Urban Outfitters. It should really be renamed Olsen Outfitters.

RockStar Mommy
Mar 03, 2006

Okay, first: sorry for my ignorantly large links.
Second: didn't notice the under $100 part, sorry!

Mar 03, 2006

and I forgot to note that those long wispy thing at the front, I would twist them to tye around back. oops.

Mar 03, 2006

I'm mainly including this because I'm *really* excited by the zoom image feature... but the draw cord dress in cream is lovely, and not, as my mother described the shift dresses above, "hospitalwear".

Btw - my Mum also suggested that Luke be Susie's date (!)

Mar 03, 2006

Oh yeah, the link.

Mar 03, 2006

Well I've been cruising the Internet for the past hour trying to find some top recommendations. I went to Warehouse, Oasis and Monsoon (of course)...but yah...I dunno if I would recognise trendy if it came up and bit me. Seems like the fashions are to wear black/cream/grey...

Ok I have to admit I am way out of my depth. But I rest confident, Susie, that whatever you wear you'll look stunning.

Mar 03, 2006

Ok, Susie, you are adorable. Those boys are a bunch of boobs who will confess in a couple years that they were totally intimidated by your intoxicating mix of beauty and brains and beg for your number, but you will scoff. Politely scoff, because you're a lady, but scoff nonetheless.

So you must look fabulouso, clearly. Check out www.bluefly.com They have a huge variety of designer dresses that are not your average sweet dream barbie nonsense. And some are under $100, comme ca.

Also, www.yoox.com has some really unusual designer duds for cheap(er). I like www.girlshop.com too, which shows the collections of small boutique shops (mostly NYC). www.maxstudio.com dresses are fun too. There's always ebay for vintage...

AND if you can't find anything and it's a total fashion emergency, wear basic black but have kick-ass shoes and fun jewelry and you'll be set. Have fun chickie!

Mar 03, 2006

Hi, I think this is a great dress- http://www.anthropologie.com/jump.jsp?itemID=8270&itemType=PRODUCT&iSubC... It's on sale right now for $84.95, marked down from $228! I love a deal, it's totally vintage looking and it's hot! Plus it's unique and elegant at the same time!

Mar 04, 2006

Oh my gosh! It's so exciting! So many links to see and so many dresses to choose from!! I'm sending you all telepathical thank you notes!! I've seen sooo many I like, I'm wondering if anyone will think it's odd if I change a couple times during the course of the night!! And Anthropologie has the most beautiful dresses! As does Nordstrom!!

Blakeburn - Even my own brother won't take me! How sad is that!

Jake Gyllenhaal - I understand you may not want Kirsten Dunst knowing about us, so if it's a yes to the Formal, just leave a message under the name JG, and I'll see you June 2nd at the Conrad Hotel.