All dressed up and nowhere to go.
May 1, 2010 6:53 AM   Subscribe

I have a few semi-semi formal dresses taking up valuable closet space. What are some interesting ways to get some use out of them?

I tend to buy super fancy dresses that catch my eye and save them for special occasions that haven't really materialized, aside from the occasional wedding. I just moved (to Toronto), so I can't really host a formal dinner party or anything like that. I wouldn't mind volunteering for a gala or something similar, but not sure which ones would be more fun.

What kinds of things can I do that will take advantage of this part of my wardrobe?
posted by avidreader to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You could sign up for ballroom dance classes. Also, you could get season tickets to a symphony or theater and start patronizing the arts regularly.
If there are any dresses that you don't want, there are charities that accept lightly used dresses to give to girls who couldn't otherwise afford to go to prom.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 7:11 AM on May 1, 2010

martinX has all the good ideas, but here's a couple wackier ideas ...

You could go out to eat at a fancy restaurant, by yourself, all dressed up. Who is that mysterious woman???? (Take a book.)

There's no reason you can't throw a formal dinner party -- I host "interesting people parties" where I invite people I don't know very well, who don't know each other, whom I consider interesting and would like to get to know better. When you tell people it's an interesting people party, they're all so flattered to be thought interesting that they come. It's ALWAYS a good party! You only need like 11 other people. Or invite a few and tell THEM to invite THE most interesting person they know ...

Also I make table runners out of old bridesmaid dresses (and give them to the bride as an anniversary present), but it sounds like you want to actually wear yours. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:00 AM on May 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

Depending on the style of the dress and your body shape and so-on, you can treat a fancy dress like a "statement" skirt, by wearing a subdued top, simple shoes, and usually a belt. There are lots of ways to take a fancy dress and make it more casual. Pair brightly colored dresses with neutral tops, and pull out colors from embellishments on neutral dresses. A button down shirt with a thin belt on top of a dress with a full skirt and some coordinating flats, or a draping jersey blouse on top of a floral dress with a pencil skirt and fun shoes, combinations like that can be very comfortable and elegant. You can wear tights or fun socks and just treat your dress like a regular piece of clothing. There's also, of course, the bonus of being able to be opera-ready at the drop of a hat.

Some people, who like clothes a little too much maybe, display their most favorite pieces of clothing on their walls like art. You could install a hook on your wall in your bedroom and rotate the dress you'd like to display. To give the dress some shape, you could make a wire form and attach it to a nice hanger. You could also see if you can get a deal on a dress form, and play dress up with it whenever you wanted to change your decor a bit. I've seen ornamental dress forms, but if you're crafty, you could get a stained/ripped/damaged one from somewhere and upholster it with fabric that coordinates with your walls or carpet or something.

I have to reiterate the idea of donating them though. There are plenty of girls, in all sizes, who would love to have a chance to afford a fancy dress. If you can afford to buy fancy dresses just because they catch your eye, maybe you should take some time to pare down your collection and only keep the ones that fit your lifestyle, and spread a little classiness.
posted by Mizu at 8:00 AM on May 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Nthing the idea of donating. At one of the colleges where I work, there's a sorority that organizes a gently-used formalwear drive every spring, to provide underprivileged high-school kids with prom dresses and accessories. They get a HUGE response, and it is just a wonderful, wonderful thing for girls that can't otherwise afford to go all-out on prom night. I believe there are also similar things in the works for the fall Homecoming season. Any college campus will likely be full of service organizations and just generally cool people who will leap at the chance to make someone's life better - likely a good place to inquire!
posted by deep thought sunstar at 8:12 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think volunteering for a gala is perfect use for these dresses. I don't know which ones would be the most fun, but every charitable organization, hospital, large-scale arts company has annual fundraiser galas. I would say, choose one that speaks to you in terms of values etc. because you might as well up your karma points while looking fabulous!

(General tips: You want to find a volunteer committee that has people close to your age. Arts organizations might be more fun than the cancer research people, though who knows?)
posted by typewriter at 8:17 AM on May 1, 2010

I periodically wear cocktail dresses out, just because I want to. Like you, I have a closet full of evening wear. Most of mine is vintage. I will go to any party that allows me the chance to dress up, even if I am the most overdressed person there. Also you can throw parties. You'd be surprised how many other people you know will get excited about the chance to dress up.
posted by thivaia at 8:50 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

To add to Mizu's suggestion of how to dress down dresses, a fancy cocktail-length dress with a casual jacket (jean, leather, canvas) looks great.
posted by bettafish at 8:50 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I saved a few of my formal gowns for my daughter to play dress up. Now she is 17 and recently she wore one to a formal dance-- amazing how a well-cut, elegant dress can age gracefully.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:43 AM on May 1, 2010

Came in here to also suggest donating them to a charity that distributes them for proms. It's currently prom season, so I'm sure they'd be glad to receive them.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:53 AM on May 1, 2010

Who is that mysterious woman???? (Take a book.) Wear an eyepatch. (FTFY)
posted by sexyrobot at 11:17 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't know if we're talking prom-dress type stuff or not, but sometimes I wear my very nice outfits just to go out. A three piece suit gets some interesting kinds of attention at a rock show, it turns out. Incidentally, I see girls (women? what's the MeFi policy on this now?) who seem to be doing the same thing all the time.
posted by cmoj at 11:25 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

go to the symphony - some of the tickets are pretty reasonably priced
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:49 AM on May 2, 2010

Thanks, people! I'll pare down my collection, donate the ones I don't "need," and try out some of these suggestions.
posted by avidreader at 11:44 AM on May 2, 2010

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