A reader asks:
“I have travel and I have a few dressy work functions, both unusual events for me. I am excited about these and want to buy special things to wear, but then I wonder whether these purchases will end up just sitting unused in my closet because they are too specialized apart from my daily wear. How do I enjoy my special events without ending up donating my barely used things to charity 2-3 years from now?”
There are a few different ways to approach incorporating special event wear into your wardrobe. Choose the option that resonates most with you (and works best with your budget and lifestyle).
How to incorporate formal wear into your wardrobe
Long term. This is probably the most traditional approach. Buy one really amazing investment piece, whether that’s a formal gown or the ubiquitous LBD, and keep it for as long as possible.
By design, such garments will sit unused in your closet for long periods of time, but that’s OK; they’ll be waiting for you when you need them. If you attend one such event a year for several years, your investment will have paid off.
Short term. With this approach, you are less concerned with how long you will own your special purchase or how many times you will wear it. Instead, you’re planning for the immediate set of events you know you need the clothing for. When those are over, you can decide whether you’ll need your purchase any time soon.
If you don’t? Take a page from Marie Kondo, thank your garments for their service to you at these special events in your life, and let them go: to a friend or to a consignment store or to charity. (Many cities have prom dress drives that accept gently used formal wear; this is also a good option if you have a bridesmaid dress hanging in the back of your closet.)
Temporary. Forget about buying anything—rent! You’ll spend less overall, and you’ll have access to labels far above your budget ceiling (for most of us, anyway). Rent the Runway is the most well-known, but other options include Lending Luxury in the U.S. and Girl Meets Dress and Dream Wardrobe in the U.K. Or do a search on “women’s formal wear rental” or “women’s formal wear hire.”
And then there’s a slightly unusual hybrid approach: buy just one really great dress for multiple events in a short time span. Sound impossible? This writer was a wedding guest at 10 weddings in one year, in one dress. The secret, of course, is accessories.
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