Frock You, Frock Me: An Adventure in Party-Dress Shopping by Aubrey O’Neil Sabala

It’s amazing I used to be a fashion writer. I mean, how many fashion writers do you know that hate to shop? And I’m not talking about "hate to shop because I can’t spend any money and it’s torture" (like I used to say), I just HATE. TO. SHOP. I love to have, and love to wear, and love to flaunt and flirt and twirl and twitter in my attire, but the shopping? The procurement of fashionable items? Odious.

It is for that very reason why, when forced into shopping by a friend or a Mom or by DayDrinking™, I will buy something that looks good even if I don’t have a specific occasion for it…yet. That’s why I own twenty+ cocktail and formal and ball gown-y type dresses. And that’s where our story begins today.

In college, my roommates made fun of my two addictions: Duvet Covers and Cocktail Dresses. I had an entire closet full of them; after all, we DID have cocktail parties to go to (and you certainly couldn’t wear the same dress twice if you wanted to hold your Southern head high at the next sorority Chapter meeting; I mean, the PARTY PICS WERE UP ON THE WALL! That’s worse than wearing white after Labor Day. Geesh.) So, through the years I’ve accumulated quite a collection of fancy shmance dresses so I became known as a great last minute date because a) even though I probably wouldn’t make out with you – beggars can’t be choosers after all – I also won’t make out with your roommate/best friend/Frat President (unless he was a Lacrosse player. Achilles heel, sorry) and b) I already had something to wear, and got ready VERY quickly. As such, I gallivanted my college career from one cocktail party to the next, and exited replete with quite a beautiful collection of fancy frocks.

These dresses have made their way from Chapel Hill to Charlottesville back to Chapel Hill to DC to Atlanta (times five) and now to San Francisco. Along the way, a few were given away to friends or our friends who eat out of trash cans (I mean, I really REALLY think I’m doing the homeless a favor by clothing them in Nicole Miller now and again…even if you don’t have a house, you can STILL look fabulous!) but for the most part, the collection has remained intact, growing only occasionally when Bloomies is having a sale or I end up having to go to a formal awards dinner in Australia and only brought casual clothes. So, it goes without saying (even though I’m saying it) that I don’t often have to look for formal dresses. This SHOULD be the point when I say "The End, Love Aubrey" but in this story, unfortunately, it’s not.

It’s not because I have NOTHING to wear to my corporate Holiday Party tomorrow. Yes, usually I do speak in hyperbole but in this case, it’s pretty much the truth. Yes, there are dresses, but even review by discriminating friends have concurred and it’s with furvor that I say: I have nothing (appropriate or well-fitting) to wear to the holiday party. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Damnit.

So, being the forward-thinking proactive like Type-A girl that we all know and love (or at least lust after from the Blogosphere), I suspected that this might be the case due to weight loss and the fact that I hadn’t bought anything new in a few years in the fancy shmance category, leaving everything just a wee bit towards the "out of style" range. (And yes, Mom, I COULD wear that "classic black dress" but really, BO-RING. I’ll wear that with clients. Or with people I don’t want to see my cleavage. Because all 8000 of you Googlers, come on & check out the girls! You KNOW you want to.)

Anyway. No Dress.

I tried everything on, and everything looked stupid on me. Or way too big. Or outdated. Or just boring. Or all of them wrapped into one fell swoop o’ crappy attiredness. (In most cases, the latter.) So I reached out to friends. Daisy has dresses! Ali has dresses! Jess has dresses! And Aubrey has a body that NEEDS dresses! Perfect match, right?

Wrong.

Damnit redoux.

Nothing fit correctly. Or was the same case as my stupid frocks…too short…too big…too tight…can see my nipple through the lace top (true story). Whatever the case, I remained dressless as of yesterday morning. That only leaves me with one option: express shipping.

Off to BananaRepublic.com I went…and alas, there was a dress I tried on but didn’t buy because the red was NOT a pretty red…but online they offered it in a different color. In CRANBERRY! I LOOK PRETTY IN CRANBERRY! Click, click, size 6, over-taxed AmEx, and voila! It will arrive within two business days. Friday. I will sit at home and wait on my signature-required dress on Friday while Working From Home. (Ok, time for "The End, Love Aubrey" yet? Sadly, no.)

Today, in looking for my shipment notification (and hitting refresh a thousand times on my crappy new Yahoo mail folder – aka, where I send all my spam) I realized it hadn’t GOTTEN a shipment notification. And so I called, and said "This will arrive tomorrow, right?" to which the surly, under-paid phone monkey glibly told me that in VERY small print after clicking ANOTHER link or two it says, very unclearly, that you have to order by noon EASTERN time for it to be guaranteed two-day shipping. And since I ordered this at 9:36am PACIFIC time, I was thirty-six minutes late. Meaning no dress. I promptly tried the friendly, begging approach – nothing. Then moved on to the loyal customer cajoling approach – nada. This, of course, sent me into the harried, frantic, crazed beatch that comes out when phone-monkeys get their kicks from RUINING MY LIFE as I screamed and told him his website design was CRAP and MISLEADING and I BUILD WEBSITES FOR A LIVING GODDAMN IT! There is no penalty for embellishing when one is in this state; for all he knew I was a master fucking designer, yo. I bet I made his wall of fame of irate customers, and I hope to GOD they WERE recording it for training purposes. Asshats.

So here I am, 9:30am this morning, no dress. The party is tomorrow. I’ve shopped the mall (forgot to mention that…I DID GO SHOPPING! I also tried on every friekin’ dress in a size six in this entire stupid city at every boutique and fancy store and crappy H&M minus Forever 21 that I really just didn’t get around going to. Sorry, Forever 21. I bet you have my dress and it’s beautiful and I’m a jerk for not coming in but I just can’t handle it. Love ya, mean it.) So back to me. 9:30. No dress. I’m now enlisting the help of others smarter, wiser, and in the know; meaning, I’m begging Daisy to steal something from the Bebe catalog rack that will fit me, only to find out that they’re all size Smalls and alas, I am a Medium. Damn  you, boobs. (A phrase I never thought I’d hear myself say, or write. I’m even a little appalled at myself right now, as I’m sure are you.)

So we online shopped, and Daisy sent me to Nordstrom.com. I told her I had BEEN there, I had even been to the off-limits  COUTURE section, and nothing was good. In fact, things were matronly or ugly and even our BFF Marc Jacobs let me down. He is SOOOO off my Christmas card list this year, bastard. But alas, I started playing around, and there it was. The perfect dress. Delicate, yet current. Tailored, yet low-cut (heh.) Basically, the culmination of naughty and nice and – well, say it with me – quite fitting. Pun intended, obvi. So – after the Banana Republic incident – I called Nordstrom STAT. They told me I had 23 minutes to order it for it to come tomorrow. Rapid click, rapid click, size 8 (just in case – I’ve got good bras if needed), sorry AmEx I love you, click, DONE. It’s supposed to arrive sometime tomorrow – it had better arrive by 4 when the bangtrim/blowout is occurring or else I’m hiring a housesitter – and voila! We have a winner.

We also have nearly an empty bottle of xanax, an overtaxed AmEx, and a very weary me, but at least I won’t be wearing a toga. And now, without further ado, it’s time for….

…The End, Love Aubrey.

2 thoughts on “Frock You, Frock Me: An Adventure in Party-Dress Shopping by Aubrey O’Neil Sabala

  1. The nipple slip actually happened not once, but TWICE. (I would know; she was trying on dresses at my house and I got to see the nipple – BOTH TIMES!) It’s not that I only own slutty dresses, however… It’s that she had both dresses on backwards. Of course, only one was backwards on purpose. (We thought the plunging back might make a sexy plunging front. And oh boy DID IT!)

  2. I can totally relate.
    I found myself in this personal hell this week too with no less that 4 fancy dress up thinggys to attend.
    Clearly designers are targeting the itty bitty titty committee

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