+ Look for Less

10th Commandment: January 4

One of the strangest/most fun memories of my time in D.C. is going to the 2008 Inaugural Ball with my old Boss and some of my co-workers. We wound up at a Rihanna concert hosted–just us, our Boss and T.I. in the VIP area.  Very surreal–a real it could only happen in D.C. moment.

I’m not headed to the Inaugural festivities this year, but if you are here are a couple of tips for buying an evening gown:

1. Unless you find a gown you REALLY love in black, don’t buy black. Dare to stand out.

2. Choose the shape first.  If it fits you perfectly and flatters your figure–unless it’s the color of baby vomit–nothing else matters, and you’ll look lovely.

3. If you have less than $200 to spend, you should consider a) finding a designer gown on sale, b) heading to a consignment shop looking for a deal or c) renting one before you buy.  You don’t want to waste hard earned money on something that will spend most of its life in the back of your closet unless you truly love it.

4. If I can see more than 3/4 of an inch of heel, your dress is too short.  Every Inaugural, I see women in dresses up to their ankles, it’s not a good look. 

Now, since I have chiffon on the brain, let’s exorcise the tulle and look at some gowns.

Elected Official

Matthew Williamson Coral One Shoulder Gown ($2,250)

Hill Staffer

Notte by Marchesa Ribbon Gown ($445)

This dress is sold out in every size but 14. If you like the color, this dress is very similar in shade.  And if it’s the shape you’re after, this one is very close in a dark grey-blue.

Paid Intern

Origami Pleated Dress ($138)

Plus size?  This ash violet dress is lovely.  Tadashi Shoji gowns run in the $500, but they are fantastic.  I like this one a lot.  And if sequins are your thing, this dress has a chic modern shape.

Want to rent?  This structural, modern Halston would be at the top of my list.  This wine-colored one shoulder is $75.  If relaxed, easy glamour is your thing, try this printed dress.  And if you need drama in the back, this dress is the ticket.



  1. KateW says:

    Belle, would love to see a post about the shoes/coats/wraps you would pair with these dresses! Great picks!

    January 4, 2013/Reply
  2. Consignment says:

    There is a small consignment boutique that will sell or rent dresses perfect for this type of event. They can also sell your gown for you when you are done wearing it. I have used them a lot for special occasion dresses that I really only want to wear once.

    They have lots of pictures of gowns on their facebook page, here:https://www.facebook.com/redressboutiquearkansas. They also ship nationwide!

    January 4, 2013/Reply
  3. Heatherskib says:

    even if it is baby puke green- if everything else is right, get it dyed!!!

    January 4, 2013/Reply
  4. Amelia says:

    but what if my fave colour is baby puke???
    jk – that is such excellent advice, Belle. dress the body you have and all the rest will fall into place.

    January 4, 2013/Reply
  5. B says:

    Oh, Belle. You really shouldn't have. 14 is my size in designer gowns. My credit card is cowering in fear.

    January 4, 2013/Reply
  6. balletgirl1980 says:

    I must have been living under a rock here in Southwest DC. I had no idea I could rent dresses. My very tiny closet thanks you! I just rented from Rent the Runway. Perfect for my upcoming corporate dinner.

    January 8, 2013/Reply
  7. Jill Decremer says:

    Any tips for anything else about the balls? One gal told me to bring the folding flats as I'll be in the security line for at least an hour. Wraps or outerwear advice would be great, too!

    January 10, 2013/Reply