The Intimidation of Sparkles and Baubles

So, years ago, not long after we were married, when Thad and I were both teaching full time, I used to tell him I wished he had a job that meant I got to get dressed up and go to fancy parties. I love the idea of flow-y dresses, sparkly baubles and fabulous heels.  Yes, Disney and its fairy tales wheedled their collective way into my brain. Who wouldn’t want to trade chores for a glass slipper and a ride in a sparkling carriage? Who wouldn’t love a life of mirrors that told you just how fabulous you looked in the latest ball gown? I was pre-“Dinsey princess” times, where the rags to riches stories are  mass marketed in every shade of pink and purple imaginable, but I did have stacks of books featuring a variety of fairy tale princesses getting happily-ever-after endings in full formal attire.

The teaching world doesn’t provide a lot of those regal-esque opportunities. The closest I got as a middle school teacher was buying a new dress each year for the 8th Grade Recognition Night (i.e.: 8th grade graduation, but don’t even get me started on that topic!) that I planned, prepared and pulled off each year. Those dresses definitely didn’t fall into the “formal” category, being much closer to the “spring casual” one, but they were still a lot of fun. (The 8th grade girls also loved to buy new dresses for the occasion, which really was a pretty big deal for them and their families. One year I wore the same dress, luckily in a different pattern, as one of my students. I was secretly glad to know that I still had the “cool” factor, while she was probably secretly horrified to be dressed the same as her teacher!)

Years have passed. I have a collection of random dresses from each of those Recognition Nights, as well as a couple qipaos (traditional Chinese dresses) and a slew of casual summer dresses, as well as a bridesmaid dress or two. These were doing the trick…until Thad got his new job. Now, as a Foreign Service Officer, he will be expected to attend evening socializing events, as well as more formal ones such as the annual Marine Ball. I definitely don’t have anything in my closet for those!

Now that he has the job that means I need a fancy dress or two, I find myself at a loss! It sounds like I will need a formal and a cocktail dress or two. The problem is, now that I am in that position I used to envy, I don’t really know what to do with it. What exactly qualifies as a cocktail dress? Ack! I go to stores and look at dresses, get overwhelmed and leave without making any headway. This pattern has played out several times over the last few weeks, with the only real progress being the appointment I made for a few weeks from now to go look at a dress that I found online. It falls into the “formal” category, meaning the “cocktail” one is still a complete blur. Where to start?!? (My normal store choices of New York and Co., Target and Old Navy have not been a lot of help. Although, I have found some tank tops and shorts that I will need to add to my dresser before heading to Chengdu!  This is part of the problem- I am easily distracted by easier to wear items and those with price tags that are easier on my wallet. )

I find it odd (and it comes up often as I complain and he reminds me that I am just getting what I wished for) that I used to give Thad a hard time about not having a fancy-pants job, but now that he has a career with the occasional fancy outing (again, none of those in the world of education), I am tempted to shrink back into the land of jeans! I still love the idea of the dressy outing, but shopping for such apparel is a bit intimidating. Once my consular training course is over in just a couple more weeks, dress shopping is just one more thing on my growing list of things to accomplish before our quickly approaching mid-April leave date. Flow-y dresses, sparkly baubles and fabulous heels, I’m comin’ for you!

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