I sing in a choral group. In order to perform with this group, I need appropriate concert attire. I’ve been singing with this group for twenty years and I’ve been wearing the same gown for most of those years. I love that gown, but I realized this past week that it was time to admit that I am not the same size I was twenty years ago. I had a concert on Sunday, so I pushed myself out the door Saturday morning to go in search of new attire. I know what you’re thinking, but honestly, no, I couldn’t make myself start this search any earlier than the day before the concert.
I knew the guidelines. It had to be black. It had to be floor-length. It had to have sleeves. It couldn’t have any other colors on it, or rhinestones or sequins. It needed to be tasteful and not distracting – in other words, no plunging necklines, no cut-outs, and no thigh-high slits in the back or sides. It could be a skirt and top, or it could even be palazzo pants and a top, as long as they were formal.
I knew I wasn’t going to find tasteful formal attire in any store that wasn’t at least pretending to be upscale, so I started, of course, at Burlington Coat Factory. You didn’t think I was going to pay retail, did you? Burlington did have a few formals but the only black ones were covered in huge fake gems or sparkly silver trim. No luck there, so I moved on to T. J. Maxx.
T. J. Maxx had come through for me when I needed clothes for jury duty, so I had high hopes when I went in there. They did have formals. They even had black formals. I found one pretty dress and another jumpsuit that I hoped might qualify as palazzo pants, and I took them to the fitting room. I tried the dress first. It was smaller than my normal size, but it looked big, so I hoped for some vanity sizing and I was not disappointed. I put it on and, oh, my goodness – it fit! I looked in the mirror.
I couldn’t believe what I saw. I looked stylish. I looked elegant. I looked beautiful. The dress could have been made for me. I loved that dress, until I turned around. Oh, dear! The dress emphasized a part of my figure that I definitely wanted to camouflage. I was whining about this to my daughter later and she said it was not a mistake; it was a trend. Um…no. At my age, I do not want to look “bootylicious.”
I put the dress back on its hanger and tried the jumpsuit. It fit, but it did not look like palazzo pants. It just looked like pants. I’ve seen other ladies in the group bend this rule a bit, but I just couldn’t do it. I was the original chairperson of the attire committee; I had to set a good example.
For the record, I did not volunteer to be the chairperson. I was drafted. I did volunteer to be on the committee, but that was just to make sure nobody tried to put us all into puffed sleeves and sweetheart necklines. I’d seen it happen in my daughter’s high school chorus and, believe me, not even the few girls with perfect figures looked good in those dresses. God help the big-boned or flat-chested.
But I digress. I was shopping for a new gown and I was not finding it at Burlington or T. J. Maxx. I was forced to go to the mall. My nearest mall has four big anchor stores. Surely one of them would have something that would work. I parked at Sears and went inside. They had formals but they were aimed at teenagers and covered in bling. I headed for Dillards. No luck there, either. Belk had more formal attire than any other store in the mall, but none of it was simple and elegant and black.
That left J. C. Penney, which happened to be having a huge clearance sale. I was desperate at this point, so when I found a straight, black skirt that would go with the top I had bought for jury duty, I figured I would find a way to make it work. I ended up having to replace a big brown button on the top (oops! I forgot about that) but I did make it work.
I know. I looked like a short, red-haired Bea Arthur…but I could breathe!