S-MOB (Step Mother Of The Bride) Dress-Shopping: If At First You Don't Suceed...
Ever heard of an S-MOB? It stands for Stepmother Of the Bride. Since my stepdaughter Juliette is getting married next month in NYC, that's my new designation.
I'm of mixed mind about the whole thing. YAY for nuptials and of course, visiting my much-missed pals up in Gotham. But boo to shopping for a one-use dress. Typing this with the Dreamgirls earbug “One Night Only” - the Jennifer Hudson version, though I did see the original on Broadway and bought the ticket-embossed keychain. (And used it for nearly 40 years until losing it during my three-part NYC-NC-FL move.)
In my pre-marriage life, parties and cocktail events were de rigueur. Here on Isles of Capri…not so much. While Naples’ hoi polloi seemingly dress up nightly for soirées and fancy celebrations at The Ritz-Carlton, thankfully that's no longer part of my life. As someone who toiled in PR for many years, a typical day during New York City’s high-society season often extended to night as a worker bee, checking-in gala guests, battling crashers and making sure the event’s run-of-show ran accordingly. Professionally, I was “out for a living.” Now I'm loving spending quiet time at home.
My NYC-Naples new bestie Lyn had judicious step-motherly advice for me: stand back, shut up and wear beige. As Juliette is dictating e v e r y guest's attire, I’ve been ordered to wear floor-length grey or silver.
While the girl doesn’t know fashion per se, it is her wedding and I wanted to comply.
So I shut up.
Willy-nilly with a month or so to go, it was time to shop. Having worked at Sandpiper and also combed the racks at other boutiques with an eye for clients in Naples and Marco Island, I knew, firsthand, that my options would be limited unless I wanted either Lilly (not NYC-suitable, especially in February) or had beaucoup buckaroos ($1000+) for spending at the chic Marissa Collections. (Note: you can check out Marissa Collections' gorgeous wares via the February issue of Town + Country magazine, which also features a story by FBP Content Director Dana about her "journey" to quell anxiety by swapping-in essential oils for Xanax.)
If you live within a 30-mile radius of Naples, visit Marissa Collections in person for knowledgeable and stylish staff. However, the prices are too high for this blogger’s pocket. Florida femmes in Palm Beach, Jupiter, Sarasota, Miami and Key Largo might make their own Marissa-like stores the first stop for MOB (or S-MOB) inspiration.
Despite the fact that I can't shop where I want to, I still have plenty of "work-arounds" for nabbing a dress I'm actually smitten with. Without further ado, let me share that with you.
Dear FBPers, my advice:
Gather ideas online and consider renting. Two rental sites to try: Amarium, as suggested by pal Amanda Ross (former fashion director for Departures magazine) whose fabulous roster of maje fashion editors as stylists can help ($300 and up), or Rent the Runway ($80 and up).
Upon spotting a look you like on a rental site, as I did with the St. John gown below, Google local department and specialty stores that carry it so you can try it on. If that’s a no-go in your neck of the woods, order the dress from the department or specialty store, try it at home, then rent if you love it. I hit Waterside’s St. John shop where my dream gown was on-sale for 50% off at $600; the rental price was $300. After trying it on, I knew it wouldn’t work because the cowl-back would reveal my big bra band, a necessity when you’re a 32G.
When hitting the stores, bring a fashionable friend for an objective opinion. I called Lauren, whom I’ve known for 20 years, and the reason we ended up moving to Naples. She recently served as ex-stepmother-of-the-bride and had this project down, scoring a TDF on-sale Oscar de la Renta lavender lace dress, perfect for the Inn at Perry Cabin afternoon nuptials (i.e., the setting for Wedding Crashers.) Lauren epitomizes high style and I always trust her advice.
Pack shoes and lingerie you plan on wearing underneath for the try-ons. I already had numerous fancy Manolos scored years ago at Barneys' annual Warehouse Sale. You may already have a pair that fits the occasion. Why spend more than necessary?
Consider separates. This is an idea gleaned from legendary fashion editor Diane Smith, who I had on speed-dial for approval. With Lauren's help, I purchased a light grey cashmere short sleeve T with silver sequins ($264) from our local Saks Fifth Avenue, with the hope of finding a silver or grey silk skirt to make it look like a dress. Since I didn't have any luck finding a skirt that didn't look like a Home Ec project, I sadly returned the cashmere short sleeve T.
Have a Plan B and C in your back pocket. Mine was to hit Coastland Mall where Macy’s and Dillard’s feature numerous MOB + S-MOB looks at all price points. After trying on five frocks (some reminiscent of the blinged-out skating outfits from NBC’s recent pre-Olympic trial coverage) sans Lauren, who was heading to Naples' best facial pro, I had a favorite and returned four days later with hubby for his thoughts. As much as I liked it, I didn't end up going with that one. Lauren ultimately picked the winner and Diane confirmed it.
Don't go it alone. If you’re hitting department stores, bring someone to help. During my first try-ons, nary a sales associate was in sight when I needed help with additional sizes.
AND THE WINNER IS...
The Tahari ASL look ($200) in the photo up top, which I nabbed from Dillard’s. While I wore my something-borrowed Elie Tahari for my wedding, his former biz partner was the label name this go-round. Foremost, it fit while sitting and standing and major points for not having to hem it. (I'll save that task for after the wedding, when I'll transform it into cocktail length.) My bra doesn’t show either and Spanx are not required. Plus, it weighs only 8 ounces for my carry-on.
Woohoo to that!
Here's a better look at it:
And here's my "runner up." Chic, yes?