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ways to wear: cheap dresses

In Portland, March ushers in the auction season.  Auctions happen in the evening like lots of other parties, but they bring a set of challenges that don’t come along with other types of parties.  First, an auction is essentially a quasi-work event.  I usually end up chatting with work contacts and potential referral sources.  For me, this means that strapless, backless, micro-mini, and plunging v-neck are all out.  Second, I need something that I can sit in comfortably for a couple hours, that will also allow me the freedom of movement to wrestle my husband’s arm down to the ground when he has a couple scotches and tries to bid on something like a rafting trip for two.  Third, whatever I wear has to be cheap.  Cheap cheap cheap.  I don’t believe in spending wads of cash on an outfit I am likely to wear twice.

This year I need outfits for four auctions, and Tom has me on a budget that indicates that he expects me to make my own clothing from kitchen towels.  So I turned to ASOS.  I’ve written about ASOS before.  It’s a UK company that recently launched a US site.  The clothes are not super cheap, but the thing is, everything on the website goes on sale eventually.  The site sells clothes from other designers, but do what I do, and narrow your search to the house label.

For parties and weddings, you can do no better than ASOS.  Their clothes are well constructed and do not look cheap.  I mean it.  I wear a lot of Forever 21 but I don’t like people to stand too close to me when I do, because the stuff doesn’t exactly scream quality from close range.  Quality-wise, I’d say ASOS is on par with BCBG, and it’s a lot cheaper.  Let me digress for a moment to express how much I hate BCBG clothing.  No matter what the item is, there is always some extraneous design detail that makes absolutely no sense, and nothing ever fits right.  There is a reason they don’t let you return stuff at BCBG.  They don’t want that sh*t back.

Other important details about ASOS: free shipping, both ways.  No minimum purchase.  I have returned so much stuff to ASOS that I’m getting concerned they will cut me off.  Also, their selection is completely overwhelming.  To find the three dresses in this post, I had to click through more than 2000 ASOS dresses.  But if you know what you are looking for (e.g. “maxi dress”), their search engine actually works, so use it.  Lastly, you may be alarmed that some of the clothes look like party wear for strippers.  Do not be discouraged.  There are gems to be found, and strippers need party clothes too.

Check me out on Pinterest for more ideas for inexpensive party wear.

Sometimes you want to dress to flatter your figure, and sometimes you just want to wear a fun dress.  I wore this to an auction two nights ago and it was perfect for a winter night.  The bodice is 100% wool and the skirt is fake fur.  I bought the shoes three years ago, but felt weird about wearing shoes that cost the equivalent of two Chipotle burritos, and gave them to my best friend.  And then I decided that I really liked them, and that like Stella McCartney, I could think of them as vegan shoes, not plastic ones.  And that helped.  So I took them back from her.  I still feel bad about it.  But she will survive.

People.  This dress was $31.  The tights almost cost the same as the dress.  And it is a good dress.  I love the egg shape, love the metallic, love the seaming, love love love it.  But most of all I love the racerback.  And it has pockets.  Squeal!  This dress might be my score of the year.

The nice thing about not paying a lot for a dress is that you can try cracked-out things you might not otherwise try, because you’re not investing a huge sum.  I am petrified of high-neck clothing.  I am always nervous my neck will look fat or that my head will look even bigger than it is.  But I like the idea of a high neck classing up a maxi, so I took a gander at this dress, and it’s interesting.  I did feel a bit vulnerable with the slinky fabric, so I threw on a belt to give the waistline some structure.

Look at my christmas cactus behind me!  Still kickin‘.

Happy hunting.  And I’d love to hear about your go-to purveyor of cheap party wear.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Misha #

    love your style! can we go shopping ? 🙂

    March 15, 2012
  2. I love that last dress. I added you to this chain-letter liebster thing going around WordPress. You can either thank me or unfriend me from facebook (I’m not sure if you can cause someone to unfollow you on the blogs). 😉

    March 9, 2012
  3. right on. i found asos about a year ago and think it’s amazing. i refuse to pay for shipping and must have a liberal return policy. check and check. love it.

    March 6, 2012
  4. Fantastic, Yoona! I like how you think…
    I’m involved in charity auctions now as Mistress of Ceremonies. My husband is the Live Auctioneer, so he will need a smaller wardrobe (black tux…), but I’ll either need loads of formal gowns (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) or possibly mix and match separates. What do you think of going with black and white separates and switch out colored jackets/accessories? Also, I have tattoos on my upper arms which means that I’ll need a sleeved jacket or shawl which does not slide down…any ideas for me? Or places I might look? Have a great Auction year!

    March 6, 2012
  5. Deb Wilson #

    Auctions are a leetle bit of a problem for me. I’m competitive enough to routinely abandon pre-arranged high bid limits as I go for the win (which has much less to do with obtaining whatever I thought I wanted enough to bid upon in the first place and much more to do with simply beating everybody else). Ahem, caff!

    My first stop for party wear is the sale section at Boden – also originally a Brit shop now come via the magic of the interweb to our very own shores. At my age (nearly 60) Boden features dresses that are festive, affordable, and don’t look like I stole them from my daughter’s closet (which is actually always my last stop to augment any party look).

    February 29, 2012
    • i was talking to a friend recently about boden. i love their clothes for my boys, but have never pulled the trigger on their women’s stuff. you have inspired me!

      February 29, 2012
  6. K How #

    Aw, Yoona, I’m pretty sure you look gorgeous in everything you wear. I like the maxi dress. It’s so elegant.

    February 29, 2012
    • uh, no, i don’t. i can think of a few things right off the bat: sweaters with epaulets, cropped blazers, mini skirts. but thanks…i love the maxi too.

      February 29, 2012
  7. Haha, you’re too funny –> “Tom has me on a budget that indicates that he expects me to make my own clothing from kitchen towels.”

    Damn, I refuse to go back to my online shopping obsession. Will .. not .. click .. on .. ASOS .. link .. Shit. Got too curious =P

    February 28, 2012
    • what’s wrong with online shopping obsessions, dear? 🙂

      February 28, 2012

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