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Jodi B

The Quest: finding the perfect dress

December 28, 2008 at 8:40 PM

My daughter has made it to the finals in a local concerto competition held next weekend. Since she has grown like 4 inches since last year, she desperately needs a dress for the competition. My qualifications for that perfect concert dress are: Must be floor length, must be age appropriate and fit our budget... not too hard right?? well...

We spent the majority of yesterday going from store to store to find that perfect dress. The places at the mall were too expensive; I mean I am all for paying some money but $698.00 was too steep for a dress to be worn once. It's not like she is getting married :) The other places we looked were department stores that either didn't have anything or were "too old" for her. I guess girls don't wear dresses like they used to at Christmas... dating myself, I know.

Worn out from our shopping trip... and from getting lost on the 465 IN loop like 5 times, we finally came to another store... where we finally found, not one, but two beautiful dresses that fit my demanding criteria. The reason why we purchased both was I liked one, and my daughter liked the other and the price was right.... $5 a piece... don't ask :) I will post pics later and you can decide if I made a good purchase.

From Paul G.
Posted on December 28, 2008 at 9:13 PM

Psht. Girls are so high maintenece :)

Don't you just wish you had sons sometimes? Well I take that back. My little brother shops way too much. He's just as bad as all the girls I  know! He shops too much. So I retract my statement haha.

From Jodi B
Posted on December 28, 2008 at 10:14 PM

I have 2 girls and a boy... yes he is low key. I am just glad that both girls don't like to shop that much :)

From Corwin Slack
Posted on December 28, 2008 at 10:40 PM

 Try this web site. Perhaps they can do a rush or maybe it will be suitable for another time.

From E. Smith
Posted on December 28, 2008 at 11:29 PM

 Dress shopping can be so frustrating-- but at $5 apiece it sounds as if your work paid off! We've had the best luck finding dresses by accident in thrift store. The worst if when you have a specific occasion to shop for, a deadline looming, and there's nothing within the budget and/or nothing appropriate for the performance. 

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on December 29, 2008 at 12:07 AM

You can not rent one?  I know it is hard and I am lucky to not have to wear those often but for a final I understand...  

For girls shoping more than boys. Yes many do, I personnally hate it! But I think it is because it is harder to find something that fits well than when you are a boy. I mean, a shirt and nice suit is easy and come with many lenths for arms necks legs etc This is way far less common in women's stores!

 In the past, the girls or boys were not always that perfect (because fashion was less the "hot" thing and was not so important I think) and they were loved for their playing. I know the show and presentation is more important today so I really wish you good luck and hope you will find something!

good luck!


From Ray Randall
Posted on December 29, 2008 at 1:51 AM

There has to be something you can rent for a one time use.

Actually, does the dress have to be THAT perfect?

From Pamela Schulz
Posted on December 29, 2008 at 2:52 AM

No, the dress doesn't have to be that perfect - but any of you out there shopping lately know that finding something appropriate can be extremely difficult!

However, this mom sews (thank heavens!)  My daughter has some nice, comfortable, elegant, practical black concert wear.  It's even hand-washable!

From E. Smith
Posted on December 29, 2008 at 4:26 AM

She doesn't have to rent anything-- according to her blog, she found two perfect dresses for $10. And her daughter can reuse them, of course. My daughter has a number of performance gowns and she reuses them often.  

From Nicole Stacy
Posted on December 29, 2008 at 4:50 AM

I also got a great recital dress at a thrift store for $5. 

One's appearance does count for something in a competition, make no mistake...I saw a young girl come to a concert once in a very short, backless number.  In a hall with a high stage, to boot.  She was an excellent player, but I doubt her playing was foremost on anyone's mind that night!  I also once sat through an entire recital too embarrassed to look at the soloist because of a revealing dress.  Okay, so that is pretty obvious, but if there is something distracting about your clothing or you just look uncomfortable in it, people are going to notice.  They can't help it, hard as they may try.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 29, 2008 at 8:22 AM

I've bought some of my nicest clothes at second hand stores and thrift shops.  Finding two great dresses at $5 a piece is wonderful.


From parmeeta bhogal
Posted on December 29, 2008 at 9:58 AM

I ahve found that if you can't get a dress thats appropiate (not in your case), sometimes it is easier to find a long black skirt and a top: looks like a dress but then can be used much more often. Good when children are growing and you don't want to pay for one-offs.

From Jodi B
Posted on December 29, 2008 at 1:29 PM

Corwin, Thank you so much for the website. I will use it next time.

E. Smith, Yes, we too happened to stumble across the dresses in a thrift store. I didn't think we would find anything there either.

I knew you could rent tux, but I wasn't aware you could rent dresses. I guess I am out of the loop.

One important thing that my husband brought up to me was how comfortable she is in the dress. It's one thing to feel confident in your playing (memorization, notes, etc) but to have to worry about what your are wearing during the performance adds additional pressure.

Oh, and you bet ya, she will be wearing these dresses more than once :)

From Ray Randall
Posted on December 29, 2008 at 4:02 PM

Our Son picked up a gorgeous sport jacket at a thrift shop for $7.00.

From Tess Z
Posted on December 29, 2008 at 11:48 PM

You promised us photos!  Where are the photos! 

We have a very good second hand store in our area as well.  It can be a gold mine for things like formal wear.  Excellent shopping, Jodi.

From Rosalind Porter
Posted on December 30, 2008 at 2:02 AM

I had a friend at university who made a nice extra bit of money with female music students by buying up ex-rental bridal gowns and then dyeing them black in her bath...

Another option to consider for the future is finding the perfect design in a wedding dress pattern and simply making it up in black material.  But I do agree that thrift shops can be great places to hunt around in!

From Kelsey Z.
Posted on December 30, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Oh the joys of dress shopping...

I got hired to do a big solo recital this coming spring and I spent a lot of time browsing dress patterns and looking at fabric before finding what I wanted. The dress is still not 100% what I had wanted, but it's the best pattern for the fabric that my mom is willing to make!! :) 

There's something to be said for seamstresses!


Good luck to your daughter at the competition! 

From Jodi B
Posted on December 30, 2008 at 4:45 PM

Sorry, we took pictures of the dress this morning and I will have my husband put them online and put them on a blog tonight.... see you then :)

From E. Smith
Posted on December 30, 2008 at 5:01 PM

 I had a friend at university who made a nice extra bit of money with female music students by buying up ex-rental bridal gowns and then dyeing them black in her bath... 

I had no idea you could rent a bridal gown.If I were a bride renting a gown, I'd feel weird about the possibly bad karma of a rental gown. Then again, I wore my mom's gown, which she had designed herself when she was 23; my sister wore it, too, and maybe some of my daughters will. 

I think that's an excellent idea, "repurposing" the old bridal gowns for musicians, particularly cellists who need a wide skirt to accommodate the cello. 

While on the subject, what are thoughts on female orchestra members wearing pants instead of dresses or skirts? And what about concertmasters? My daughter has always worn long, black skirts for orchestra as per dress code, but her current orchestra allows long skirts or pants. She has an upcoming concert where she is concertmaster and is thinking of wearing pants. I'm usually pretty liberal and relaxed, but I feel that a long skirt is more appropriate for an evening concert. She points out that professional orchestra members show up in pants, but I think even in pro orchestras, a motley mix of pants, skirts, and shiny/matte materials looks distracting. 

From Tess Z
Posted on December 30, 2008 at 7:04 PM

E.Smith, I would let her wear the pants if she so desires and it is allowed.   We did burn our bras in the quest for equality. 

From Anne Horvath
Posted on December 30, 2008 at 11:05 PM

Consignment stores are gold for gig clothes.  They are also gold for the wallet too!

(I am still mourning the Talbot's cardigan I picked up on consignment, in high school, circa 1985, for $12.00.  I used it for years, and it looked great.  No wear, no stretching, no fading, very dressy, kept drafts off, fit perfectly, and the moths ate it last summer.)

Also, one of the best times of the year to hit the department stores for gig clothes is right after the New Year.  Go to the party dress section, and you will find tons of New Year's rejects will have been marked way down, mostly because the stores are clearing space for spring prom dresses. 

From Rosalind Porter
Posted on December 30, 2008 at 11:30 PM

I see no problems in a female concertmaster wearing a smart black jacket with black trousers (sorrry I can't call them pants this side of the Atlantic!)  Especially if she feels more comfortable in them and can find some which have an "evening" style to them.   I think I'd probably stay away from any skin-tight styled trousers though.

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