Alright guys, this Saturday is Aaron’s and my FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY.
So I’m excited to get gussied up and do some serious celebrating.
You might remember my post back in 2014, all about my capsule wardrobe for special occasions. I had three distinct evening looks locked and ready to go, to prevent the stressful, last minute shopping trip.
That little capsule served me well until this summer, when I found that two of my three evening dresses no longer fit. My tailor later confirmed that there was nothing she could do to help. Yikes.
Thankfully, one of the dresses still fits like a dream. However, it’s a little too formal for things like weddings or date nights. So this year, I added the dress you see above to my special occasion capsule.
Let’s talk about this dress and why I picked it:
It’s got pockets, the fabric doesn’t show wrinkles, and I don’t even have to wear a bra with it.
That should be enough right there, but the list goes on.
It’s not body-con. We can all breathe. :) It’s as loose as a bag, but since it’s short, it’s still plenty sexy.
It’s also super versatile — I’ve worn it to weddings and to Vegas. And, you know what? I could even pair it with a tote + flat sandals for a chic daytime look.
It’s also on sale for $35 — what?! You can find it here, at Madewell.
• • •
So my special occasions capsule has changed just a little since the last time you saw it. It’s been reduced to two outfits instead of three, but I actually feel that this special occasion capsule is stronger than my last, especially when it comes to versatility.
Both looks are done in a black color scheme. I also included everything from purses to jackets to underthings, so I wouldn’t be left with an unfinished, unwearable outfit. Have a look:
01 | Dress (old) | similar | similar with a v-neck | similar for under $100
02 | Pumps (old) | similar (Fit note: It’s got a walkable, comfortable 3 inch heel — yay!)
03 | Wrap coat (old) | similar on sale for $160 | similar on sale for $230
04 | Strapless bra (Fit note: This is the only strapless bra I’ve ever found that won’t slide down. I got it in my usual band size and sized up one cup size. I’ve found it works best if worn a little lower on the ribcage.)
Wondering about a purse? If I needed one, I’d use my black purse there. But if I could get away with it, I wouldn’t bring one.
01 | Dress by Madewell on sale for $35 | also comes in Dusty Burgundy | Fit note: I’m wearing a 00 (my regular dress size at Madewell) and I had it hemmed one inch.
02 | Heels (old) | similar (Fit note: It’s got an easy 3 inch heel too!)
03 | Bag by Marc Jacobs (old) | similar | similar (made in USA)
04 | Faux leather jacket (old) | similar
Between these two looks, I can conquer just about any occasion. No frantic last minute shopping trip, no stress. It’s all done.
That’s a good feeling.
Having a special occasion capsule is a really smart idea. The dress is gorgeous and it seems so easy to wear since it has pockets, it’s not fitting, etc. I think I might start my own special occasion capsule, we’ll never know if we need a fancy outfit for a last minute event.
Victoria B says
I so love your special occasion capsules. Do you dry clean your silk dress or do you know a sneaky way of washing it yourself? I would love to hear about your laundry process. Is that lame? lol, I just have a few hand wash tops that I just let pile up because I hate doing it, so I would love some insight. Thanks!
Hi Victoria! It’s not lame! You’d never believe how many people ask about my laundry practices! (I’m even working on a post about it.) I do hand wash and hang-dry my delicates often times — sorry I have no easier method for you! :) xo, Caroline
Re: sneaky ways to wash silk: I wash a lot of vintage dresses and here’s my method. The Laundress has a soap for washing silks called Delicate. I’ve used it before to handwash a silk dress, just letting it soak in a very small amount of soap mixed with water for about 30 minutes.
When you rinse, don’t run the dress directly under water; instead, run clean water into the tub until the water is soap-free. With silk it’s important to get as much of the soap out here as possible or else you could lose luster.
Then I roll the dress in a towel and lightly press to get the bulk of the water out. Dry flat for as long as possible then switch to a hanger once it’s no longer heavy.
Hope this helps!
Tanya E says
This is great (so is the dress!). This is what I find hard to dress for, and the panicky buying is so true. In another life (before kids) I was young, independent and living it up in London. I would have had lots of special occasion clothes to choose from, and indeed had lots of clothes generally.
I’m not really a dress person, and for the last formal special occasion, a 90th birthday party for over 100 people, I tried lots of dresses on and then decided to go for smart wool trousers and a velvet jacket (more me). The party was in February and a very old and cold (medieval) hall. Though, if the right dress came along, I would wear it.
Congrats in your anniversary, Caroline!! Having a special occasion capsule is a very cool idea, never thought of that before.
What I have been doing for the past year is renting clothes and accessories from Le Tote. I started around the holidays when I had nothing to wear for events and didn’t feel like shopping. I would be curious to hear your thoughts about renting! It has reduced my shopping but replaced the cost with a monthly rental fee. I feel like putting a special occasion capsule and organising a really solid capsule wardrobe would be much more productive.
I am really interested in hearing your take on renting vs buying. If you would like to check it out, I have a post up on my blog : http://www.thriveorsurvive.us/2016/09/never-have-nothing-to-wear-le-tote-giveaway/
NUhaa bardien says
Hi Caroline! I really fell in love with your special occasions capsule – but as it is quite difficult getting the right fit as well as coverage (being a hijabi), I had a dress made :) perfect for my classic look – I have yet to find a need for any other dress right now – thank you for always being inspiring
Nuhaa, that is so smart to have a custom dress, especially if you wear it for years to come + for many special occassions! I’m sure its beautiful! :) xo, Caroline
Just wondering what size you bought in for the Madewell off the shoulder dress? Because it’s a little loose fitting, did you need to size up or down?
Hi Rae! I got a 00, which is my usual size at Madewell and it fit perfectly — didn’t need to size up or down. However, I did get it hemmed one inch. Hope that helps! :) xo, Caroline
Congratulations on 5 years! Thank you so much for sharing this sale! I need a versitile dress for special occasions and loved this one since you shared it in the Vegas post… Certainly can’t pass on $35! Just hope it fits, final sale makes me nervous :)
Kate, thank you! I hope the dress fits too — such a great deal! If not, maybe you can resell it… :) xo, Caroline
Love this, Caroline! What would you wear to a day time occasion, like a baby shower or bridal shower? I never know what to do for those events because they seem to require pastels/florals that wouldn’t feel very “me.”
Hi Rebecca! Awesome question — that can be so tricky! I actually hosted my sis-in-law’s baby shower two weeks ago and I wore my black silk Everlane dress with my cream knit vest over it and my clogs. It was actually this exact outfit that I blogged a while back: bit.ly/2dtet2h The cream vest and light colored clogs really lightened up the black and it felt totally appropriate and sweet, while also feeling totally my style. :) xo, Caroline
What happened to the fringe dress?!? That dress was so much fun!
Hi Joy! It was one of the dresses that doesn’t fit me anymore — I was heartbroken! However, I gave it to a friend, and she’s rocking it. :) xo, Caroline
I love the idea of having a special occasion capsule! I’m a classical musician, so I’ve often had performance attire in my capsule wardrobe ready to go. Usually a little black dress and some classic heels. It works for concerts I attend as well!
Thanks for sharing!
Love the idea! Would you really wear a black dress to a wedding of a close friend? I don’t know about American weddings (I am from Switzerland) but here it would be considered inappropriate to wear black to a wedding as it is the color one should wear to funerals.
Hi Sandra! Here in the US, it’s actually quite appropriate to wear black to weddings. Of course, I take each event on a case by case basis, but an elegant LBD is usually the right choice for the weddings I attend. :) xo, Caroline
Tanya E says
In the UK too, some people would feel black was inappropriate, but if accessorised with white/cream probably ok. The exception being a Jewish wedding where everyone wears evening attire. Also, most weddings here require very formal clothes. These cultural differences are really fascinating.
Love the idea of a special occasion capsule.
I’m a bit late in the discussion but both in France and Germany a black dress would be a no-go for a wedding. Black accessories are okay though. The same goes for white/cream/ivory, because that’s the color of the bride. Best to keep it low even in accessories – it’s okay in a pattern or for a bag/purse, but better not for shoes and jackets. I bought a bright pink dress for a wedding a few years ago and wore it again in the evening for another wedding (but I bought a new dress for the ceremony because of some sort of “colour code”). Besides fit, the question I have with this dress is if it might feel outdated after some years? I’m rarely invited to weddings or similar occasions (2 in 5 years!)… Any tips how to manage this?
For other “special occasions” that require evening attire, I have a nice LBD, though I should look for other shoes than black ones. I bought a pair of silver heels but they are really too uncomfortable for me. I think I should look for some other outfit for less formal occasions like a romantic dinner.
Love this updated post! I still struggle between wanting “new” things for special events but simultaneously ending up buying things I don’t love just for newness. It’s really refreshing to see your take on the special events capsule, I couldn’t pass up on grabbing this dress for $35 hoping to wear it to two summer weddings next year. One question for you – do you plan on wearing this dress into the winter? I’m trying to picture how I could wear this to holiday parties later in the year and all my thoughts seem too casual (booties, throw on a leather)
Hi Chelsea! Definitely hear you on the whole “buying things you don’t love just for the newness”. I used to do that all the time and it was always regret inducing afterward. My fancier fit+flare dress usually handles all the holiday events (hence the larger coat with it). But, if the temperatures weren’t too cold, I’d try my Madewell dress in the winter — I’d just pop on a leather jacket, wear my nude pumps, and call it a day. But I definitely think it would be amazing with black tights and some dressier ankle booties, too — so cute for New Years Eve! :) xo Caroline
I was just freaking out about what to wear tomorrow at a wedding I’m attending! But I’ve successfully talked myself out of going shopping…I will pull from what I’ve got in my capsule…a black above the knee dress, a tan above the knee dress (both from Ann Taylor), or a Burgundy floral minidress from Vera Wang that I scored for ten bucks. I’m a little freaked about keeping warm…any suggestions? Can I wear black to a wedding?
I also don’t have fancy shoes, but I’m going to make do!! Weddings are tough because I never know if they are outside or in a chilly tent or indoors…till ya get there!
You go, girl! I personally think it’s A-OK to wear black to a wedding, but if the bride is a close friend, definitely ask yourself what she would prefer. If she’s more traditional, maybe pass on the black dress. But if she’s less traditional, black would be an elegant choice. As for keeping warm, perhaps tights, a wrap, or a nice coat/jacket would help? Staying warm is always tricky — but you’ve got this, Holly! :) xo, Caroline
I went ahead and wore my pumpkin colored coat and I’m so glad I did…every woman at that wedding was freezing, save me in my winter coat! I felt so bad for all those freezing females, and I hate to be cold!
I’ve got another wedding this weekend…less formal…and I think I’m going to be brave and try to rock a cowgirl look with boots, my long black summer dress with fleece tights (genius idea-whoever invented fleece tights) and a Jean jacket and scarf.
Hey Holly, sounds cute and perfect for the season. Smart girl not to freeze your buns off! :) xo, Caroline
I just bought the dress from madewell but it’s final sale and now I wonder if I got the right size! What size jeans do you wear from there? I see you got a 00 in the dress but I’m not sure how I compare to your size. I wear a 25 jeans. Thx!! Love all your stuff ?
Hey Mary, that sounds about right. I wear a 00 or a 24. :) xo, Caroline
This is kind of personal, but if you don’t mind, what size are you in jeans? I love your style, but I’m not sure if it would work on my body.
Hey Alyssa, I typically wear a 00. But I think finding great style works for any body type! :) xo, Caroline
Thays Dos Santos says
Such a gorgeous dress! I always love stopping by your blog to see what you wrote about next. It is just such a nice and relaxed look which is perfect for reading when I am having a stressful day ;) I hope you and your love have an amazing anniversary <3
Thank you so much Thays! :) xo, Caroline
Carissa Chan says
Hi Caroline! I absolutely love this idea, because I can’t say how much I’ve spent on dresses for a wedding just because it seemed like a logical excuse. Can I ask about the bag! I’ve been eyeing this Marc Jacobs bag FOREVER and found it on ebay, bit debating between the mini or medium. Is yours the mini or medium size? What can you fit in your bag? I am also a new mom so I am trying to pair down on things. And would you say the medium bag might be too big to carry for a special occasion?
Hi Carissa! I have the mini and I love it so much. It can hold a surprising amount of stuff — my Kindle fits inside, no problems. I can even stash a pair of flip flops in there, along with my regular purse stuff (wallet, small cosmetic bag, phone, keys, etc.). Personally, I like how small the mini is for special occasions. The medium might be a little too big for special occasions in my opinion, but then again, there are no rules so just do whatever works for you! :) xo, Caroline
I have the medium size bag, and yes I agree. It would be a bit much for a special occasion. :-)
For my most recent formal event I took a new approach…I found a stunning dress in a charity shop (think you call them Goodwill Store?) for £3, about $5. It was a designer dress and fit beautifully and like many occasion outfits looked virtually unworn. I wore it and loved it but if I don’t get another wear out of I will re-donate knowing the charity is making money and the dress getting more love.
Pre-loved is a great (eco friendly and purse friendly) option for occasion wear as often t has only been worn for the event it was purchased for.
Yay for fellow second hand shoppers….although dresses are the most difficult clothing to find used for me!
I love this set! It’s nice to see your consistency and change over time.
I have more stuff than you (three cocktail dresses, black jacket, two pairs of heels, two full length dresses) but given how few times a year I wear these pieces I could totally downsize… Another day :)
Buying the Madewell dress right now. Thanks for the recommendation. I have a capsule special occasion wardrobe, but my black LBD needs to “grow-up” a little bit and I think this one will be a perfect substitute. Fingers crossed it fits!
Happy Anniversary! I love this dress and was happy to snag it and support Unfancy at the same time. I love your perspective on style and it has inspired me! Thanks and looking forward to reading more.
The Bargainista says
Wacoal is the only strapless bra brand I have found that stays up!
Kaylen runyan says
Happy Anniversary you two cuties! My cursor has been wavering over this dress for weeks. I wasn’t sure how the one-shoulder would fit on me but I went for it, WOO!
What a great deal for this dress! Thanks for the heads-up. I saw that another person asked your jeans size because the dress is “final sale”, I too have a question regarding the fit of the dress. I am usually a size 25 jeans (occasionally a 24) and I buy size 0 tops at jcrew. Would you recommend a 0 or 00 in the dress. I’m 34 B on top and a petite 5ft 2 108lbs.
Hi Carrie! I’m 5’5″ and usually wear a 24. I ended up with the 00 (which is my normal size at Madewell) and had the hem taken up to make it a little shorter. Hope that helps! :) xo, Caroline
So I just loved your black fringe dress when I first saw it on the initial “special occasions” post but couldn’t find something similar enough — now that it doesn’t fit you anymore, would you be willing to sell it? I think we’d be about the same size.
Hi Isabelle! I already gave it away to a friend. But good luck finding one! It was a great dress :) xo, Caroline
Kristy B says
I just bought the made well dress based on your recommendation. ..can’t wait to get it!
Thanks for another great post!
Me too! I got mine in today! I’m in love with it. Thanks Caroline for sharing this dress with us!
I really love the simplicity of being fancy :)
I remember seeing the fancy dress in your previous occasion wear capsule and absolutely loving it. It’s almost like a dream dress to me – a flattering cut, very very feminine but also with a bit of edge because of the colour. It’s just perfect. Will you please show us an outfit with that lovely dress on?
Have a lovely day, Caroline :)
Jan Marie says
This is a really intriguing post for me, for the same reason the Brits and Swiss noted: cultural differences. But I live in the U.S. and would never be able to show that much skin at anything considered a “special occasion.” I’d need a shrug or cardigan or shawl. My family is strict Catholic and neither of your dresses (and definitely not your leather jacket!) would be appropriate in church, like for a baptism or first holy communion (lots of kids in the fam so we have lots of these). I guess I’m just surprised that Texas isn’t as conservative as my puritanical northeast. ;)
The Roamer says
Not sure if someone asked already but this is the 2nd time you say you don’t have to wear a bra with that dress…. what does that mean. It comes with a under garment attached??.
I bought this dress. There is no undergarment, the entire dress is only lined. I’m small chested, 32C, and I feel fine without wearing a bra with this one. If you are larger chested, you may not feel comfortable as there is zero support. I’m modest with boob coverage. The ruffle comes over the chest area, so I don’t think there would be nip showing. Hope this helps! It’s a great dress, and I feel so good in it. The fabric is so soft! :-)
One of the “perks” of my overshopping days were that I bought too many dresses. Special occasions are plenty covered in my closet. In fact, I wish they would pop up more often so I can wear those dresses!
Girls, if you haven’t bought the Madewell dress yet, GO BUY IT! Seriously, it’s amazing. I’m 5’3″, 125lbs, small on top, curvy on bottom and a size 2 was perfect for me, which is what I usually buy at Madewell. I did try on the 4, but I found the top was looser than I like for my 32C chest. It feels so soft! The pockets were fine. If the dress is hanging loose on you, then you don’t notice the pockets. If the dress is more fitting on you, then the pockets will bulge out a bit. This hits me about 1 inch above my knee. I think I will get it hemmed an inch like Caroline so it hits at the same length on me, like it does her.
Does anyone have any other ideas on what shoes to wear with this? I’m not a high-heels kind of girl. :-)
I was really excited to buy this dress. It looks so perfect on you Caroline. I am 5’10” 32c and got a size 4 which fits perfectly in the body. However it is way too short for me (barely covers my bum, probably because I do have a long torso). I considered lengthening it but think even then it won’t be long enough for my liking. The fabric is wonderful and the dress is super comfy as you mentioned. So I will be selling mine unfortunately.
Katherine Rose says
You look gorgeous! My bf and I celebrated five years this spring :)
Too bad I stumbled on this post late and the dress is sold out. But I saw Mara Hoffman has a lavender one that is similar, though a bit pricier.
Hi Caroline, this is a super old post that I creepily came across again while looking for summer capsule inspiration. Wanted to let you know that I bought this madewell one-shoulder dress after seeing you in it here and it has been one of my favorite purchases EVER! It’s even made the rounds with my friends, becoming the sisterhood of the travelling dress. Looks amazing on literally everyone. Thanks for posting about it – especially while it was on sale! Love your blog.
I’m so glad to hear that Sarah! I still have it and wear it often too! It’s such a good one — right for just about any occasion. Thank you for your kind words. :) :)