Sometimes, I feel like my borderline-obsessive planning is simply an invitation to the universe to mess with me. Does anyone else feel like that, or shall I go ahead and add the label “paranoid” to my bio? Actually, don’t answer that. All I’ve got to say is that, at times, despite my best efforts, things simply don’t work out the way I expect. This year, in particular, has felt like an extended exercise in things-not-working-out-as-planned, so I suppose I should not have been surprised by yet another curveball late in the game.

Thankfully, this one was of the inconsequential variety … which is not to say that I didn’t sulk about it for a day or two. Much like my three-year old, I have a lot to learn about going with the flow, I guess.

This all started with my office Christmas party. For newer readers, by way of background: every year, my firm hosts an extra fancy Christmas party at an extra fancy hotel. There is a different theme every year, but the dress code is always “black tie(ish)”. (I did a post on my past Christmas party outfits a couple of years ago, where you can see my past efforts, successes and failures both.) For the past two years, I have been on the organizing “committee” (really, there are two of us), so I’ve been putting extra thought and effort into my outfit. People don’t typically “dress to the theme” at these parties, but I like to give a subtle nod to it if I can. For this year’s theme, we chose Beauty and the Beast. Red roses, naturally, formed a big part of the décor. In the circumstances, it seemed fortuitous when I found a dark red velvet dress (with rosebud-like folds on the off-the-shoulder straps) during one of my thrifting stops earlier in the fall. I generally only wear fancy cocktail dresses at my office Christmas party, and where else but at this particular Christmas party, would a dress of this description be so wonderfully fitting? In short, it was fate.

As it happened, I also found the perfect accessories for this dress shortly thereafter: a necklace from the antique mall, and sky-high Louboutins from Value Village. It was going to be the perfect outfit … all for under $100.

Take a look:

Dress, vintage (thrifted); necklace, vintage (antique mall); shoes, Christian Louboutin (thrifted)
Dress, vintage (thrifted); necklace, vintage (antique mall); shoes, Christian Louboutin (thrifted)
look at that shoulder detail!
look at that shoulder detail!

It would have been so great, wouldn’t it? Sigh. If you remember the intro, you will have figured out that this was not the outfit I actually wore to the Christmas party. Why? Because sometimes the best laid plans get derailed by an errant hot iron.

See, the dress was vintage and while in generally amazing shape, it had a small tear in the fabric near the back zipper. Since the fabric was velvet, I decided to play it safe and take it to the tailor rather than attempt the repair myself. Velvet is tricky, after all. Oh, the irony. The tailor was able to repair the tear just fine … then proceeded to iron over her handiwork for some unknown reason. If you know anything about velvet, you probably know what happens when you apply a hot iron to it. The tailor should have known; moreover, the care label attached to the dress clearly stated DO NOT IRON.


Had the damage been done in some more unobtrusive spot, I might have taken my chances with it. As it was, I couldn’t wear it. Not at my fancy Christmas party, and probably nowhere else – save maybe a future Halloween party. I was so, so bummed out – mainly because this was a vintage dress I could never replace, and an occasion I could not duplicate. So, even though the tailor (who was very apologetic) offered me compensation, it did not bring me much cheer.

Of course, in the end, I rallied – found another dress, went to the ball, no fairy godmother required. I was still sad about the ruined dress, however; I hated the idea of getting rid of it, or keeping it in some dark corner of my closet, unworn. It seemed like such a waste of a beautiful thing. I don’t know why it bothered me so much; in an age of fast fashion and disposable everything, I suppose my feelings about that dress could seem odd and anachronistic. Still, it felt like we had unfinished business, the dress and I … and that’s why I decided to write this post, and take photos of the outfit that never was. And you know what? I feel better now. So long, beautiful dress.

alas, what might have been
alas, what might have been

26 Comments on Best Laid Plans

  1. Wow. I would probably be in tears. The going with the flow aspect is how I usually roll because so many things are out of my control, so the things I can carefully plan out take on extra significance. I love that you have pictures of that outfit because the dress was amazeballs! I’m sorry that it didn’t work out for the special party.

    • Not gonna lie … I was close to tears when I saw it. I had initially hoped that the burn wouldn’t be so noticeable, and that I might still wear it. Nope. Sigh.

  2. Those Louboutins were a great find to have the whole outfit come in under $100. Too bad about the dress – it would have been a lovely outfit! In that situation, I would also have gotten a bit sad for at least a little while (I can get a little attached to clothes or accessories).

    • The Loubs were, like, $60. I did end up wearing them with my eventual outfit and – spoiler! – they were fantastic. I have a post coming up next week 🙂

  3. My advice: find a different tailor! Then, go give that beautiful dress a makeover. You can wow them at next year’s Crustmas party when you arrive in your stunning red velvet top over ecru or black satin palazzos or an equally stylish pencil skirt in a fabulous textile worthy of your desired look.

    • I have actually been thinking about turning it into a top, but I’m not sure it’s doable (without a lot of expense) because of the full length zipper in the back. We’ll see.

      I’m also really bummed out about the tailor … she has done a great job on previous alterations, and is located conveniently close to my house, so I hate the idea of having to now find someone else.

    • I considered that too (along with a chiffon/tulle overlay, bow, you name it) but I think it would take the dress too far into 80s retread. Wearing a full tulle skirt on top would make it way too princessy … but may be a good Halloween costume.

  4. Oh, you looked stunning in it! That is too bad. I find that I get most attached to my more formal/fancy clothing than my everyday stuff. Probably because I the memories I have attached for the special occasion where I wore it.

    • Thank you! There was something special about this dress, even though I never wore it … and, in fact, bought it as a lark initially. I grew rather attached to it for some reason. I loved the bodice so, so much …

  5. I think the unique-ness of your “finds” can make their unexpected loss even more acute… It was a miracle to find, and once being visited by a miracle, fate taking it away again (in such a preventable way!) seems that much more poignant.

    Lovely too of the tailor to offer compensation, but as the dress is irreplaceable, it really was priceless!

    I also applaud you for taking these pics of it, nonetheless!

    Best wishes!

    • Thanks! I really do feel better having taken the photos. Still deciding what to do with the dress, but at least she got a moment in the “spotlight” regardless.

  6. I am so sad about your dress! You’re really a good writer, because I felt all those emotions with the intro and the lead-up to the climax of your story 🙁 It just wasn’t meant to be…you look amazing in that dress those! Maybe you can steam out the burn to fluff it up a little?

  7. I actually like the bow idea. Maybe it’s too little-girly. I too am an obsessive planner, and I feel like the universe messes with me overmuch. Maybe we just get our feathers ruffled more easily though. Your insta posts of the dress you actually wore were great! Anyway, sorry for your loss. It does seem that finding a one-of-a-kind piece for a bargain makes the loss feel more acute.

    • It’s counter-intuitive in some ways but you’re right: I AM more attached to one of a kind piece that costs, like, $3 than a run of the mill thing that costs $30.

  8. Oh, that is sad! I would have totally cried about that. (I once cried so much at my favorite red ankle pants getting black stains b/c of our washer that my husband tracked down the very last pair available in our area.) And you looked aMAZing in that dress — I’m glad you ended up posting it, even if just for the memories

  9. Have you thought of gently washing it yourself and seeing if that takes the shine off? If it were me I would zip it in a lingerie bag, put it on the gentlest cycle and then air dry. It has worked for me in the past!

      • Also found this gem online, perhaps all is not lost: Lay the damaged area over your velvaboard or towel, but this time with the velvet pile facing up. Release steam about one inch above the damaged area and have a friend on standby with a soft toothbrush to very quickly move in and brush the still damp/warm pile back and forth to raise the pile. This may have to be repeated several times. A hairbrush with soft bristles also will work. You may notice that brushing in the opposite direction of the flattened pile works best. Final point, machine washing and drying the garment using directions above also will help lift some of flattened pile.

  10. How disappointing! I remember you featuring this dress in one of your thrifting posts, and being excited to see it get it’s day in the sun! Hope it can find new life in some way because it’s lovely.

  11. I would definitely attempt a fix or cover. It is too beautiful to just turn into a top. Maybe a velvet peplum-style train/costume crystal broach or something. It might look better than you think.