When my gorgeous boyfriend called to invite me to the dinner and dance at his son’s school recently, I was both delighted and dismayed. Delighted because I had never been to such an event before… it was to be black tie and he would be hiring a tux for himself and his son. Dismayed because, well… where shall I start with the anxieties…? The first was, “What on earth should I wear?”, swiftly followed by “I don’t know anyone”, but it turns out I was not the only one who was feeling nervous. On accepting the invitation, I was met with a sigh. “P”, said he (for whom, in his own words, ‘smart is a clean pair of jeans’) “I thought you were more reliable than that, you know I don’t want to go. You were supposed to say ‘no’, but I guess we really should go, shouldn’t we?” So, we acknowledged that it would do us good to step outside our comfort zones and we went. Needless to say, it was wonderful!
I imagine most of you readers are girlies like me, with an interest in, though perhaps not a passion for fashion. So, let’s talk about what I wore. First, a little background… I was brought up by my parents to budget carefully. I was given a modest clothing allowance, with which I bought my own outfits and shoes. In my humble, teenage opinion, this was barely enough, but what it taught me was to be careful with money… a habit I have carried on into my adult years. So, when it came to buying a dress for the ball, I was cautious. I had a (self-imposed) tiny budget and not a clue about what I should be spending it on. So first, I purchased something I thought I could get away with and then (as I didn’t feel happy with the first purchase), something which, in my desperation, was just fine. And by fine, I mean not exquisite, but satisfactory. The sparkly shoes though were perfect. I had purchased them years ago and they had been inhabiting my wardrobe for almost a decade. They had barely seen the light of day, just waiting for a date like this!
I still felt nervous about going to the ball. Any tiny tinges of excitement I had initially felt were drowned out by a feeling of not good enough. The day before the ball, out in Windsor, picking up the suits my boyfriend had hired, he asked me the million dollar question: “Do you feel happy with what you are wearing tomorrow?” This was not a pointed, “Why don’t you think about getting something else because I don’t like what you want to wear” question. It was a gentle and genuine “Are you happy? Do you feel at ease?” He had sensed I did not. So, in desperation, I slipped into a couple of boutiques, flicked through the rails, discounting everything as being too expensive or not me and gave up.
In an attempt to distract myself whilst B picked up the suits, I popped into a department store to look for a Birthday gift for my Mum. There, I saw a dress that I would not normally have looked twice at. A switch in my head flicked. I wanted to feel confident and look good and to do so, I might have to shop outside my comfort zone. Slowly, with the assistant’s encouragement, I gathered a couple of dresses to try on. One was quite “me”, the other not so much. Both, I adored! I put out a call to B who promptly returned. I held them up and asked his opinion. This in itself was a vulnerable act as we have never, in our 4 years as a couple, been clothes shopping together. For me, shopping is a solo event. But maybe it shouldn’t be! “Which one do you prefer?” he prompted. “Well, this one is more me.” I answered, holding up the floaty green number. “Well try the other one then.” he said. He was right.
There was something about the little metallic shift dress that made me feel incredible… so incredible that, for once, I didn’t flinch at the price tag which, even in the sale, was more than I had ever previously spent on an item of clothing (except for my wedding dress). Right there in the changing room, I became excited about the ball and learned a lesson that has been holding me back my whole life. Sometimes it is worth spending more and treating yourself in order to feel good. What you are buying, when you buy a new dress is not just an outfit, you are buying confidence and sometimes that costs a little bit more. It is worth it.
For all the traipsing round the shops that I had previously done; the money on the Oyster card; the ill-advised purchases; the day away from my work; the stress of not feeling good enough, I could just have gone somewhere like this in the first place and saved myself so much. To be fair, I did not really know where to start looking, but now I do. I will start with the dresses that make me feel fabulous. Lesson learned. Next time, I will shop outside my comfort zone… though I can feel myself becoming more comfortable with this way of shopping already. I will set my sights a little higher and happily spend a little bit more in order to feel at ease.
Getting ready to go out on Saturday night was a joy! Never have I felt so confident getting ready for an event, nor have I stressed so little before heading out the door. I was a little nervous, yes, but as soon as we arrived and took that first sip of Pimms outside the marquee on the lawn, I relaxed and knew it was going to be a memorable night for all the right reasons. Inside, we sat with the one friend we knew and made several more. We squeezed hands and smiled as B’s son laughed and joked with his school chums… everyone was having fun. As we drove home, I asked B, “Would you do it again?” “In a heartbeat” he said.