Dressing Well Without Chanel; Special Occasions

In the world of casual and appropriate elegance, dressing up presents a few challenges. If you take direction from popular media, you may find yourself in 4-inch heels, a too tight and too bare dress, and far too much sparkle. If you head to the “Special Occasion” section of your local department store, you may flee in terror from the yards of celadon taffeta complete with matching sequin-studded guipure lace.

But I was possessed with the idea of dressing up, for my 55th birthday, and determined to do so in relative comfort and ease.

I must add, no surprise to the Californians, that it’s a little tough to dress up and go out in San Francisco, unless you’re attending a society function. Fortunately we can fall back on Hubert Keller’s Fleur de Lys restaurant, tented inside with floral fabrics and lit with an elaborate glass chandelier. I decided it would do. Twist my arm.

This is the Tory Burch “Audra” dress I posted on Corporette. While patterned, pink-laden, and silk, it’s really nothing but a great big t-shirt. Sturdy Gals love t-shirts. Dresses that feel like jammies are all to the good.

So what to wear for jewelry? Given the long sleeves and pattern-ringed high neckline, earrings seemed the natural choice. I tried on my plain diamond studs, but they disappeared. I thought about the gold Swedish antique chandeliers, but that reddish gold did the dress hues no favor. These Hawaiian opal and diamond thingies proved just the thing. I wouldn’t have guessed that the blue/green would set off the pink/purple, but one never knows until one experiments a bit.

That concept applies to more than opals and silk jersey.

I knew when I bought the dress that I’d want navy shoes, and surprise, I already owned some. These, by the British designer Joseph Azagury, had lain fallow in my closet for at least a decade, ever since the last time pointy toes were in. Said toes are back, by the way.

Just one more bit of evidence in the long brief I’m writing entitled, Low Heels Can Be Racy Too.

Now, and in hushed tones, one more key piece to this outfit. Let me preface by saying that High WASPs don’t often talk about undergarments. But I owe you all the truth. I’m wearing shapewear. It looked sort of like a long tank top with an indecent neckline, and ended a little below my hipbones. Let’s pretend I didn’t say that, here on the open waters of the Internet, but I have now conveyed the critical details which made this outfit possible.

Comfort can also mean not having to work at holding in one’s stomach.

And, in the interest of full disclosure, even though I’m 55, and have eaten well around the world, the excitement of sitting down to an extraordinary meal with someone dearly loved, quite gussied up, pales not. Extraordinary could have been a piece of pizza in Manhattan, I could have been wearing my best jeans. As it turned out, this time was fancy.

One more note on the clothing. We could escalate a notch, if needed. I’d wear my hair up with more volume, maybe trade shoes for these Caovillas, and hmm, finally collect my random small diamond and semi-precious bits to reuse what I don’t wear to create a pair of extravagant dangles. Something to look forward to, next year.

Racy Low Heels And Tory Burch For 2016

Links may generate commissions.

By the way, today is Visible Monday. In reaction to the invisibility of women over 50, in popular media, Patti at Not Dead Yet has a project. Please take a look. Even if you’re under 50, worth a cheer.

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  • You look great – my favorite element is the shoes – gorgeous!! Totally sexy yet understated – really just make the outfit!!

  • Oh and forgot to add – Happy Birthday!

  • “I knew when I bought the dress that I’d want navy shoes, and surprise, I already owned some.” Okay, you wrested a chuckle out of me with that one.

    I envy you your style, you know.

  • Extraordinary choices. The colors in the dress are vibrant and worthy of your birthday celebration. You are stunning and happy 55th!

  • You look lovely in that colour! And, may I say, long live shapewear! I am not ashamed to say I wear spanx regularly!

  • Beautiful!

    And the shoes are perfect, with a touch of the subversive wrapped up with a nod to the classic.

    I am almost drooling just remembering Fleur de Lys, and it has been years.

  • Happiest birthday! Your dress is perfection, the dazzling opals are so lovely. Thank you for participating in Visible Monday!

  • You look beautiful, and I love those shoes.

  • that dress really is a fabulous hue, and wonderfully suited to you; i love your excursions with navy’s allies!

  • What a lovely outfit. I adore that dress, cute, comfortable, elegant: perfect!

  • Look at you! Ms. Navy is wearing color — pink and purple no less! — and you did a wonderful job pulling together your look. Navy kitten heel slings was a no-brainer but it would never have occurred to me to whip out opals as a jewelry choice with that color combination. Good call!

  • You look UHMAZING! And the dress really makes your eyes *pop*, which is a very good thing for a dress to do.

  • Absolutely beautiful! Oh, how I covet that dress.

  • you look gorg.

  • You look beautiful, and the dress is perfect on you. As you know, since I too own the dress (thanks to this blog) I loved seeing how you styled it. I will also be wearing some yet to be purchased undergarment with it. As for jewelry, I too had a problem, when trying stuff on. My Ted Muehling lapis acorn earrings are perfect. Again, Happy Birthday, and sounds like you had a wonderful evening.

  • You look smashing! The shoes are perfect for this dress–I love the geometry and the color combinations– and then those opal earrings are an inspired choice.
    Happy belated birthday weekend indeed! I’ll have whatever it is that you’re having!

  • You are wearing your colors, just great.
    How nice to see a complete picture of you, no need to keep hiding. You look very natural and with ease in the perfectly gathered outfit of your´s.
    A late birthday greeting to You!!

  • I love your hair pulled back like that, sleek and simple. Lovely!

  • you look absolutely beautiful! so glad you had a fabulous day!!

  • Your look is perfection. Appropriate, fun, sexy. Chin chin!!

  • Totally elegantly gorgeous! I’ll bet you turned heads.

    I have a dress-up occasion at the end of the month and am excited to pull out my party frock. I’m not sure about the shapewear….something that ended below my hip bones would likely go snapping up, like a cheap window shade.

  • Well, you know how hard it is to impress me, Lisa. But, my darling, you knocked this one out of the park. Totally. Not too much nor too little. You are perect ! Love you X10

  • You look fabulous!
    In my humble opinion, you have a great figure, shape wear or not.
    55 looks good on you.

  • Is there anything cooler than your line about the shoes having “lain fallow in my closet”? Methinks not, what an amazing way to express the situation. It was neat to see your thoughts on the actual meal and the food’s lack of importance in the grand scheme, what a gift to feel that way.

    Sending you a smile,

  • Isn’t silk jersey the most marvelous thing ever invented? The dress is just gorgeous on you, the earrings and shoes perfect accents. Well done, and Happy Birthday!

  • You look incredible- great dress (can’t shake a stick at easy to wear & feels like you’re in pj’s) plus I know MoMo is proud of the opals (she’s an October bday and huge opal aficionado).



  • That dress looks sensational and you have an amazing figure! I’d completely forgotten about Joseph Azagury. Such elegant shoes.

  • You look divine.

  • “…here on the open waters of the internet.” Nothing short of genius, but your readers are used to your strokes of g around here. One question: is the PURPLE ribbon you mentioned recently holding your hair back in the pony?

  • GoodLordAlmighty, that dress looks fantastic on you.

  • Nice gams, lady.

  • You look fabulous! I’ve been waiting to see that dress on you ever since you posted it at Corporette. I love the way its simple cut and luxe fabric harnesses the exuberance of the print. Sturdy Gal meets Artsy Cousin!

  • Simple elegance sums your look up the dress is divine.ida

  • Huzzah!

  • You’re in colour! Oh if I can do it, you can!
    And what a figure, when I hit 50 I’m giving up and gaining 20lbs – I can’t wait, I’ve had 20 years of self denial.

  • Lisa,

    This message is about something totally different! Although you look great in that dress!!!

    I’ve sent you a couple of messages over the past several weeks through “Ask LPC” about dressing for a class reunion. I don’t know if you’re getting them because I have heard nothing, and I feel that maybe the service isn’t working. I know you said that in time you will answer, but I would like to go shopping soon, since it’s at the end of this month. How long does it take to receive an answer?

    I enjoy reading your blogs and being educated by you on so many topics, so I wanted to know what you thought about reunion clothing.

    Thanks so much!!!!!


  • Dear Lisa,

    I missed your original post about birthdays in the age of the internet on Saturday (time difference) so I didn’t have a chance on the day to wish you a Happy Birthday on the day. Please accept my belated but heartfelt wishes today.

    As I have mentioned in previous comments, I live in Tel Aviv, so I know exactly what you mean about virtual greetings. Feeling isolated for so many years with family & friends in the States, I can’t even explain the indescribable high of receiving birthday wishes from afar, from people who one is terribly fond of, but with whom one wouldn’t necessarily keep in touch with on a regular basis. A heady reminder, for at least one day, of the love we’ve felt & the lives we’ve touched in a transient world.

    As all of those before me have said more prfoundly than me, you look radiant on your special day. (Tomorrow is mine & I am hoping to channel a bit of your light). Enjoy.

    Best wishes,

  • Wow.

  • Divine dress- and the earring are treasures… to dress up and celebrate with someone you love, what could be better? May you have many more years in which to “do something” with your diamond bits.

  • A very nice looking birthday dinner outfit!

    I think it’s a tribute to your wardrobe that you had the shoes you knew you’d want to wear with the dress.

    What did you do for outwear?

  • Please forgive me if this is a repeat comment; I tried to comment earlier today, only to have the internet gremlins drop my connection and (I think) eat my brilliant words. If I’m remembering correctly, what I said was something along the lines of this:

    1) I want to look that good at 33, let alone 55 – you look tremendous and, what’s more, happy;

    2) Dressing up in aggressively casual places like California or Austin can be subversively fun since it is so unexpected; yes, my form of rebellion involves a dress & heels;

    3) So happy to hear you spent your birthday with a loved one.

  • Wish I knew how to html a sound file of a whistle! This is very sharp and I can just picture it inside that fabric tent! I’m admiring the Hawaiian opals, as well as the admission of shapewear. Some fabrics require it.

  • I loved Fleur de Lys. When we were in SF last year we had dinner there, and our reservation was very late. Mr. Keller came out of the kitchen – it must have been near close – and greeted each table. I remember the food being superb, and very interesting.

    The pink is beautiful on you, a happy color for a birthday.

  • You pulled it off beautifully. I love the shoes that you chose.

  • Lisa you could not have picked a more perfect dress for your birthday dinner. You look fabulous and the heels are just the right amount of sexy!


    Art by Karena

  • That dress and those earrings are both so beautiful!

  • Gussied up dining with some one I love remains to this day one of my favourite things.

    Love the outfit.

    I used to own 3 pairs of Josephe Azugary shoes…Princess Di loved him you know.

  • You always make me smile with your descriptions. Even about the shapewear! Superior choice on the shoes and earrings. Happy 55!

  • I really enjoyed the writing in this post. I also think you look smashing. I hope you will stop by my blog.

    Love from Oregon USA,
    black and white stripes

  • You look sexy and beautiful! Love, love, love the shoes!!

  • Don’t you look beautiful!

  • First of all Happy Birthay. How can you call yourself sturdy? You’re stunning!

    Love your blog and jewels.

  • Pardon me for blowing a wolf whistle. I couldn’t help it

2 Trackbacks

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