How We Hacked Black Tie Attire for $20

Recently, we were invited to a wedding and were so excited to attend. And then, 3 days before the wedding, I found out it was “black tie only.”

At this point, I slightly panicked.  It was the night before we were leaving for the beautiful, touristy beach town where the wedding was to be held and neither of us owned any black tie attire.

There are a few reasons for this:

  1. We live in California where it’s cool to be casual. Whatever the formal occasion is, dress at least one degree down to achieve the appropriate level of coolness.  Remember Mark Zuckerberg’s hoodie scandal? Classic California mindset.
  2. My being pregnant or nursing for the past 6 years = My clothes fit for about 3 months at any given time. This makes shopping really expensive and confusing.
    Wanting-to-be-Helpful Sales Lady – “What size are you?
    Me – “Uhhh …. a 6 err 8? Wait, maybe a large? Or a size 4?
  3. Black tie events are usually not kid or parent friendly because they are past our bedtimes (I’m talking about the parents here).

In any case, we needed black tie attire and we needed it now. There was no way we could buy black tie anything at this time of night and neither my husband nor I wanted to sacrifice quality time with the kids at the beach the next few days to go shopping in a pricey, upscale neighborhood for clothes we would barely wear.

So here is how we hacked black tie attire for two people for a little over $20.

My husband packed a nice white button up shirt, cuffs, black dress shoes and socks, and a black suit he already owned. He figured since short tuxes were in style, no one would really be checking to see whether his “tux” was actually a tux. Plus, Silicon Valley techies are turning jeans + blazer + nice shoes into the new “suit,” so even if someone did notice he was wearing a black suit instead of a tuxedo, they probably wouldn’t really care or call the Fashion Police for that matter.

I had no idea what to do. So I packed a black camisole and a pair of nice high heels. I figured I could use the camisole if needed under a dress or blazer.

When we got to our destination, we decided to stop by the highest rated thrift store in the nicest part of town. We figured that the more affluent clientele would be donating pricier items and therefore we would be able to find black tie attire in good condition for cheap. We were correct. On our way into Goodwill, we saw a man wearing what could only be described as yacht attire and five finger shoes (like these by Vibram). He was getting out of a new BMV to drop off boxes of donated items. Behind him were a Tesla and a Mercedes. We were in the right place.

We went inside and while our kids were touching almost everything conceivable and asking for it (“Mommy, I really need this 1980s track jacket. Can I have it – puhleeease?”), I tried on some evening wear. I will spare you the details here of managing kids while trying on clothes at Goodwill, but let’s just say that even though I found a dress that fit, we were so exasperated by our little critters that we left without buying the dress.  I guess you can say our adrenaline-induced “fight or flight” mentality kicked in and we decided to flee to the nearest beach and hunt for hermit crabs instead of spending a minute longer in the store. Fast forward an hour or two later: I was feeling much better and decided to go directly back to Goodwill stat, praying all the way that the $19.99 black wrap floor length evening gown I had tried on was still there. Hallelujah, it was! I grabbed the dress and went downstairs to pay for it – and found out that Goodwill was having a special promotion and my dress was half off. My evening gown now cost $9. Score!

The $9 dress. 

Unfortunately for my husband, Goodwill was still all out of bow ties. Luckily, I spotted an H&M later that day and decided to go inside in case they had bow ties. Low and behold – they did! Retail Price: $12.99.

Now we had everything we needed. And yes, a new bow tie cost more than an entire floor length black evening gown. Retail markup is amazing.

We went to the wedding and had a ball. Now we’ve got “black tie attire” for our next special event. And this time it won’t cost us anything.




One Comment Add yours

  1. Claire says:

    Funny! Loved it.

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