1. I had THEE WORST Saturday afternoon. And by, “thee worst,” I mean, “things could’ve been much worse and I’m being dramatic, but it was still frustrating.”
As I’ve mentioned before, there is next to nothing I loathe more than clothes shopping. I enjoy nothing about the process and avoid it unless absolutely necessary. Of course, that’s probably part of why I hate it so much (it’s a lot more stressful to go shopping for something when you NEED IT RIGHT NOW versus going because you feel like it), but regardless, it’s not how I choose to spend my free time.
On Thursday, I found out I was going to La Boheme at the Lyric on Saturday–more on that later–and for some reason, that was the occasion that pushed me over the, “I need a winter-friendly nice dress” ledge. I have three upcoming occasions that will require winter-friendly nice dresses (more on one of them later, too), so adding this fourth one felt like enough justification to buy a nice dress.
Prior to Saturday, I had exactly three nice dresses in my closet: a sleeveless, lacy one I wear to summer weddings; a silky, mostly sleeveless one I bought for a gala (I think?) in 2013 with a ripped seam; and a black spaghetti strap dress I wore to the Christmas dance in HIGH SCHOOL, which I should 100 percent get rid of, given that I’m not 17 anymore and haven’t worn it once since I was 17.
As that was my selection, I decided I needed something new. Since the opera was on Saturday night, I didn’t have time to shop online and instead went to Macy’s Saturday afternoon, expecting it to be an in-and-out sort of situation. After all, in the past year, I’ve gone to Macy’s twice and tried on pretty dresses just for the fun of it! I had some other reason to be there, got distracted by the shiny things, and the next thing I knew, I was in a beautiful floor-length gown in a dressing room, wishing I had a black tie event to attend so I could buy the dress. How hard could getting a dress be on Saturday?
As it turns out, REALLY. FREAKING. HARD.
There were three things that made this so freaking hard:
Thing #1: the pressure to find a dress immediately, due to wanting to wear it that night, versus trying on whatever struck my fancy because I wanted to.
Thing #2: the fact that all the dresses I try on for fun are almost always insane, floor-length numbers, and I wanted something 1) classic and 2) knee length
Thing #3: the fact that one of the occasions for which I needed this dress is an Indian-American wedding (the “more on that later” event). While a sari is an option (and the bride, who’s the Indian half of this Indian-American wedding, assured me that it would not be cultural appropriation for me, a person of exclusively northern European heritage, to wear a sari, despite my concerns), I don’t like to buy one-use-only outfits. I could rent a sari, but that cost nearly as much as I was willing to spend on a dress I’d actually get to keep and wear multiple times…and, honestly, I just wasn’t comfortable with the idea of wearing a sari. This wedding is going to be an Indian ceremony followed by an American reception, and the bride/bridesmaids will all be changing from traditional Indian clothing into traditional American clothing for the reception, so it wasn’t going to be offensive for me to wear a dress rather than a sari (another thing that the bride assured me–“Wear what makes you comfortable!”–because clearly my outfit should be her main concern in the days leading up to the event. Get it together, Bethany.)
HOWEVER. Even if I didn’t wear a sari, I knew that I wasn’t supposed to wear white, black, or red. That’s all well and good–I probably wouldn’t have wanted a white or red dress anyway–but do you have ANY IDEA how hard it is to go shopping for winter-friendly dresses when your off-limits colors include black and red?! They exist, but the VAST majority of what was available at Macy’s was either black or some version of red, and they were either floor length (too formal) or just-grazing-your-upper-thigh length (too skimpy).
It was a disaster.
This “in-and-out” sort of situation turned into a “four hours of trying on dresses and hating all of them and crying a bit about it, too” sort of situation. I went to Macy’s (the dresses floor and the regular-clothes-with-some-dresses-mixed-in floor). I went to Nordstrom Rack (where I didn’t see any dresses at all??). I went to H&M. I went to Express. I went back to Macy’s. I went to Francesca’s. I went to Akira. I went to Zara. I went to Saks Off 5th. NOTHING. Not one single store had a dress that checked all my boxes (not white/black/red, not trendy, not skimpy, not overly formal, not over $100). I was ready to punch someone by the time I gave up–specifically, whoever decided that all long sleeve dresses this year need to be bell sleeves as opposed to normal sleeves I can wear five years from now without someone looking at me and saying, “She definitely bought that dress in 2018!”
2. I needed to be in the suburbs on Sunday, so I went to the outlet mall in Aurora to continue my quest (despite no longer needing the dress for the opera). I expected similar results to Saturday’s debacle, and was well on track for a repeat after finding nothing at their Saks Off 5th, J. Crew, or Express, when I decided to wander into Akira just in case.
I’ve shopped at Akira twice before and been pleasantly surprised by the experience both times. When I went on Saturday, I didn’t spend enough time there to catch the attention of a salesperson, but the store in Aurora was fairly empty on Sunday. Someone approached me soon after I started browsing, and I recounted my woes to her, particularly in the color department. She set off to start a dressing room for me, and I’ll be honest: I had very low expectations. Looking through the lineup, I didn’t see anything I liked, but I started trying things on anyway.
Wouldn’t you know it, they did it again.
I was super impressed with this dress as soon as I put it on. No, it doesn’t have sleeves like I really wanted, but I found a wrap later that day that will get the job done (did I mention that this wedding is outside? At sunset? This Saturday? In Chicago? That’s why I was so concerned about sleeves.). Seriously, if you’re in the area and need a dress: go to Akira. They will solve all your problems. I know a lot of their clothes are…out there, to put it mildly, but they do have hidden gems!
I also got this necklace while I was there, because *heart-eyed emoji*
3. So! La Boheme! Seven years ago, I did an internship in Chicago that literally changed my life. I would not have moved to Chicago, I would not have started running, I would not have started blogging had it not been for that internship–and, subsequently, all the things that have happened as a result of me moving to Chicago/running/blogging never would’ve happened either. The program through which I did my internship takes students to art events in the city every week during the semester, either for class credit or just because. If you’re doing it for class credit, you have to go, but if you’re doing it just because, you can skip whenever you want (if I remember correctly).
This past Saturday, the program’s weekly art event was closing night of La Boheme at the Lyric. Apparently, a fair number of the students doing art events just because figured there were better ways they could spend their Saturday night in Chicago other than at the opera, because the program had a bunch of extra tickets for the show. One of the staff members posted about it in the alumni group on Facebook, and since I had nothing going on Saturday evening, I reached out to see how much they cost. The program had already paid for them, so they were free. WHAT! I looked it up later, and seats in my row were going for $139. That was a pretty good deal, so off I went to the opera!
I had never seen a fully staged opera before, so this was a really special occasion! I got all dressed up (in my sleeveless lacy dress, due to the above drama, with a scarf over my shoulders to keep me warm) and had a delightful time. The performers were all so talented, and I’m glad I got to see the show!
Have you ever been to the opera?