38 Minute Fancy

I’m not a fancy person.

Long, leisurely make-up application sessions and trial runs for a hairstyle just don’t fit into my schedule. I’ve got kids to raise, lessons to plan, and novels to write-and-not-get-published.

Who has time for a smokey cat eye?

But every year my husband and I have a few formal events to attend, and I very much enjoy getting dressed up on occasion. It just has to be quick.

This year I timed myself – it took 38 minutes from the sofa to the car. Pre-planning was (obviously) involved, but nothing so rigorous that I couldn’t move on with my life. Here’s how it all broke down:

2 weeks in advance: Decide on ensemble.


I happened to be in Nordstrom Rack the day of the event (taking pictures for Survival Strategies for Discount Shopping) and I heard a woman talking to her young children. “Mommy has to have a dress for the event tonight,” she said, pawing frantically through the racks. The little ones were expressing their desire to be anywhere else somewhat energetically. The woman found a number of not-quite-right dresses and was beginning to panic. Not that I was totally staring and judging her for the massive shopping mistake she was about to make. It was like a gruesome, entirely avoidable train wreck.

We’ve all been there. In fact, I was at that very rack in that very store a few days before my wedding, when I got married in something that looked a lot like a grandma nightgown.

Choose your ensemble at least 2 weeks before the event, and spend the next fortnight looking forward to it. This year I bought a new dress that was so fabulous I was a little nervous about it. In general, I’m not a fan of buying a new dress for every formal occasion. Investing in two or three classic dresses that suit the level of formality you’re likely to meet makes sense. When you pull them out, it’s like seeing an old friend.

2 weeks in advance: Check shoe/wrap/bag kit


There’s nothing worse than having a gorgeous dress ruined by the wrong shoes or an incongruous coat.*

I have a neutral wrap and pair of heels that go with everything. The color is called “oyster,” but what is that? Don’t oysters range from cream colored to dark gray, and aren’t they always covered with some sort of sauce that makes them taste good anyway?

At any rate, I like my oyster-colored shoes and wrap because they go with black, they go with brown, they go with everything, really. The cashmere wrap is incredibly cozy, more like a snuggly blanket than a piece of clothing. Shoes and a wrap that can be called upon for any occasion make the world easier.

Over the years I’ve picked up a few evening clutches at vintage and second hand stores. My simple black clutch gets the most action.

Two weeks before the event make sure everything is going to work with the dress, and have an idea of the jewelry you’ll wear.

Here’s another wrap kit I use with a different dress.

1 week in advance: Jergens Natural Glow

Jergens Natural Glow is my wintertime friend, a great moisturizer with just the right amount of tint. I generally use it once a week, but because I was going bare arm and bare leg to this event, I doubled up applications.

Thank you for existing.

3 days in advance: Lotion, lotion, lotion

You may be one of those women who applies lotion from toe to fingertip twice a day. For the rest of us, step it up before a formal event. Three days of double moisturizing is enough to get your skin glowing.

The day of: My count down to 38-minute fancy

Morning until 4:58 – do whatever I want.

Me, finishing up a blog post just before 5:00. I love those slippers.

4:48 – Get off of sofa, draw bath

5:03 – Take bath

While in tub, consider painting toenails – remind self that no one will see my toes.

Consider painting fingernails. Remember that I don’t like the aesthetic of painted nails.

Consider chickening out of fabulous dress. Remind self that self is a style blogger, and style bloggers don’t chicken out of fabulous dresses.

5:12 – Hop out of tub, more lotion

5:16 – Put on fabulous dress, lose all desire to chicken out

5: 18 – BB cream, brow pencil, eye shadow, mascara and lip stain.

5:25 – Loosely French braid hair, tuck end under the main braid, secure with a clip.

5:31 – Wrestle with earrings. Why are the most beautiful earrings always the hardest to get on?

Borrowing my mom’s earrings. Thanks mom!

5:34 – Slip into shoes, grab wrap

5:36 – Walk downstairs

Almost say “Really?” when husband says I look beautiful. Remember to kiss him instead. (Choosing Beautiful)

38 minutes later, I’m ready to go!

5:37 – Walk back upstairs to help husband, who hasn’t even started getting dressed.

5:52 – Get into Subaru Forrester; appreciate the contrast between car and ensemble.

6:18 – Arrive not-too-late at event. Don’t think about hair, dress, or make for the next three hours.

38 minutes? I can be ready to escape in 3.8 seconds.

38 minutes to fancy is my fastest time yet. Jeff and I have more events coming up, and I look forward to knocking a few minutes off my PR. Do you have any tricks for getting ready for a formal event? I’d love to give them a try. Please leave your ideas in the comments below.

*OK, that’s not true at all. There are many things worse than not having the right shoes and wrap. But it is a major bummer.

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