Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Cruise Diaries--Dressing For Dinner

When I'm at home, "dressing" for dinner means checking to make sure my shirt doesn't have any cooking residue on it.  However, the dress code for our cruise had higher standards. If you wanted to eat in the dining room, there was a recommended attire for each of the seven nights. Four of them were casual (sundress or pants for women, sport shirt and slacks for men), one was "smart casual" (dress or pantsuit/jacket and tie), and two were formal (cocktail dress/ suit and tie or tuxedo).

Coming up with two formal outfits turned out to be one of the hardest parts of my packing, because I'm not a very fancy person.  I started out by shopping in my closet.  The "elegant" section contained:
  • Three black crepe dresses of various sizes and styles, all knee-length
  • One navy crepe dress, also knee-length
  • A variety of tops, mainly long-sleeved, heavier material (worn at several years worth of company Christmas parties, when it's cold outside)
  • Several pairs of "evening" earrings (rhinestone, crystal, or pearl)
  • Several "evening" necklaces
After surveying the slim pickings I realized I had a problem that went beyond clothes; shoes would be the real issue.  I have a problem finding shoes that fit.  My closet contains quite a few pairs of black footwear, but nothing right for a cruise.  The three pairs of dress shoes shoved in the back of the closet were fine for show, but I knew they wouldn't be good for walking, and there's a lot of walking on a very large cruise ship.  My work shoes are black Mary Janes with stretch uppers, polyurethane soles, and Velcro straps. Very comfortable and easy to walk in, but anything but stylish.

I browsed in a couple of shoe stores, but since it was the end of February most didn't have a good selection of spring styles yet, or what they had didn't fit.  In the end I decided that if my feet weren't happy I wouldn't have a good time, and decided to wear my comfortable shoes.  I figured that if I bought a long black skirt I could bring two evening tops, and hopefully no one would notice I was wearing the same bottom twice.

It turned out to be surprisingly easy  to find a long black skirt.  At my first stop I found a nice polyester one with micro-pleats and an elastic waistline, which I suspected might come in handy after a few rich meals.

I didn't want to spend a lot of money for tops I probably wouldn't wear again.  The clearance racks didn't yield anything, so I started looking at used clothes stores. I struck out at two Goodwills, but I did find a small satin evening purse (big enough to hold my camera, lip gloss, and room key card) at the second so it wasn't a complete loss.  At an upscale resale shop close to work at I found the first top--a jewel-toned paisley model with 3/4 sleeves and mock-wrap styling. (You can see a picture of it here.)  Not particularly fancy, but with the right jewelry it would work.

One top down, one to go.

After several more days of shopping, I realized that not too long ago I'd had a perfect top hanging in my closet. It was hot pink satin, with cap sleeves, and a low "U" cut neckline. I wore it to Hubby Tony's company Christmas party several years ago. It looked good on me, but since I don't go to a lot of events that call for evening tops I never used it again. At the beginning of the year I did some closet cleaning and decided the shirt had to go. I'd added it to the donation box, and dropped it at  our local St. Vincent de Paul store a week before. What were the chances that the top would still be in the store?

"Vinnie's" was on my way home. The parking lot is usually packed, but I was able to find a spot right next to the door.  The women's department is on the left, and the shirt racks are close to the back.  The store divides their clothes by size.  I knew what I was looking for, so I scanned through the Medium area for the bright and shiny garment I was looking for.



  1. You look amazing in that hot pink top ... Vinnies to the rescue!!

  2. I love St. V's. How good of them to hold it for you. It sure looks great.

  3. So you had to buy your own top I guess, you look great! I also have trouble with formal wear, I realize I'm very casual by nature. Running shoes these days.

  4. oooh...I love it! It's such a pretty style and color!

  5. Now this story has put a smile on my face, did they at least give you back your top or did you have to pay for it? I'd have given it to you if I worked there after hearing the story!

    The top looks fantastic, you compliment one another!

  6. I have always wanted to go on a cruise. And wow, I love your pink top. That is a gorgeous co our and suits you.

  7. I recently finished watching the first season of Downton Abbey, and now I feel like I should dress up for the dinner table every night. My jeans and dirty apron don't seem very sophisticated anymore.

    I can't believe your top was still there! It's beautiful!