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How To Shop Your Closet For New Year’s Eve Outfits

Last Saturday my company held its annual Holiday Party. I splurged on a salon-made updo, just as I had the previous year.  This hair sortie was not inexpensive, as my venue of choice sits inside the San Francisco Four Seasons, and is priced as you’d expect. This year I also had my nails painted. I couldn’t help but wonder, was it worth the $143, after tip?

Well let’s deconstruct. Those of you with no patience for financial analysis can jump straight to a discussion of whether the the choice of messy updo was correct.

Here’s the thing. In San Francisco, few of us can justify fancy clothes since the city, apart from a small socialite crowd, dresses down. But I can never resist celebrating the holidays with a new party look. The years I hold back I always feel a small, silly, disappointment. What to do?

Invest wisely. Friday’s outfit relied on a low/high retail mix, and previous classic buys. Let me count the savings. Literally.

Counted Savings

#1. A new gold Restrain skirt, from All Saints, cost $275. But the thing is industrial-strength stretchy, so I could go without squeezewear of any sort.

#2. The evening was warm enough that bare legs felt fine and no one-night-only stockings were tossed into the garbage in the wee hours.

#3. I owned all the jewelry already. Gold bangles bought when I returned from India, and yearned to recall the trip, family bracelet I usually hope people will think is fake unless I decide they will enjoy its audacity, ancient gold hoops.

#4. Shoes were pre-bought too,  2 year old Louboutin Simple 70s.

(Yes, these savings are somewhat tongue-in-cheek. How many of us find “savings” for discretionary purchases?)

#5 with extra points for well-nigh negative cost-per-wear. I bought a new shirt, a woven black button front from Old Navy for $25. That I expect to wear to work sooner rather than later.

Collar popped for Carolina.

#6. No new makeup. The look relied on a bright lip, created with a mix of 2-year old Medieval Queen layered over a Sephora private label in bright red that I bought 8 years ago. Hmm. I should probably throw out some of my old makeup. You think?

Possible But Not Guaranteed #7. Reuse. I might wear the skirt again for New Year’s Eve, this time with this white shirt. If so, I’d have to spend $50 for inexpensive gold sandals. So be it. Hair worn down in that case, as the outfit would be all about silver threads amongst the gold. Or I might just give the skirt to my daughter. Adult girl children who fit one’s clothing are a great help in purchase justification.

The night remains in the face of numbers, Sturdies always have to do the analysis.

The only sunk costs, as we say, were in hair and nails. But since the value of the evening was ephemeral, the investment correctly reflects what I was paying for. One night only. Be-spangled. Clutching one’s Significant Other’s suited arm to prevent high heel wobble, or staring across the floor at future Significant Other to catch his or her eye.

BTW, the Plebian Top, Footlights Skirt is not my idea. Sturdies don’t come up with new fashion, we just execute the heck out of good ideas. Sharon Stone did it here and here. Carolina Herrera does it all the time. And Miss Cavendish explores a similar, but more adventurous strategy, here.

Go out my friends and have some fun. Big-haired if you please. Even in our 50s we have the right.

I found sequins on the floor Saturday morning.


Updated for 2015

87 Responses

  1. i love everything about this outfit – the goddess hair, the unassuming black top, the sequins o lord you look fantastic and the detail on them i hope you saved the ones from your floor –

    moving on.

    clever spending all ’round, i say. i’ll do my best to channel your instincts as i build an outfit around, god help us all, my party pants.

  2. Oh, I was hoping you’d post photos of you in the sequined skirt! I love it!

    You know, if you think the money spent on the updo and painted nails was worth it, well, then it was.

  3. I LOVE it! Worth every penny, no questions asked. You look stunning, hope you got even more pictures, you should frame them!

  4. Gorgeous. The messy updo was perfection and I think that skirt was a very good purchase. It will be just as stunning with the white blouse.

  5. I think splurging on something like an up-do and/or mani/pedi is always worth it. It makes one feel special on a special night.

    J’adore your outfit! You look smashing.

  6. The updo is gorgeous. I hated the idea of a sequin skirt, but it is spectacular on you. Whatever you spent, you certainly got your money’s worth.

  7. Absolutely worth it, you look great. I love the skirt and think you may get more wear out of it then you realize. Would love great with a white tee and worn denim jacket as well. I do get my hair blown dry in a somewhat messier (and yet more cohesive) version than I can manage for special occasions.

  8. I love the skirt soooo much. I also enjoy having my hair ‘put up’ for a special occasion. It makes me feel all party-like and festive. Plus, any attempts to do it myself always end in disaster! For me it is definitely worth it.

  9. Totally worth it – you looked great, felt great, and $140-ish once a year isn’t going to break anyone. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

  10. I remember last year’s up-do and really think it’s worth spending money on the finishing touches. I’m rubbish at manicures (the nail polish ends up all over the place, maybe I need to get my eyes tested?) and have decided it’s time I started getting them done professionally. That sequin skirt is superb!

  11. The up-do is fantastic — very worth the money. Would have loved to have seen the back — judging by the sides I am imagining twisted strands and lots of bobby pins. The loose angle away from your face is very flattering.

    (Also: $143? For the hair AND the mani AND the tip? That’s very reasonable by Atlanta prices…)

    1. The back was exactly as you imagined it. Three primary whorls, everything twisted, and so many bobby pins they are still in a pile on the counter of my bathroom. Thank you.

  12. You look beautiful, so in your case it was worth every penny. Thankfully I cut and dye my own hair so I only have to tip myself, ha!

  13. You look very feminine with your hair ” done ” , the red lipstick and the black blouse. The shoes are classics too.
    Way here from north, I find it impossible that someone could attend a party without tights in December ; ). Brrr.

  14. I have not had my hair ‘done’ since my debutante ball, many years ago now, but I have to say you are looking very, very well, Lisa.

  15. I vote: Worth it. You look great! – Takes your look to ‘party’ without looking silly or overdone.

  16. Lisa you look radiant and THAT is worth the price; all can see how confident you are! I love the look as well and your updo.

    I say wear the skirt for New Years and if your daughter loves it; well give it to her. I cannot count the times I have done that!

    2012 Artists Series,

  17. Just last night I said to myself, “Having discovered that my style is Tomboy with a heavy does of French, I don’t think I’ll ever shop at All Saints again. Nothing for me there.” And now that solid certainty has melted into air at the sight of the skirt or more accurately, the sight of you looking so great in that skirt. Nor would I have ever thought of Old Navy. Sigh. Simplicity is only simple in appearance, less so in conctruction. You look beautiful.

  18. I’m about to spend the day tomorrow in a French salon (which has its own challenges) getting ready for two events, and I think it’s totally worth it. Love love love your skirt!

  19. You looked AMAZING! The skirt is perfect on you. Your messy updo was just right with the top and skirt. You looked very California Carolina.

  20. You could drop the cost significantly by trying a blow-dry bar like Halo or Drybar. A blowout at Halo is $35 (pre-tip) and only takes 45 minutes.
    The new reality series Start-Ups: Silicon Valley features the work of the stylists from Halo.

  21. Love the hair! Love the brighter makeup – it gives life to your entire look. And … wow what a figure!
    You look elegant and sexy. I hope you take this look someplace you can really party (work parties are all about good behavior). Love the popped collar : )
    SF Bay Area

  22. Oh my Lord! That bracelet is to die for gorgeous. Love the skirt, love the shirt, love the hair. You look fabulous Lisa!!! Worth every dime.

  23. This is one time that I agree with the slogan ‘because you’re worth it’. You work hard (I’m sure), you’re well paid (I assume), you deserve a night of looking radiant and stylish (which you do).

  24. Lisa, you look stunning! I love your restrained elegance.
    You made me feel brave to try burgundy nail color!
    Black shirt will look great with pearls strand or studs on a work day.

  25. I was just at a black tie event in NYC. I did not get my hair done, but fixed it myself in cooperative waves. I saw very few updos. Two were emulating wedding or prom hair that I felt looked too fussy. Two were similar to yours which looked less contrived. Worth the money it you felt beautiful! You certainly looked it!

  26. K.I.L.L.E.R.

    Sequins on the floor Saturday morning? And rug burn on thine skin, front back sides and knees, pray?

  27. Fabulous outfit, Lisa!

    I’m all for getting hair ‘done’ for a special night out. There’s something about the way hairdresser’s work with hair. You’re guaranteed great hair for at least 3 days post your event. They work magic with those hair irons and hair spray!

    SSG xxx

  28. I scrolled through all the comments without reading then (yet). I want to say this. I LOVE the idea of the messy updo and I love it on you! And yes, this was money well spent. You look fabulous, had fun, and novelty/newness is SO important. And, you know this–but you don’t have to justify spending money having your hair put up. I have to confess–I’ve done it only once–and I was only 40 years old at the time (60 now), but whenever I run across photos of me with the french twist, I look at them wistfully and remember being that age, looking like that, and the fun of it all.

    By the way, I was in Anthropologie in Dallas today and saw, for the first time, lipstick by Medieval Queen. Who else sells it? I saw no way to ascertain color.

    1. You can find it at Barneys. Maybe Sephora too? I wonder if I too will look at this photo in 20 years, wistfully. I can only hope yes:).

  29. Perfection and worth every penny!!!!! Love everything from top to toe! Love the hair, love the lipstick, just everything. You look like the coolest belle of the ball!

    ps, can I borrow that bracelet? (G)

  30. I think $143 for a blow-out, manicure and tip wasn’t that bad. Drybar charges $70 for an updo in DC.

    It looks great with the outfit and undoubtly added to the festive feeling.

  31. “Adult girl children who fit one’s clothing are a great help in purchase justification.”
    Oh so true, so true!!!

  32. Wish I could see the back of your head to know if that is worth $100. Do you not have a stylist in your town who can handle a messy updo? And a nail bar? (The cost may be reasonable to some of you, but still, I can think of a lot of other uses for $100. ) Anything in a Four Seasons is passing on their expensive lease in the prices; I should know, having frequented various vendors in the Toronto one for 25 years.

    I think you look smashing!

    1. My town is San Francisco, at this point. I confess, I think the way I looked from the front is how I calculated the value of the service.

  33. The hair looks great. But are you saying you spent $143 just on the manicure? Because having my nails done when I go to SF is a special treat because it’s such a bargain! I think I paid $14 for a pedicure there, a price I can match only in the inexpensive midwest by going to the beauty school.

    Your hair really does look nice like that.

  34. Yeah, baby! Love the insouciance of the look. Oh, and as for needing shapewear…AS IF! I vote for keeping the fab skirt

  35. i wore a cashmere t-neck, a ball skirt and cowboy boots to a mardi gras ball in DC. it was so comfortable and everyone loved it. i love the high/low look. now that i can’t wear heels anymore (knee injury), i will wear “shitkicker” boots.

  36. ps re “sunk costs”

    I’d send a pricing memo to San Francisco Four Seasons right this minute, but I don’t want to alter the STEAL you’ve got going for hair and nails. WHAT a deal! Shhhh, you might need to delete this post in order to protect your price point. That’s just a silly, silly price for intown hair and nails

  37. Oh my–what a thrill to be reading along, dazzled by your perfect ensemble and elegant hair (just l.o.v.e. it all), and come across a reference to my Ball skirts and Blondie tee post!

    The only time I had an updo created for an event was in Grade 9(!) before our junior high prom. The stylists had to be extra creative with my layered hair to make it stay up, and there was much fussing with twists, rolls, and lots of hair spray.

    I loved the look but remember the look of fear when I returned the following week to request the same for my graduation ceremony (junior high was grades 7-9 in Canada). They quickly convinced me to wear it down.

  38. You look stunning and gorgeous!! Wow! Your hair is divine, makeup highlights your natural beauty, and you wear the skirt like it was made for you. I can see the sparkle in your eyes – it was very well worth every penny!

  39. Wow! I too was a little leery of the words “sequined skirt”, but should have known you’d found something both tasteful and gorgeous. You look absolutely spectacular from head to toe.

  40. You look perfectly perfect! Something about the volume or height or something (wish I had a precise word!) of your hair completely compliments your face.

    Since 24 year old stepsons do nothing for purchase justification of sparkly skirts, I may see what H & M stocks…..I already have a black shirt.

  41. Twitter Mom, you look so gorgeous. Honestly. Everything about this outfit is perfection. And yes, I knew the Carolina H. reference before I even got there! I love your updo. So lovely all around.

  42. You look fabulous! It’s important for women/people to do something for themselves sometimes! Your hair is fabulous and your skirt is fun!!!
    Go for it!!!

  43. This is a truly phenomenal holiday outfit–perfect for a night out. There isn’t much that makes me feel shinier than a fresh manicure and hair exactly how I imagine it’d be in the movie version of my life. ;)

    1. That’s a great way to put. That photo is clearly the movie version of my life. As you all know, who see my more plebian story often enough.

  44. I think $143 at a salon in the Four Seasons sounds like a good price, but no matter…your hair looks splendid. I love it when you do yourself up a bit…you might even be mistaken for a Texan !!
    Love you, babe…

  45. I love this- everything, hair, makeup, skirt, top, all just fab. So this hair. This is a gorgeous updo on you without looking to ‘updo-ish’ if you know what I mean. I can’t see the back, but from the front it seems like it could even work with more casual clothes. An easier version of it, that is, one that doesn’t entail a visit to Four Seasons before work. Is it worth some experimenting?

    Sequins on the floor… oh, so glad someone’s having fun!

  46. Wow, Lisa you look stunning. Also, thanks for showing us how to wear the sparkles, I would be clueles without posts like this. I recently saw another blogger wearing it with a chunky sweater and it worked well too (if more casually).
    We recently attended my brother´s wedding and I had both my hair and my nails done (quite the adventure for me, the nails, as I am used to transparent or peach colors), and I think it was totally worth it.

  47. Oh my goodness…you look absolutely fantastic, and beautiful! Worth every penny, not only for the lovley outcome, but also for the wonderful beautification process that occurs in the inner self when ones enjoys a good old fashioned, luxurious dolling up at the hands of a trained professional.
    Your skirt wasn’t the only thing sparkling that evening!
    xo J~

  48. I just want to tell all of you, THANK YOU! Thank you so much. If you ever wondered if someone who posts their photos gets bored by the whole thing, in my case, no. Not at all. Doesn’t get old, this moment when I’ve planned an outfit and everything comes together and you guys are my cheering section. Thank you. We’re all in this together.

  49. As I’m sitting here visiting in the Bay Area from Pebble Beach and reading some of my favorite blogs, I see you in this gorgeous outfit! How smashing you look and truly if getting your hair “done” and having a mani made you feel even more glam, I say well done (esp. when you found sequins on the floor the next morning).

    My only wish was that you’d posted a full length photo so we could see the CL’s – don’t care how old they are, they’re always beautiful shoes and they must have been extraordinary to go with this look!

    1. Ah, yes, I thought of that. But the photo was taken by my hair stylist, right in the middle of the salon, and I did not want to outstay my welcome. There’s a photo of the shoes on the blog somewhere, search for Louboutins and they will surface. They were pretty great in this outfit, if I say so myself:).

  50. You could have spent more and it still would have been worth it. You look fabulous. I love it when you wear red lipstick. At least I think that it’s red. The outfit you’re wearing is perfect for a holiday party in San Francisco, just perfect. Nice job!

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