Have You Skipped the Dress Rehearsal and Gone Right to Opening Night?

December 28, 2012

I had carefully planned my wardrobe for a recent trip to New York City where I was going to be spending an entire day shopping with a client. I’m not a light packer, and I don’t apologize for that. I always bring something extra just in case my mood changes, the weather doesn’t cooperate or I spill something. Thankfully, this trip was no exception but what happened made me more aware of the importance of giving your clothes a “dress” rehearsal.

I was leisurely getting ready in my hotel room on the morning of the shopping trip. I put on my brown pants and a jacket. My makeup was on, and I was fully accessorized. The only thing left to do was finishing packing and put on my shoes. And, then it struck me. The shoes I had brought did not have a high enough heel for the pants I planned to wear with the outfit. Sure enough, when I put my shoes on, the hem dragged on the ground – not a particularly elegant look and certainly not good for the pants.

I was so upset with myself. Thankfully, I was not completely stuck. I was able to wear the pants I had on the day before. They were the perfect color and the heel height was right. I just wasn’t as happy with the combination since the pants weren’t quite as elegant as the pair I had planned on wearing (although I’m probably the only one who noticed that). I took a breath, made peace with the outfit and vowed to rehearse my outfits more carefully the next time. It’s one thing to find that out in the privacy of your own home where changing is easier, but this was a new pair of pants, and I had not put it through the rehearsal process long enough to be sure what shoes would work best with them.

But, there’s a bigger lesson here. Fashion magazines are full of great ideas but it’s not until you translate those ideas directly to your body that you know whether it’s a hit or a miss. Something can look just perfect and inviting when you lay it out on the bed or see it hanging on the mannequin in the store, but it’s another thing to actually put it on your body and see how it all works in real life.

Recently, while doing a wardrobe consultation with Diane I mentioned my dress rehearsal concept. She told me that she does a “staging” with her clothes. She chooses her outfit ahead of time and then hangs it altogether on her closet door. She reviews it several times to see if she likes it before she decides to wear it. This certainly sets the stage for a fun outfit but, she agreed, it isn’t until she actually puts it on that she knows for sure whether it really works or not. My point exactly.

We are not one-size-fits-all or one-dimensional, and we do not have mannequin bodies. It’s easy to assume that the outfit will look just as good on us as it does laying the bed or on a mannequin, but it’s those assumptions that contribute to our frustration when they don’t. Your own private dress rehearsal will solve this problem.

Amy told me of a similar experience she had had. She found out she was to be the recipient of an award from her company, and it was to be presented to her at a special dinner. It’s no surprise that she wanted her outfit to be special. She found a dress she liked. It was sleeveless so she bought a pretty cardigan to go over it in exactly the right color. Her shoes, jewelry and handbag completed the outfit. She had been staring at the combination for 2 weeks with anticipation, and finally the day of the event arrived.

She got dressed and realized that not only did the sweater make the neckline bunch up funny but when she tried to walk more than 10 feet in her shoes her heels would slip, and she nearly fell out of them. They had been fine while she was standing looking in the mirror and moving ever so slightly but as soon as she walked any distance, yikes, she walked right of them. All she could think of was why hadn’t she done a full dress rehearsal before. What had she been thinking!

She ended up pinning the neckline to the sweater, and it turned out the room was warm so (phew!) she didn’t need the extra layer most of the time. She found some gel pads to stick in the front of her shoes so she could walk up on stage to receive her award. Unfortunately, the shoes made her feet hurt but at least she wasn’t leaving them 4 steps behind her when she walked. She had averted disaster and supreme frustration but her experience was not as fun and elegant as she had planned for it to be.

The moral of the story is that even if you’ve worn each piece separately before – even many times – it’s important to see if the new combination you’re considering really works. Your memory can do funny things, and it’s easy to forget that something was particularly clingy or only looked good with a skinny pant. The proposed outfit might look attractive hanging on the closet door lulling you into a false sense of security. Until you put it on. That’s the real test. Yes, you might feel like you have better things to do (a.k.a., things you’d rather do) than try your clothes on ahead of time. But, I promise that if you do this you’ll be so happy you did. No more last minute frantic clothing changes complete with cursing, tears and threats of not going anywhere. You’ll breath a sigh of relief as you get dressed with ease. And, if a practiced outfit doesn’t work during a dress rehearsal not only do you have a chance to tweak it with less stress.

A director would never go directly from selecting the cast and staging the space to opening night, and it’s not advisable to do that with your wardrobe either. A dress rehearsal is an invaluable step in your journey (whether it’s done in your home or at the store if you purchase everything at the same time) to creating a wardrobe you love with ease and joy. A few extra minutes of practice can save you frustration and anxiety as the curtain goes up, and the next day there will be glowing reviews all around!

Share this post:

Learn how to stop wasting money on things you never wear.
Get Ginger's free e-book and bi-weekly newsletter with fashion secrets: