The good news is … if Cinderella receives an invitation to the ball this year, she won’t have to go through all that business with the Fairy Godmother and the mice and the frogs and the rest of the fairytale world’s personal shopping team, because The Big Dress is Back.
What this means is that the High Street and online stores are glistening like a huge, over-brimming basket of shiny, jewel-bright Christmas baubles, as floor-length gowns shimmy onto the racks, shelves and showroom dummies, ripe for the picking.
“I am delighted to say that glamour is definitely back,” says Julie Trigg, owner of Your Dressing Room, a high-end boutique which relocated eight months ago to the Queens Arcade off Briggate in Leeds city centre, stocking wow-factor gowns to meet the needs of the modern Yorkshire “ball” (a word with a broad definition) guest.
“There appear to be so many more events these days such as award ceremonies, business product launches or anniversaries, elaborate weddings both in the UK and overseas, proms... and the type of event which stretches clients out of their comfort zone are the very popular masquerade balls,” Julie says, adding that, to complete the mystery look, the boutique also offers a range of masks to suit both introverts and extroverts.
The independents are probably the first port of call for those looking for special one-off dresses that won’t be in danger of finding a double (or imposter) at the ball. The concept of “snap” dresses is one that some (male) people find amusing, in a “why on earth would you be so bothered that someone else was wearing the same dress?” kind of way, but no woman wants to look like a bridesmaid or even worse, an ugly sister, at a special event. Dress doubles are striking for all the wrong reasons and comparisons are inevitably drawn, not least from the very (male) people who poo-poo the very idea that anyone should be remotely bothered about wearing the exact same frock as another guest.
The only surefire way to avoid it is by going to a bespoke dress-maker (I can recommend Jillian Welch on Westmoreland Street in Harrogate) with an idea of what you want. It needn’t be very expensive.
If you go to an independent shop to buy a designer dress off the peg, ask the staff if they can tell you how many other styles have been sold. Some shops keep records of dresses sold for various events such as proms.
However, fashion being what it is, there will inevitably be a number of similar styles and colour of gown in any one season – a flick through the snaps of any awards ceremony red carpet will tell you that – so the way you wear it is just as important as the dress itself.
Think about the whole look, the bag, the shoes, the hair and make-up and accessories, and don’t be afraid to go against the trend and create a very personal look that makes the most of your style and your shape.
But the High Street and online stores are not to be dismissed as they are putting on a fabulous display for the current party season. If you see a dress and love it, buy it. You don’t have to wear it this season and if you choose a classic beauty, it will be an investment for years to come.
You shall go to the ball. Now, where’s that pumpkin?