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What to Wear: High School Reunion

By Amalah

I have a shopping dilemma and hope you can help. My small town high school class reunion is coming up in June, and I don’t have a thing to wear! I haven’t seen most of these people in 20 years, and I desperately want to win “Hottest, Fiercest and Best Preserved.” (Even though that particular prize is only in my mind.) I was the class nerd and at 18 I dressed like a 40-year old; now I’d really like to look AMAZING at this reunion without looking like I tried too hard, you know?
I don’t want anything too dressy or fussy–the reunion will be in the evening at a steakhouse on a lake and isn’t really a dressy place, it’s the kind of place that people boat up to after a day on the lake so you’ll see everything from dresses and slacks to jeans and shorts. I don’t want to wear jeans or shorts, obviously, but cocktail dresses are out, too.
If it helps to know my body type, I’m a size 6 with a little belly pooch that after seven years I can no longer blame on the baby. My legs are decent (but very pale, and not the pretty kind of pale); most sleeveless tops are fine but tank tops make me feel like a linebacker, and I prefer to wear things with a defined waist. Oh, and also my budget is $150 or less. Can you help?!
Thanks! Just sign me
Wannabe Best Dressed

So usually, when I get these personal-shopper kind of questions, I try to be really broad and general and full of tips! and ideas! for everybody! (You know what you should wear? CONFIDENCE!) And then blah dee blah I add in a few links from a few stores and call it a day.
calendar%20pages%20dress%20velvet.jpgToday I am skipping all of that because I have the PERFECT dress for you. This one, by Velvet, available online at Anthropologie. (The brand is also available at a lot of small boutique-types stores but alas, I cannot seem to find a full retail availability listing so I suppose Anthropologie is the best bet.)
I know it’s the perfect dress because it’s MY perfect dress — my current go-to outfit for whenever the dress code is a tad nebulous, and my most justified splurge of like, ever. It’s the dress I WISH I WORE to my own high school reunion (I wore white linen pants and a black tank because the dress code got downgraded to “casual” and “no fancy dresses!” at the last minute and I panicked and you know what? Everybody else wore dresses anyway.) It’s cut like a super-flattering cocktail dress (the wide ruched waist hides the baby bulge; the length hits just around the knee) but it’s made of super-soft jersey material, thus keeping it from being “fancy”. It’s sleeveless but covers enough of your shoulders and back to keep from feeling exposed. I have it in the dark purple color, and I usually wear a black knit shrug-type cardigan over it (from Old Navy, of all places, though I can’t find a link to the exact one I have), but any wrap or shawl or sweater would work.
It’s a pretty deep V in the front, so depending on how much cleavage you’d like to flaunt at the reunion, you can either wear it alone or layer a lacy tank underneath (again, the ruched waist means you can wear a tank — or belly-slimming shapewear, cough cough — underneath without any lines showing). (I LOVE RUCHING, WHO KNEW?) Pair it with some really simply jewelry and your favorite pair of heels (I’ve also done black boots, but I’d say show your legs off for a reunion and wear the highest bitches you own). About two weeks before the reunion, start using once a day and you’re done and TOTALLY fierce and fabulous, for under $150.


Published April 27, 2009. Last updated April 27, 2009.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Deb

    April 27, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Hey-I don’t normally comment here, but couldn’t resist this time. First, have a great time at your reunion. Second, don’t make the easy choice of going with pearls with this dress. Do some chunky chains and go for a layered look. It’s very hip and modern. Also, strappy silver sandals would be a fun choice. Or a strappy animal print. A bunch of bangles would look great on your arm, too. Have fun!

  • Rachel

    April 27, 2009 at 12:56 pm
  • Melissa

    April 27, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    That dress is awesome, I just bought it in the green because for a friend’s wine tasting 30th birthday party this summer. Thanks for the tip Amy!!

  • Jess

    April 27, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Such a great suggestion for a reunion dress!!…and I highly second the application of self tanner!!! L’Oreal makes a great full force self tanner that doesn’t look orange and Nivea makes a great gradual self tanner.
    ALSO…victoria’s secret makes a bronzing spray (and apparently now a lotion) from their Bare Bronze collection which I like better than most I’ve tried…in case you need a more last minute solution…..because a tan makes everyone look skinnier, more in shape and healthier.

  • Jen L.

    April 27, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    And…this wins the “brilliant question and advice of the year” award! I was just thinking “what in the world am I going to wear to my husband’s reunion?” I just ordered this dress. Thank you, Wanna Be Dressed, for asking and thank you, Amy, for answering! God bless ruching.

  • Cass

    April 27, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    What a great suggestion! I actually found myself going “oooh!” when I saw it. But of course now I want it in all three colors. 🙂

  • gemma

    April 27, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Rah. I got all excited and was going to order the blue version before realising a) I’m in the UK and the pound/dollar conversion rate currently sucks, b) the shipping costs are on the top of that, c) Anthropologie sizing charts appear to ignore women who are US size 6-8 (buy small or medium???) and d) the generous dress length only suits tall modely types like Amy and not shorties like me. Sigh.

  • kalisah

    April 27, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    One thing to add: I went to my 20th reunion in 2004. Like you, I hadn’t seen these people in 18 years. And I know I look better now than I did then. So my one piece of advice: DON’T WEAR BLACK. Everyone will have on a little black dress. I wore pink. And got the award for “Still Got it after 20 Years.”

  • Dash

    April 27, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    All those Velvet dresses with the waist ruching are faaaaaaab. InSANEly flattering. I’ve currently got five (oh dear, that’s completely nuts, now that I think about it) from finding them on ebay: two shortsleeve (black and dark purpley/winey), two longsleeve (black and teal), and one sleeveless crossover type thing (mauve). So check ebay, too! Search terms are “velvet anthropologie,” “‘velvet brand’,” and “velvet graham.”

  • wallydraigle

    April 28, 2009 at 12:29 am

    I love that dress. I’m looking around the house, trying to figure out what I could sell to pay for it, and all I can think of is the baby, and my husband would kill me if I sold her. So would I.
    Anyhow, do be careful with the self-tanning moisturizer. I bought a bunch of it a few years ago, and it was great, and I loved it, and my vampire self loved the cancer-free tan. Until someone came up to me and said, “Dude, what happened to your elbows?” and I said, “What?” And then I looked at my elbows, and lo, there were orange. Orangey orange. Like a dirty traffic cone. I mean, who looks at their own elbows? I sure don’t.
    The stuff is awesome, but work around your elbows, not over them.

  • Laura

    April 28, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Love the dress, need help – would it work for nursing? I have several weddings to go to in the upcoming months, and will have a tiny baby at all of them!
    Would love to have a pretty dress that would work for feeding the baby too….

  • Jillian

    April 28, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Love Velvet brand! I splurged on one of their dresses and it was well worth it.
    Three pointers for styling that fantastic dress:
    1. I second the fun, chunky, bold necklace or bracelet as an accessory. Pearls will look dowdy.
    2. Also second the COLOR choice. You will look daring and confident.
    3. SKIP THE SWEATER or SHAWL or SHRUG. This is my new theory in life: they fug up a perfect dress. Go sleeveless! Wearing or draping something to cover your perhaps less than perfect arms actually draws MORE attention to them. Once again, you will look more confident sleeveless.

  • Heidi

    April 28, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Too funny! I ordered that dress in all three colors from Overstock last summer and everything Amy says about them is true!

  • Suzy Q

    April 28, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    OMG, don’t even bother with the self-tanning crap. Get the spray pantyhose stuff from Sally Hansen. Goes on in a jiff, dries almost instantly, doesn’t rub off or stain your clothes, and washes off in the shower. Yes, you can use it on your arms, too. (I used it at my last reunion.)
    Have fun at your reunion!

  • Donna

    April 29, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    I’ll be interested to hear how many of the attendees read this column and show up in the same dress. (Sorry, just struck me funny)

  • Lindsey

    May 4, 2009 at 10:13 am

    I own this dress! It’s absolutely the perfect thing ever. And, um, if you’re going to any graduation events in DC this year, please wear something else. I call dibs.