A reader wrote inquiring if I had any advice on what to wear for a pending high school reunion when the dress code is "casual." I want to answer that question, but also give some advice on what to expect and how to get ready.
Maybe the person you were ten years ago is a fragment of a memory and the only thing that is the same about you now is your social security number. Or maybe you are exactly the same person you were ten years ago, except now you dreams are numbered in a 9 to 5 job. You never (EVER) imagined at your ten year reunion you would have a roommate, credit card debt, and a match.com profile. You can't plan those things and already you are scripting your answers of how you will respond when someone asks, "Exactly what it is it you do? I thought you wanted to be a biologist that worked with dolphins?!?"
The ten year reunion can be a period of reflection on not only what you have become, but how that measures up against people who you once started your young adult life with. It can be a literally mentally, emotionally, and quite frankly physically exhausting to revisit the person you once were.
Fairly with the advent of Facebook you probably already know who looks good, who doesn't, who is married and on baby number three, and who is going to be on the cover of Forbes before the age of 30. It might be helpful to indulge in a little Facebook stalking (this is the only time I would advocate this) to avoid any unnecessary surprises. You can chalk it up to research.
Depending about how you feel about life in general, you might be really in a good place and are actually looking forward to the reunion. You might have far exceeded every life goal you ever set and the only problem you have is you have so many options you don't know what to choose. No one really wants to hear about that either. Or this could be just like every other Friday night if you never left your hometown.
I think you will find that most people seem to be flourishing (or at least it will sound that way) and the rest are just trying to survive their twenties. This might sound cheezy, but think about what you are going to say before you get there. If you are not where you want to be in life, you don't have to admit that. Instead focus on what you want to do long term, a hobby you have, or a trip you took/planning to take. Maybe identify some high moments in the last ten years. Just because you once sat next to someone in Art class in the tenth grade does not mean you have to advertise your greatest trials. There is something called oversharing. Alcohol is affectionately known as the truth serum, so maybe keep your cocktail limit in check. Place all your drama in a box and leave it home. It will make the night more enjoyable for you and for everyone you re-meet.
Now that I have set the scene for you, I'm still not ready to talk about attire. I think it is important to talk about your overall appearance.
I suggest you invest in some new makeup. I am not advocating strolling into Macy's an hour before the reunion and telling the counter girl to work her magic. You will leave looking like a disco version of yourself. Rather maybe a few weeks before go buy some new foundation, eye makeup, etc.
If you are really feel like you shouldn't have worshipped the sun via a tanning bed for most of the recent decade, go see a professional. Although, I have mixed feelings about Radiance MedSpa in Old Town. I do not have mixed feelings about the products they sell. Obagi is a miracle in a jar. If you feel good, you will look good. It is practically scientific.
Also, let me guess, you do not weigh in the same as you did in the twelfth grade? Let's be realistic. You might want to hit the gym, but a crash diet the week or month before is not really going to change the way you look. If you are a month out (sure, get to the gym) but really you should invest in some quality spanx. If nothing else, you are who you are, but no one needs to be a lumpy version of themselves.
Also, this is not the time to think you should radically change your hair. If you never had bangs, don't convince your hair dresser this is the time. Or you have been a brunette your whole life, don't channel your inner Marilyn Monroe the week before the event. You have been you the last ten years and reinventing yourself the month/week before the reunion will just make you look like you are trying too hard, which quite frankly you are. Instead invest in a trim, maybe try a pack of Crest strips, and do a few extra situps at the gym.
With all that being said, you should consider buying a new outfit if your budget permits. It shouldn't be flashy. No sequins, no 4 inch heels, no ruffles. It needs to be something you would actually wear again. I think that is crucial because that indicates you will feel comfortable and be yourself.
We all come from different places and what is normal in DC, is not normal in my hometown. You don't really see woman sporting a thousand dollar handbags like you do on the metro here. I would be mindful of how you dress. If your hometown is a little bit more simple, maybe you can return to your roots a little and leave your Gucci and Prada at home. You don't want everyone to be so focused on what you are wearing they forget to ask about you.
No matter where you grew up or where the reunion is, don't wear jeans. I don't have a good reason. Just don't.
If it is a day reunion, I would suggest something like this outfit below. I am always mindful of avoiding looking like twins, which means not running to JCrew and grabbing the first dress that fits. This outfit looks simple, classy without trying to hard. I would recommend this for a day mixer perhaps at a fancier restaurant or a hotel.
If you feel like the outfit above is a little to formal and you still want to look young. I really like the style of ModCloth. You can find some very affordable, retro inspired clothes that are youthful. These dresses would be perfect if the event is at a local pub or more down to earth restaurant.
If it is an evening event, I say default to a version of the LBJ but you will look too much like everyone else. Maybe find something in navy, beige, or a green. However, if you know you look good and you want everyone to notice it, go for red.