Help, I Need an Outfit for Tonight! How to Avoid "Emergency" Shopping, by Fern Baker-Guy

We've all been here >> It's Friday afternoon and it's just dawned on us that we need something to wear to our (fill in the blank)…date, party, dinner, whatever... for tomorrow night!! Sure we've known about it for awhile but we just couldn't make the time to shop. We figured we'd wear something we already had, but now we've checked the closet and nothing is hitting us. Now we are desperate. It's a full blown outfit emergency. 

Okay, so maybe I'm dramatizing just a little about the emergency part. But not about shopping at the last minute. It's not always easy to squeeze shopping into our busy schedules. So we put it off and put it off until suddenly, there's no more time and we find ourselves rushing around from store to store.

As you might expect, we get these "emergencies" all the time here at Smith & Scott. And I will say with no false modesty that we are GOOD at what we do. We spring into action, offering suggestions, piling looks into the fitting room. An epic try-on session ensues. Happily, 97% of the time, we hit a home run and another customer goes home happy with her purchase, ready to face her event with confidence. The other 3%? We can't make it happen. And it's sad. For us and our customer.

Having been on the customer side of this equation many a time, I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't have to be this way for us. There's a simple solution to prevent dilemmas like this. If you were a Girl Scout, you already know this: Repeat it now with me - BE PREPARED.

Perhaps you like the thrill of the hunt, that challenge to find "the" perfect thing. That's okay! I get it, trust me. But honestly there's no need to wait till the eleventh hour to start the process. Waiting can too often lead to rush decisions, and by rush I mean bad - bad in that it's not exactly what you wanted, or it doesn't suit your lifestyle, or any number of reasons.

So I've become a big believer in being prepared with certain basic - and not so basic - items that will see you through nearly any event that life can throw at you. Except maybe a costume party. THAT we can't help you with.

In Fern's Ideal Fashion World, everyone would own the following 9 items. If you don't currently possess them, or if you do but they've seen better days (worn-looking, out of style, don't fit), my advice is that you look to plenish - or replenish - your Fall/Winter wardrobe, starting with what I call "The List". 

1. A great pair of jeans. I'll start with perhaps the most obvious. Jeans are a staple in most women's wardrobes. I'm  hard-pressed to think of a garment with as much versatility as a pair of jeans. They are perhaps the original "dress it up/dress it down" wardrobe item. You may have to kiss a lot of frogs (i.e. try on lots of jeans) until you find your perfect, pair. But you'll know them as soon as you put them on. They'll be the ones that look great and feel great, regardless of which style you choose.

2. A well-cut pair of black pants. The list of ways that you can wear black pants is almost endless. The trick is to pick a style that is flattering to your height and shape, and select the best cut pair you can afford. Pants like this, when worn with a statement top, strappy shoes and jewelry, can help you pull off all but the most formal of events. I have attended many a cocktail party in this attire and always felt chic.

3.  A statement coat. In cold weather, the last thing you put on before walking out the door is the first - and sometimes only -  thing people see. Don't settle for just a boring basic. Sure, we all need that utilitarian coat that we can wear to shovel snow. But when your chance to make an impression rests on your outerwear, choose to make a statement. What you choose is completely up to your taste and preferences. Think of a belted midi coat, a short cozy faux fur or a hooded anorak. Right now we have so many choices in store; we'll help you choose one that's right for you. 

4. A jacket that can be worn indoors or out. And by that I mean as your outer layer in the Fall, and as your "third piece" in the winter. Think leather moto jackets, jean jackets and blazers. A jacket  - when worn with jeans, pants, skirts or dresses - adds polish and "completes" your look. It expands your ability to wear sleeveless or short sleeved tops in the cooler weather because you've got an added layer for warmth, which you can remove at will. In fact, the only time I usually skip a jacket is over a bulkier sweater. 

5. A fabulous sweater. Speaking of, you need a sweater (or 3) that can stand on its own and do all the talking. It's the favorite companion to your jeans, and requires almost no thought once you have one - just throw it on, step into your boots, and go!

6. An LBD (little black dress). You will always thank yourself when you have some form of a classic LBD in your closet. When you see a great one, don't hesitate - buy it. Immediately. They are surprisingly hard to find when you absolutely need one.  I can't tell you how many times and to how many events over the years I wore a black silk jumpsuit I got here at Smith & Scott. Yes, an LBD can be a jumpsuit! It just needs to be something that is simple, chic, and versatile - that you can change the look of with a change of accessories. I've worn it with sandals, pumps and boots; with gold jewelry and silver; with and without a belt; and with and without a jacket. You get the picture. 

7. A going-out blouse. It's Saturday night and you're staring at your closet, wondering what to wear to dinner. You've got the jeans, and/or the pants - now,  what to wear on top? That's where a going-out blouse comes in handy. So what's a going-out blouse? It's one that's a little more than basic in one or more ways. It could be the fabric (think velvet, lace, or silk), it could be the details (think strategic cut-outs, buttons, or ruffles), or it could be the style (think sexy button-down, halter, or flowy boho). Having at least one of these in your closet makes getting dressed to go out so much easier.

8. Some basic layering tees or tanks. It may seem boring, but we all need something simple to wear under or with something else. A simple tank top can look cute peaking out the bottom of a sweater, especially if the sweater is more on the cropped side. A classic white tee looks great with jeans and a blazer. And a cami can be just the ticket under a low-cut top or dress. So don't forget about these items. I suggest tees and tanks in black and white, and camis in black and beige/nude/blush - they'll go with everything.

9. A go-to event dress. This is the one that sends lots of us into a tizzy. You've accepted the invitation, and now you have to figure out what to wear. Depending upon the occasion, you might be able to wear your LBD, which is great. But on the off-chance that you want to look a little more special, consider investing in a fabulous dress that makes you feel like a million bucks. Maybe you love a sexy, ruched bodycon look. Or maybe feminine and flowy is more your style. The sky's the limit. This is your chance to feel great that there's always an amazing dress you can reach for in a pinch. And if you do want to explore other options at the last minute, you can do so safe in the knowledge that you've got your trusty backup!

So, does this mean that you'll never have to emergency shop again? Of course not! There will always be last-minute trips and other special occasions that call for something specific. But when you invest in an up-to-date selection of "The List", you hopefully won't ever have to say "Help, I need an outfit for tonight!" But if you do, you know we're here for you!