I Wore Formalwear For A Week IRL & Online

Before embarking on this challenge, I yearned for society to go back to the olden days, when people used to dress up for the smallest of occasions. The idea of wearing formalwear every day seemed like some kind of dream come true to me, so I decided to turn that concept into an experiment of sorts.

If I had to guess, I’d say that approximately one third of my wardrobe consists of formalwear, which might seem quite excessive. I blame this on a few factors, namely being a member of a vintage girl band, attending a number of weddings in recent years, and not being able to part with formalwear when I have a closet purge. There's just something about dressing up that makes me feel like the most vibrant, intellectual, classy, and effervescent version of myself. Whenever I attend an event or a party, I always dress up to eliminate any misunderstanding of the dress code. Plus, I just feel super confident and ready for anything that event might throw at me when decked out in a fancy gown.

I've always enjoyed playing dress-up with fashion, so a week in formalwear sounded like a walk in the park. Little did I know that the reality of the situation would be quite different to what I had imagined.

Monday: The Full Length Silver Sequin Dress

Instagram Likes: 5

Facebook Likes: 30

Facebook Comments:

  • "You look stunning xx."
  • "Fabulous," accompanied with a couple of OK Hand Sign Emojis.
  • Face Throwing A Kiss Emoji, from my mother.

I started the week full of high hopes, so I thought why not go all out in a silver sequin maxi?

I sported a pair of sparkly, gold heels and soon regretted the decision since it was a windy day. I walked to my local mall and until that moment, I had never noticed how slippery the floor there was. I struggled to hold my composure and noticed that I was getting quite a few stares. As I left the mall and entered the streets, a teenage wolf whistled at me, but I carried on walking to my main destination: the library.

I finally trotted into the library. When I went to order a new card from the help desk, an elderly lady outright asked me why I was dressed in such a way. She told me that "they" (presumably her friend and the ladies at the desk) had been curious about my attire and thought I might be going on a cruise. The woman also informed me that in her day, everybody used to dress up. Finally, her friend said I looked lovely.

On the way home, I bumped into a friend who asked, "Where are you going all dressed up?" I explained what I was doing and she said, "Well, you look very sparkly!"

Tuesday: The Peachy Peter Pan Collar Frock

Instagram Likes: 4

Facebook Likes: 12

Facebook Comments:

  • A Sparkling Heart Emoji alongside "beautiful xx," from my mother.

On the second day of my experiment, I chose something less glitzy: A vintage-inspired peach dress with a Peter Pan collar.

I drove to my friend's house since we were having a rehearsal for an upcoming performance with our band. I hadn’t driven to her house for a long time, so naturally I ended up getting lost. At one point, I had to get out of the car and I felt a little more vulnerable than I normally would, considering I was a lone woman, wearing a pretty dress, inspecting my car in the darkness. However, all was well and I reached her house once I utilized my handy GPS.

I asked my friend what she thought of my outfit, and she said that she'd wear formalwear everyday if she could. She's a gal who loves anything glamorous and whose hair and makeup are always on point. Her son said that people shouldn't comment on other people's clothing because it's an expression of their personality. He added that folks who talk about other people's outfits could end up causing offense. These were very wise words from a 12-year-old.

We practiced as normal and then, after I made sure I knew the route, I drove home and felt a lot more confident. I almost forgot I was wearing the dress.

Wednesday: The Black Lacy Number

Instagram Likes: 1

Facebook Likes: 14

Facebook Comments: 0

I was a little worried about Wednesday because I knew I'd be making a trip to the supermarket. The store I tend to visit is big, usually busy, and often speckled with people I know.

However, people seemed too busy or too tired to care what anyone else was wearing or doing; it was dinner time and I presume most shoppers were stopping by after work and were in a hurry to get home. I saw a family friend who had seen my posts on social media. She knew what I was up to, commented on how brave I was, and said I looked lovely. Clearly, I needn't have been so worried about my trip to the supermarket after all.

Thursday: The Sequin Mini With Faux Fur Collar

Instagram Likes: 0

Facebook Likes: 9

Facebook Comments: 0

On Thursday I wore a peachy, pink mini dress embellished with rose gold sequins. In an attempt to make it a tad more formal, I paired it with a faux fur collar and pink, sparkly shoes.

It was dark by the time I finished work, but not actually late, so I headed to a local coffee shop. On the way, I got cat called. I presume this was because my coat just about covered my dress, possibly making me look naked underneath.

I made it to the coffee shop and the female barista asked if I was going anywhere nice. The shop was completely dead, so I took my coffee to go and walked to a local convenience store. I passed quite a few people, but almost none looked my way, aside from an elderly couple who stared as they passed by. I bought some items from the shop and was treated like a normal human customer. I decided that perhaps this experiment would always yield more results in the daytime, when people could clearly see what I was wearing.

Friday: The Baby Blue Bridesmaid Dress

Instagram Likes: 1

Facebook Likes: 17

Facebook Comments:

  • "See you in Tesco haha x," this was the same friend I had run into at the supermarket, and we proceeded to chat about things unrelated to my attire.
  • "What's this about lol?"

On Friday I had planned to go swimming with my aunt and uncle. I wore a floor length, blue gown that I sported last summer as a bridesmaid.

Needless to say, this was the most difficult dress to wear and the worst I could have picked for a swimming pool excursion. I was constantly lifting up my skirt, since I was petrified of getting it wet, or worse, getting chlorine on the hem.

It made getting changed into my swimsuit an art akin to a contemporary dance, whereby I was trying to keep the entire dress elevated and away from the wet changing room floor. My aunt and uncle thought my choice of outfit was peculiar considering the circumstances. And a young woman I see regularly at the pool quizzed me in the dressing room about why I was wearing this formal frock. I felt super fancy, but it was incredibly inconvenient.

Saturday: The Dove Gray Dragon Scale Dress

Instagram Likes: 3

Facebook Likes: 10

Facebook Comments: 0

On Saturday night, my band had a concert at a local golf club, so we had to prepare for most of the day. In the morning, I went for brunch with my mom and my grandparents, and the first thing my mom said to me was, "You look lovely but you're dressed a bit inappropriately aren't you?" She was referring to the rainy day we were having.

Later in the day, I saw my friend, my aunt, and my uncle, who had all seen me earlier in the week wearing other formal dresses. They didn't have much to say on the subject. I particularly liked this dress because it was much easier to move around in and I felt a little like Daenerys Targaryen in a dragon-inspired garment, due to the large sequins that I thought looked like dragon scales.

Sunday: The Customized Wedding Dress

Instagram Likes: 2

Facebook Likes: 10

Facebook Comments:

  • "Omg! I'm so glad you still wear it! It looks fab on you! Hope all is well," accompanied by a Smiley Emoji. This was in response to my tagging the friend who had customized the dress.

On the final day of my experiment, I was going to a bridal boutique to try on wedding dresses, so I wore a white, tulle dress that is actually a customized wedding dress.

My mom accompanied me, but she didn't have a lot to say. Upon entering the bridal shop, I felt the need to explain why I was already wearing a wedding dress. The owner of the store knows me from bridesmaid dress fittings in the past, so she's aware of what I do for a living and of my personality. She didn't have much to say on the matter, but wearing this dress proved quite useful because she could see what kind of style I was drawn to. I didn't find one (it was only my first fitting), but I had a ton of fun sipping tea in this ethereal number.

What Did I Learn From Being So Fancy?

When you wear formalwear in everyday life circa 2016, people seem to presume that you are attending a special event. Most folks wear casual or comfy clothes in their day to day lives, and while I understand the practicality of that, I do feel like it can take the magic out of fashion. That being said, one thing I didn’t account for was how heavy or restrictive some of the dresses would be. The blue dress in particular just wasn't convenient for everyday life.

In terms of the cat calling and the extra looks I received, it all made me feel like I was in the spotlight — which as a performer I thought I wouldn't mind. But when it was actually happening, it made me feel uncomfortable.

I started the week with a fair amount of attention on social media, probably because people were interested in what I was doing. The interest spiked again when I wore the blue bridesmaid dress, possibly because it was the most formal dress of the week. Ultimately, people online seemed to like the idea of wearing formalwear everyday, but the reality was quite different. The more formal the outfit, the more difficult it was for me to continue with my everyday activities.

I had entered into this thinking I would fall in love with wearing formal attire. But now, back in the comfort of my sweatpants, I am very happy to save formalwear exclusively for special occasions.

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Images: Phoebe Waller