With party invites piling up, I started my quest at Versace. The silver one-shouldered cocktail dress ($2,240) felt so silky that I ignored the asymmetrical neckline—a feature I usually despise. Though the sewn-in thong was slightly shocking, I was blown away by my reflection in the mirror; the diagonal ribbing and high slit added curves to my boyish figure. The dress was too sexy for the office bash but great for a fancy date at Jean Georges. 647 Fifth Ave., at 52nd St.; 212-317-0224.
My roommate recently bought a gold dress from Zara, so I decided to swing by and risk the crowds. Unfortunately, hers was no longer in stock, but there was a huge metallic selection to choose from. I tried on a gold-brocade dress, $79, from the Zara Basic line. Its A-line shape was cute without being too foxy. Sadly, the fit was terrible. It wrinkled up top and hung loose at the waist. Plus, the itchy fabric—acrylic, polyester, and wool—reminded me of the flea-market sofa in my old dorm room. 689 Fifth Ave., at 54th St.; 212-371-2417.
Turned off by the ruthless bargain-hunters at Zara, I headed to Michael Kors uptown. Hanging in the window was just the dress I wanted. Fresh from Kors’s resort line, this gold-brocade number ($1,995) was short and glamorous. I headed to the large, well-lit fitting rooms, where the saleswoman had considerately left a pair of black pumps to complete the outfit. Once I was all zipped in, the dress looked gorgeous; it showed off my legs and shoulders perfectly but wasn’t too risqué. The circular collar, embroidered trim, and pastel-pink underlay lent it a pretty and modern look. Though pricey, this dress would make the perfect early Christmas present. 974 Madison Ave., at 76th St.; 212-452-4685.
Angel Street Thrift Store
Since most of my favorite clothes are from tiny vintage shops, I decided to swing by the Angel Street Thrift Store. Like many secondhand places, this one had a musty smell, and the clothes needed to be dry-cleaned. But the shopkeeper informed me that all proceeds go to charity, so I squelched my initial disappointment. Trying to help the world, I noticed this unlabeled silver-sequined frock shining in the corner. I was floored by the price: $35! But then I realized the mystery material didn’t breathe at all. After a long night of partying, I’d end up looking like a sweaty disco ball. 118 17th St., at Sixth Ave.; 212-229-0546.
Though I avoid meatpacking-district bars, I have a weakness for the neighborhood’s stores. So I heaved open Catherine Malandrino’s heavy door, only to find the designer herself actually in the store, lounging for an interview. I tried—in vain—to play it cool and found a knee-length number that was perfect for an upcoming dinner party. The pretty cream crocheted detailing added a boho touch to the silver-lamé pleated dress. But I hated the thick khaki shoulder straps, which didn’t match the rest of the outfit. Intimidated by the $2,500 price, I handed the dress back to the salesman. 652 Hudson St., at 13th St.; 212-929-8710.
Wandering into Arden B., I was immediately flooded with memories of high-school shopping sprees. Despite its young clientele and a playlist with Hillary Duff on high rotation, the store actually had a lot of dresses for post-adolescents—the best of which was this white-and-gold dress, $168. Its skirt billowed nicely without being too poufy, and the ribbon belt highlighted my waist. But I was practically swimming in the oversize top. Maybe this cut could work for Pamela Anderson, but for mere mortals, it would need major alterations. 104 Fifth Ave., nr. 16th St.; 646-638-0361.
Going to Macy’s at 6 p.m was shopping suicide. As I weaved between girls clearly on the same quest, their arms weighed down with piles of dresses, my eyes fell on this bronze Vivienne Tam look. I was curious to see how the deep V back and halter top would work on my body. Apparently, not well. The shape hit my figure in all the wrong places, and the dark color made me look ghostly pale. The $375 price, though not shockingly high, was too much for an all-polyester dress. When the store’s CD annoyingly began to skip, I knew it was time to get out. 151 W. 34th St., at Broadway; 212-695-4400.
Hurrying home to Park Slope, I ducked into the Goldy+Mac boutique to take shelter from the freezing wind. Browsing the racks, hands numb, I was instantly taken by Soda Blu’s Gold Dot Empire Dress. Twirling around the dressing room, I loved the subdued bronze mixed with fun, eye-catching gold polka dots. And the sweeping back showed off just enough skin while the ribbon belt defined my waist. I could almost imagine myself mingling in this silk, knee-length frock at my office holiday party. And with the $80 price tag, I’d have enough leftover cash for a new pair of shoes. 219 Fifth Ave., at President St., Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-230-5603.