THE DRESS: The July 2009 issue of InStyle magazine featured a fashion spread with Marion Cotillard. In one photo (left), she wore a black, floor-length Reem Acra jersey gown. I became obsessed. The beautiful draping into a high, middle slit, the plunging neckline, the ruching at the sleeves — FLAWLESS. I had to have this dress! There’s only one small problem. No way can I afford a Reem Acra gown.
December 2009, I traveled to the Philippines to spend the holidays with my family. I would attempt to have my dream dress made. Dressmakers in the Philippines are affordable and able to make dresses simply from looking at a photo. My niece helped me pick a fabric. I selected a matte jersey so I could match the draping, but I opted for a teal color. Typically, I avoid wearing black for black-tie events.
Then in Tarlac, my sister took me to her dressmaker. After taking lots of measurements, with magazine photo for reference, she went to work. With only two weeks in the Philippines right around the holidays, I only had time for one fitting, but I had a great start to the dress. Once back in Austin, I went to my favorite tailor, Triana Tailors, to complete the dress. She determined that a side zipper was needed so that the dress could be more fitted around the torso. I was impressed how she searched high and low for a zipper that would match the color of the dress and hence be invisible.
Does my dress look exactly like the Reem Acra? No, but it is a beautiful, well-made dress that I was able to wear to the reopening of Arthouse at the Jones Center in 2010. Thanks to the stretchy jersey, I’ll get lots of use out of the dress for many years. In fact, just last month, I received a last minute invite to a black-tie event for the Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos gala and selected this dress from the archives to wear.
MAKE-UP: When I wore the dress last month, I really focused on my makeup. First step was applying a base of Maybelline Dream Liquid Mousse Foundation over moisturized skin. Concealer and Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion completed the blank canvas. Focusing on my eyes, I did a layered, purple, smoky eye. I then used Clinique Quickliner for Eyes Intense in Ebony to line the inner rim of my eyes for added drama and definition. I also added a few individual lashes to the outer corners of my eyes. No matter my makeup look, I always opt for a strong, groomed brow. For my cheeks, I applied Benefit High Beam to the highest part of my cheekbones and blended using a round, flat-topped brush. Then I used my fluffy blush brush to apply a rosy pink shade on top. Finally, for the lips, I applied a neutral pink lipstick topped with a bit of gloss for shine. What I’m most proud of is that this photo is taken at the end of the night, proving that with proper application, your makeup can last.
THE ACCESSORIES: In the Philippines, I did have the dressmaker make me a jeweled belt in the style of Marion’s above, but it just didn’t look right. I looked and looked, tried on many belts and finally found the perfect one at Forever 21. It was inexpensive and the horse-bit buckle was a nice detail to complement the dress.
Next, I needed a fabulous pair of shoes to peek out from underneath that high slit. Another inexpensive find, I bought a pair of Nine West black, platform gladiator sandals, on sale at Marshall’s. The shoes are studded with colored rhinestones that perfectly coordinate with the color of the dress. Not only are these shoes sexy, they’re pretty comfortable.
For jewelry, I like these white crystal chandelier earrings with no necklace so as not to detract from the neckline. Finally, I wore matching silver and gunmetal cuff bangles, a favorite, oft-used Target purchase from years ago. Nothing like matching cuffs to make you feel like a superhero.
END RESULT: Although bold in color, this gown is one that has proven its flexibility. It’s floor length, but the jersey fabric makes it adaptable to many events and very comfortable to wear. All that being said, my favorite thing about this gown is that it truly is one of a kind. Custom-made, I can guarantee that no one will show up wearing the same dress as me.
Images: Marion Cotillard, self portraits – author’s own