It’s been ages since I shopped for the dressiest items in my wardrobe, but that’s what I’m doing this year. I’ve budgeted for it, and will add it to my style goals. My formal frocks and skirts are either too short, impractical to wear, or have bitten the dust. It’s high time I refreshed my formal wear capsule, which is in itself a refreshing process after years of focussing on smart casual wear.

We don’t have formal occasions on our calendar so far, but I’m shopping for the items now because I seldom find KILLER right formal wear at the right price when I need it urgently for an occasion. I almost always compromise in some way with the silhouette, colour, quality, or price when I’m forced to find something under pressure. By taking my time this way, I can relax into the process, enjoy it, browse and experiment to my heart’s content, and most importantly, not compromise. When I see items that are more than what I want to spend, I can wait till they go on sale. Sometimes patience is all important when it comes to wardrobe and style.

I’ve already had great luck with this formal wear shopping strategy. I nabbed the perfect-for-me navy lace-embellished shirt dress from Rebecca Taylor at a very good price last month. It’s more relaxed than the formal wear that I usually wear, more fluid and A-line in person, a great length, beautifully refined and dainty, covered yet sheer, and very comfortable. It fits perfectly, and looks fab with my old block-heeled gold loafers and big vintage Yorkie brooch. I don’t have plans to wear the dress soon, but it’s a versatile item that I can pull out when I need it.

I’m also on the lookout for items like a big swooshy tulle skirt, a white or navy tuxedo of sorts, a long formal gown, a bright cocktail dress, and a dressy gold bag. These items will find me when they’re dead right, just like the lace dress. In the meantime, I’ve ordered the navy tulle P.A.R.O.S.H. skirt, which has potential. If it works, I can dress it down with a casual top, sneakers, denim jacket, and wear it more frequently.

There is some risk to minimize with this strategy. It’s important not to shop for an imaginary lifestyle. Instead, I’m purchasing ahead of time so that I’m optimally and calmly prepared for the occasions that I know will crop up in future. My sartorial preferences for formal wear are quite stable, so the items will have longevity. But I do need to make sure that I choose silhouettes and colours that I won’t tire of quickly.