Preparing for Graduation Day

It seems spring is finally upon us and if you haven’t been inspired to shop for your upcoming events, it may be time to start looking. The delay of warm weather has definitely put me behind the eight ball. This year there is an added pressure to savor the end of my elder child’s senior year while I frantically work double time to catch up with clients who now need to get their spring wardrobe together.

Needless to say, multiple graduation parties are in my near future but the cash flow for my own spring refresh has come to a screeching halt. When they calculate the cost of having a child, I honestly think the bulk of that sum comes during their senior year of high school and getting them into their first year of college. I realize we are in the homestretch with our little bundle of joy but that whole “baby needs a new pair of shoes” is wearing thin.

The quote of the week was relayed to me by Lane from one of her friends: “Isn’t your mom a stylist? Why don’t you get her to find a dress for you?” These girls are going places indeed. When Lane laid this insightful idea on me, I just gave her a deadpan look. “Mom, no listen…I was thinking I could ‘hire’ you. Not that I would actually pay you but you could look for dresses for me.” As far as success rate, this falls into the lead zeppelin category. I have agreed, but the condition is that she has an open mind and she has to try them on for me. Stay posted on my Instagram stories to see how the search unfolds.

Even though this is Lane’s celebration, I will also need to wear something for the various parties surrounding graduation. I consider myself a stylist but I’m also a strategist. Finding a few solutions would be in my best interest. Here is how I broke them down.


1. Wear something I already own and invest in the accessories that I’ve been coveting.

2. Wear something I purchased last spring and increase its value by buying something to wear with it.

3. Buy something new and wear the shoes and accessories I already own.


These three strategies help me acquire a wardrobe where the pieces have a relationship to one another. I completely understand when women buy the entire outfit to ensure they have all of the significant elements, but often that limits the usage of the pieces you have invested in, meaning they only really go with that one outfit. Keeping a comprehensive list of wardrobe elements with you when you shop will give you an opportunity to test whether what you are about to purchase is a wardrobe “builder” or a “rack breaker” (taking up rack space for a singular moment). The majority of your separates should be a building blocks. It’s very easy to find spring and summer tops and dresses that capture our interest, but it’s the more mundane items that will offer you more opportunities to create a variety of outfits.


Dresses have the ability to be updated by selecting new accessories. Just as many people hire an interior designer to help them learn how to make the most of the pieces in their home, hiring a stylist can give you ideas on how to update pieces that have a sentimental value. This dress was given to me by my mother many years ago, and it was worn by her many years before she gave it to me! The colors and the style are both on trend this year and it has a similar shape to some of the Ulla Johnson dresses. This dress is from designer Nancy Johnson, who designed tea dresses and feminine frocks in the late 80s and 90s. By adding the blue suede shoes, the look gets an instant update and feels purposeful without screaming vintage. The Lizzie Fortunato pastel column earrings seem to be designed for the dress.

Another dress from the back of the rack was my college graduation dress, which my mother found for me at Nuevo Mundo on Cameron Street where it used to reside a few doors down from The Hive. While I was putting the look together during the Lizzie Fortunato trunk show, Elizabeth was genuinely shocked that I still had the dress and asked what year I graduated. I replied 1988 at which point Katie innocently shared that this was the year she was born. As you can imagine, this brought the house down.  I genuinely love my job and am honored to be the ambassador to aging gracefully where you keep your skin soft, supple, and thick. 😉

This is a Nicole Miller dress and she’s been a favorite designer of mine for years. Finding designers you love and growing with them can lead to developing your own style. When you are updating an old dress, take advantage of indulging in the shoes you’ve been coveting! I’m a huge fan of the Marion Parke collection for comfort and style points. I call this choice the balancing act offering a great way to work with your budget while using your existing wardrobe.


My last choice is a “go for broke” look. It just so happens we have a wedding to attend the night of my daughter’s graduation, which is in the morning. This is like spotting a unicorn and deserves the consideration of indulging in a new dress. Ulla Johnson’s Brigitte captured my immediate attention. The feminine shape feels both like a festive day dress while transitioning easily to an evening affair in June. For an indulgence such as this, I would choose to use my own shoes and jewelry. Thankfully Stuart Weitzman’s Nearlynude in black suede have earned their Buy Less Choose Well award. Much of my go-to jewelry is from ASHA, another long-time favorite that Elizabeth introduced to Alexandria’s fashion tribe. Here again, Lizzie Fortunato seems to have designed these Paperwhite Earrings specifically for the dress. I have guided my clients to these earrings for their subtle statement and appropriate scale, being sweet but not overly delicate.


It’s safe to say I have plenty of good choices, making this the easy part of graduation. The hardest part might be dropping her off at college in September and keeping it together. Where does the time go? Thank goodness for FaceTime!


  • The latest from Alicia
Alicia was born and raised in Alexandria, and married a local boy. She is happily married and the mother of two amazing children and one adorable and terribly smart border terrier named Dixie. Alicia has always known she was a creative. She collected editions of Vogue from junior high on and has always loved clothing and design. She studied interior design at VCU and parlayed that degree into commercial interior design, the web design, and ultimately found herself managing a local boutique and serving as a stylist to many Alexandrian women. She now has a successful full-time styling business, The Tulle Box, and makes it her business to make her clients feel great about themselves and the way they look.

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