"I never had a prom. I never got a chance to present my pubescent body in layers of tulle and spandex. There are no iconic photos of me in a big poofy dress with an equally awkward-looking date. Most of my adolescence was confined to concealing my curves at my religious high school. Slits were sewn up and necklines were pinned up, and besides an embarrassing stint of after-school ballroom dancing in bright, rhinestoned Lycra, I've never really had a chance to flaunt what my momma gave me.
"So, I've spent the rest of my young adult life hoping for that head-turning photo-op. Enter: my sexy, strapless Bebe LBD.
"In my cookie-cutter childhood, Bebe was the home of shocking plunging necklines and raised hemlines. On the outside, their clothes looked like something you'd find at the more sensible Nordstrom, but upon closer inspection, the pencil skirts had slits up to the crotch and the collared shirts managed to flash a healthy sliver of cleavage.
"So, when I threw my first house party while living in my first real New York apartment after graduating from college, I knew Bebe was the place to turn to, for my sexy-yet-sophisticated hostess look. The stakes were high. I was searching for a curve-hugging, eye-catching, show-stopping number that would convince friends and guests alike of how beautiful and successful I'd become. Something with a black sheen and tight silhouette to distract from the truth: I graduated with an Ivy League degree, no job, and a quickly deflating self-esteem.
"My instincts were dead on: I found a classic NYC party staple entirely synonymous with Sex and the City cocktail glamour I craved at the time. This LBD had flattering corset-style seams down the sides and a come-hither sweetheart neckline. As soon as I squeezed into it, I knew it was The One. The effect was downright magical: My décolletage was at attention and my slightly flat behind found perky perfection. I tried to ignore the non-Forever 21 price tag as I assured myself that it would pay for itself in confidence — and other more literal — boosts.
"And as anyone who has photo-stalked me on Facebook can attest, I certainly got my money's worth. I have whipped out the enchanted dress at almost every party I've attended since then. I really think that if I were Cinderella and needed to meet my prince in a snap, this is what my fairy dress-mother’s makeover would include. Don't get me wrong — I do have other clothes. But what can I say? It's a winner. The first time I wore it, my boyfriend told me he loved me.
"Unfortunately, the hemline seems to shrink and the zipper gets harder to close with each trip to the dry cleaner. I've also come to realize that wearing the same dress to three parties in a row can convey an image quite the opposite of 'successful.' But every last time I'm able to shimmy myself into this go-to, I feel like the confident prom queen I never was.”