ASOS, the thrifty online retailer with fashion industry cred, reported a 49% rise in total retail sales yesterday, though the company’s feeling the pinch in its native UK where young stylish Brits are shopping their closets instead of throwing down invisible cash. Good news is international sales account for 62% of their total sales and the website’s inexpensive fashion forward wares have been worn by a litany of too cool for school American celebrities who like to look au courant: Rooney Marney, Emma Roberts, Lake Bell. The site’s biggest get was probably the First Lady herself, Michelle Obama, who has a penchant for the affordable stuff, showing up to a military picnic in an ever so appropriate gingham sheath last summer. Which begs the question: if ASOS is good enough for Mrs. Obama—arguably one of the chicest women in the free world—does it give the rest of us a free pass to choose um, what we’ll call an “economically conservative” option for a formal event?
I ask because I’m in a wedding this year—a big Texas wedding—and thankfully my friend had the good enough sense to let us choose our own dresses as opposed to sticking us into the same tulle sweetheart gown, which let’s face it only works on a handful of body types, namely that of the lithe less-endowed tribe. Her only request is that she gets to okay our choice before we buy it. Completely reasonable (watch one episode of Say Yes To The Dress and see why it’s never a good idea to give too long a leash to nine women with very different tastes). Of course, I found the perfect solution on ASOS, my go-to when the bank account looks bleak (and whose doesn’t these days). Am I being chintzy here? Or is it just a sign of the times that we’re all looking for less expensive sartorial options, especially when it comes to a piece—floor-length, black—that I won’t be able to wear that often?
I asked the incomparable E. Jean, she who knows everything when it comes to modern etiquette, what’s the right course of action here and this is what she told me: “It is a brilliant bride who permits her bridesmaid to choose her own dress. I toast this bride with Champagne! I toast this bride with another glass of Champagne. And as for the dress—some of the prettiest dresses in America cost less than $50.” Did she just write my rehearsal dinner speech?