20th High School Reunion: Hot mama or mom trying too hard?

My 20th High School reunion is rapidly approaching so I went shopping on Sunday to look for a dress.

You walk a fine line when choosing a dress for an event like your 20th high school reunion. You want to look good – like you’ve held up well through the last 20 years and through giving birth. But you also don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard or trying to look younger than you are.

One of our regulars, New Mom, was a classmate of mine in high school and is attending the reunion as well. Over the weekend, she emailed me a photo of her dress, and it is perfect. Short and fun, but also classy. It will show off her figure but does not look like she’s trying to be a teenager.

So with New Mom’s dress in mind, I headed off to the mall.

On a trip to the mall last week, I had seen a fuchsia colored v-neck, column dress with some beading that I really liked. (It kind of reminded me of a flapper’s dress – light see-through material over a slip.) I didn’t try it on that day because I had three kids with me plus they didn’t have my size. The dress was also a little bit pricey at $185. But I kept thinking about this dress. (I liked that it wasn’t black because everyone wears black.)

So on Sunday I looked in Macy’s, Dillard’s and the store that New Mom got her dress (she picked the best one in the store) and ended up back in Nordstrom, where I found the fuschia dress.

I pulled about 15 dresses – some from the sales rack and some regular price. Some black and some with color. Some more conservative and some a little crazy.

After trying on dresses for an hour, I actually ended up liking one of the crazy ones. It is a strapless black sequined dress that stops about mid-thigh. It is made from really stretchy fabric so it is surprisingly comfortable, and I am all about comfort. I look curvy and shapely, and it stays up. (I could use some undergarments to give me a smooth look but I don’t really need to be sucked in by Spanx to look good in it.) The dress was also marked down considerably and is less than the fuchsia dress.

I guess my concern with a short, strapless black sequin number is that it looks like I’m trying way too hard to be sexy and not trying to look 38.

Michael thought it was sexy without looking slutty. He thought for certain I was going to complain about it, like that my boobs were falling out of it or that it was too tight somewhere. (I do have one complaint that the sequins rub the insides of my arms, which I kind of remember from prom. Is there a solution for that – like petroleum jelly or powder?)

Rose said it looked like New York. My 3-year-old stylist Lilina told me I was missing something on my feet and brought me her play Cinderella clear plastic high heels to put on with the dress.

To hedge my bet, the store has ordered the correct size in the fuchsia dress for me to try on next week, but Michael’s reaction was so great I am really leaning toward the black strapless dress.

So what do you think: Can a 38-year-old mother of three get away with a short black strapless sequined dress for her 20th-high school reunion or ever?

What is the image you want to project at your 10-, 20-, 30-year reunions? How does motherhood play into that image – like it hasn’t affected who you are or that’s exactly who you’ve become?

(I will be doing more reunion topics later such as introducing your spouse to boys you made out with in high school! Yikes! Stay tuned!)

63 comments Add your comment

Julia Ellis

July 12th, 2010
6:21 am

Of course you can wear a strapless black dress with some sequins. You are 38, not 70! You are not going to have that body/stand up boobs forever, so enjoy it. If you feel a bit shy about wearing something strapless you could consider a cropped sweater or jacket, then belt it over the dress. Then as the dancing gets going you can take it off. PLEASE wear up to date accessories- the folks at Nordstroms can help you with that. Nothing dates you quicker than bad earrings.
The only thing that could make you look like you are trying to hard is if you loose control, get sloppy- so no dancing on the bar regardless of how many other people do it!
Just do not get up on the bar and dance!


July 12th, 2010
6:33 am

LOL….T, you are too funny. I went to my 20 year reunion in a nice sundress. A size 12. I was a 12 in HS too. I have never been tiny.

In Arkansas, you are not really competing for fashion. Obviously there are those who do live elsewhere like me but many folks do not have malls like we do in there area ( to find something stunning).

As I always tell my clients, “No one hires me for what I look like…they hire me for what I know.” I try to look nice but I am not about appearances. I know no one likes to look awful though!

I am proud to be a Mother but my 24/7 life has always been broader than motherhood.


July 12th, 2010
6:52 am

“Can a 38-year-old mother of three get away with a short black strapless sequined dress for her 20th-high school reunion or ever”?

Yes, to ever, but no to the 20th reunion due to “But you also don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard or trying to look younger than you are”.

Sorry, Theresa, but it just sounds TOO “over the top”, and especially too formal for the occasion. Really sounds like the dresses I saw on about 10 – 15 22-25 year olds at my niece’s wedding a couple of weeks ago.


July 12th, 2010
6:55 am

wear it!!! id definately go with the hubbys opinion…and if you also like it and it feels good then wheres the question? you would know if it was wrong! rrust yourself!

Strapless dresses (especially ones with sequins)...

July 12th, 2010
7:05 am

…should NEVER be worn by anyone over the age of 30 – they just scream “look at me – I am a hoochie mama” if over this age…

Terry Malloy

July 12th, 2010
7:06 am

There is nothing that you can do that would make you look sexy, pretty or desirable. You are no MILF.

Boooo, to Terry Malloy...

July 12th, 2010
7:12 am

…there is no sense in being mean….


July 12th, 2010
7:15 am

T-you’ve mentioned here before that you have body-image issues with your own husband when the lights are out, so I don’t really see why you’re trying so hard to impress people who haven’t thought much about you since the 10-year reunion. Just go a be yourself. Live to impress the people who live under your own roof and let the others deal with the 7th grade sniping. I hope you have a blast and come away smiling, but you probably won’t if


July 12th, 2010
7:16 am

srry, wrong button, but you probably won’t if you’re going to worry so much about what others think about how you look.

dress it up

July 12th, 2010
7:29 am

Wear the tight dress—show it off. Life’s short, let it out!


July 12th, 2010
7:31 am

To be honest, the fuschia dress is the one that would draw more attention. Stick with the black dress. My 20 year reunion was last fall, and just about everyone was wearing black, present company included! Black says classy, elegant, and for some of us (like me) it hides those extra pounds better!

I was not exactly the most popular person in high school and was nervous about going to the reunion. However, for some reason, that day I decided that I was just going to be myself, and I had a blast. It was obvious that some people were trying too hard, and there were several who were sloshed by 8:30…sad.


July 12th, 2010
7:41 am

While I don’t think anything is wrong with either dress, I would say wear the one you feel most comfortable in. The sexiest thing any woman can bring to an outfit is confidence! Enjoy the reunion.


July 12th, 2010
7:43 am

If you work out and keep your body in shape, SURE why not strapless, I get compliments at 50 with my toned body and yes STRAPLESS. Wear whatever looks good, Have a mirror GO FOR IT….Age does not dictate everything.


July 12th, 2010
7:45 am

Going to my 40th reunion next month and will definitely look good, maybe not sexy but good. Heck, after being out of high school for 40 years, just to be standing straight up is looking good!

new mom

July 12th, 2010
8:04 am

Hey guys!
I haven’t had much time to keep up with the blog lately, I’m sorry!! To say we’re busy is an understatement…so there’s not much free time. I happened to look at here today and had to comment (obviously!)
Theresa, thanks for the nice things about the dress. Hope it looks half as good on as it did in that picture! It’s funny, I stood there in the store asking the sales lady, and my mom, ‘does this look too hoochy-momma??’ I also got a black cardigan/shrug-thingie to wear over it, in case it’s cold, etc.
Theresa, I think you should definitely go with whichever dress you feel more comfortable in! Thankfully it’s not high school anymore, and I think most of us are just hoping for a night of being grown-ups, hugging old friends, sharing embarrassing stories, and hearing some awesome 80s music. I don’t plan to snicker about your sequins, promise! <3 ya!


July 12th, 2010
8:09 am

Amen new mom. Perfectly said, ya’ll have a blast. Just remember, pictures of you dancing will show up on facebook somewhere!


July 12th, 2010
8:10 am

If you are comfortable and your husband likes it, wear the strapless! Go for it!


July 12th, 2010
8:10 am

If you like it and your husband likes it, go for it! It is about how you feel, not what others think of you. I lurk here most of the time and have read enough to know that you are way too conservative to go overboard. I do agree that there are some that have no shame but don’t include you in that bunch.

Sequins are going to rub the inside of your arms and there is little you can do about it. I run half marathons and use Body Glide to stop the chafing. You can pick it up at any decent running shoe store. I think Dicks has it but since I always go to Big Peach, I don’t know for sure about Dicks. BG is clear and oderless. Pick up a small tube (it looks like a deoderant stick) and try it to see what you think.

Good luck and enjoy the night! I went to my 35th last year and had a blast. We were most definately *not* formal and it was interesting to see what everyone looked like now.

Van Jones

July 12th, 2010
8:13 am

If it looks good on you then do it!


July 12th, 2010
8:34 am

If it looks good on you then why not, but I’d ditch the sequins. Wear something elegant, not flashy to your reunion. Save the sequins for date night with the hubby. You want to be comfortable in what you are wearing. (Make sure you can sit comfortably and that the dress still looks good when you are sitting down). Sequins can be stiff and you’re dress may ride up on you while sitting and you don’t want to be tugging on it all night. I wouldn’t necessarily go with strapless or really short either (at least not both). Pick ONE body part to show off. If you are going short, then don’t go strapless. If you love your shoulders, then go with a knee length dress. It is more sexy to have just a hint of skin, but in a dress that compliments your figure, than it is to show off everything you’ve got.


July 12th, 2010
8:50 am

I swear TWG, you talk about being in your late 30s like it’s being 55 or 60! Why wouldn’t you wear it? You say you look good in it and it’s comfortable -that’s pretty much a no brainer. Had you rather wear something matronly that perhaps a 55 year old mother of the bride might wear? If not -then enjoy the black dress.

Please -

July 12th, 2010
9:06 am

Listen to Lori

a man

July 12th, 2010
9:24 am

The key to looking young is to not cut your hair short and for god’s sake never ever, under any circumstances, should you get a perm. Keep your hair long and natural. If you do that, take care of your skin, and stay thin, you will be desireable for many years to come.

I don’t know why some ladies decide to get an old lady hair cut so early in life.


July 12th, 2010
9:25 am

If you like it and Michael likes it, wear it..Like Lori said, though, get rid of the sequins..Unless you consider this a retirement party for old folks..If it were me, I’d probably wear the fuchsia one.. Or something bright..If you know (or think) that most of the women there are going to be in, I’d make sure that I wore something different…

Good luck with whatever dress you choose to wear and have lots of fun..

Tairy Greene

July 12th, 2010
9:28 am

I agree with Terry Malloy

Dad of Two

July 12th, 2010
9:38 am

If your husband approves of the dress then its a winner, especially if you got a quick positive response when you showed it to him. And especially if you kids think you look good in it. It sounds like the whole family thinks you look good in it…so wear it.

Also…being 38 doesn’t mean you have to dress matronly. Dress up and have fun! Show your kids that mommy can “shine up” when she wants to. =]


July 12th, 2010
9:42 am

Wear what you love and think is most flattering. I’m also about comfort as a woman in my mid 40’s, but if you have it, I say flaunt it (tastefully). On a side note: Terry Malloy, YOU SUCK!


July 12th, 2010
9:44 am

Dressing up for an adult event is one thing, dressing up like that for a child’s birthday party or recital is another! I’m all for getting dolled up and going out but I do have to laugh at some of the moms who do the same thing for their child’s school events… poor kids.


July 12th, 2010
9:50 am

Go for it!! Take some kind of cover-up or jacket just in case…I agreee about the jewelry. It can make or break an outfit, as well as the shoes.


July 12th, 2010
9:56 am

Wear whatever you are comfortable in. Don’t dress to impress others. Dress for yourself and be comfortable.

Don’t worry about what other people think, you cannot control that. Wear what you are comfortable in and have a great time.


July 12th, 2010
10:02 am

JATL — what’s wrong with being 55? *ahem*. Well, not quite, but I’m certainly within a couple of years! And frankly, if a 70 year old wants to wear sequins and can rock ‘em — why the heck not? Except there aren’t too many 70-year-old thighs that are fit to be seen in public :-)

I went to my 30th H.S. reunion a few years ago, wasn’t really sure if I wanted to go, but got talked into it by my BFF from 3rd grade onwards. I didn’t bother buying anything new — I really didn’t care enough to spend money to impress people I hadn’t seen in 30 years. I had a perfectly nice dress, strappy sandals and I did get a hair trim. Other than that, I may have bought a new tube of lipstick . . . It was fun to see everyone, and my friend and I had fun rolling our eyes at the class slut who was STILL slutty — we discovered her in the cloak closet making out with one of the guys not her husband — some people never change!

Please -

July 12th, 2010
10:03 am

Enter your comments here

Hey, DB...

July 12th, 2010
10:04 am

…what were you and your BFF doing in the cloak closet? And, eeeewwwwww, making out at age 48…yuck, yuck, yuck.


July 12th, 2010
10:26 am

OOPS..Should say if you know or think that most of the women will be in black..

@Hey, DB..Learn to read, she didn’t say that her and her BFF were in the cloak closet..Also, what’s wrong with making out at 48? Did someone wake up grummpy this morning?


July 12th, 2010
11:09 am

OK…here are my questions: Is it a formal gathering and what is the venue? I think that would somewhat dictate what you wear.

For my 10 year, we had a catered meal with a DJ. Most of the folks dressed up a little more than casual. Me personally, I wore a smokin’ hot dress that left little to the imagination. I was trying to make a statement! I was just a so/so person in school (not popular, not geeky). I was also going through a divorce.

My 20 year was totally different. We were at the VFW hall in our small little town. We primarily had finger foods and music on a boom box. Yes, it was horrible! I wore khaki capri’s with a tank and overshirt. Several people were in jeans.

Please keep in mind, I came from a small country school with only 94 people in our class! We do not scream culture by any means!

I am hoping that at 25 it will be more fun! We have different folks on the planning committe!

So…after all of the rambling, here is my advice! If it is being held at a nice venue, in the evening, on the weekend…I say go for the black, strapless sequined number! Why not?! You are celebrating!

If it is more of a casual venue, I would opt for some comfy slacks or a summery/fall dress! Best of all, make sure you are not going to be the least bit self conscious. If you are, it will ruin your whole night!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

July 12th, 2010
11:20 am

OK couple of comments –

Michelle — I’ve been helping plan the reunion and actually called and visited venues to help choose. It is at a very nice Buckhead hotel ballroom. and the invitation calls for dressy — so I think it’s appropriate attire as long as it doesn’t look hoochie mama. Because other than the under arm chafing, it is pretty comfortable.

I didn’t even think about it being cold — hmmm — hate to throw a sweater over it– ruins the whole look -=- or even a pashmina — are they totally out now??

New mom — I think that dress is so classy it can’t look hoochie — the fabric is very nice — i felt the fabric. and the design is very nice too – nothing hoochie going on there even if it stopped at the bottom of your bootieI

I have multiple responses to Terry Malloy – all of which I keep deleting for being too mean — Terry Malloy you’re not very nice. Done with Terry malloy.


July 12th, 2010
11:21 am

@Hey, DB: I was going to get my raincoat and umbrella, duh. We were just a bit surprised, seeing as how she had spent the whole evening griping about what a jerk her 3rd husband was. They didn’t make it to the after-party in the suite afterwards, either :-) Oh, and, do share with the class what the statute of limitations is on making out. My husband and I would like to know ;-D

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

July 12th, 2010
11:22 am

I have a second topic popping up at 2 p.m today so be sure to check back — I am planning on using some of our group submitted topics later this week., I am still worried about posting Photius’s one even htough it’s not me asking it. I’m worried about the headline — Want to beat the tar out of your kids? still doesn’t sound good.


July 12th, 2010
11:22 am

@T: The only people who will think it’s too “hoochie” are the ones that can’t wear it. Party on!

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

July 12th, 2010
11:30 am

Keeping in mind the distinction between good and bad taste…..

I think that regardless of your actual age, if you have doubts as to whether or not you’re too old to “get away” with dressing in something, or doing something…then you probably are. Of course, that very specific to YOU. If you think you’re too old…then just don’t do it because your worries are going consume you and keep you from your comfort zone and having a good time.

Just don’t complain when another 38 year old, seemingly identical to you decides she’s not too old, and has the confidence to do what she wants because she doesn’t care what anyone thinks and is comfortable in her own skin. It would just be sour grapes on your part that someone who shares the same number of years as you is so much younger than you.


July 12th, 2010
11:32 am

@DB -there’s absolutely nothing wrong with 55, and I know some 65 year olds who are extremely toned and good -looking -nothing matronly there, BUT TWG acts and talks about herself like she’s on the downhill slope of middle age -not a 30-something.


July 12th, 2010
11:33 am

TWG – wear what you feel good in and what makes you feel good. The feedback from the family should more than boost your ego about your choice of attire.

Some women, by nature, are a catty crew, and will cast out comments about somebody’s attire/hair/shoes/husband etc. Most of it comes from jealousy though, so remember that. Hold your head up, ignore any comments they may choose to toss out, and have a blast.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

July 12th, 2010
11:35 am

On a side note….I went to my 20th at the behest of a good friend….what a waste of time. It only served one positive purpose, to remind me why I hated high school so much and wanted to get the hell out of there so bad in the first place.


July 12th, 2010
11:59 am

We moved to Georgia 2 months after I graduated from high school., I went from 3rd grade to graduation with the same group of people. I went to my 20th to reconnect with them. Had a blast, and we are all still friends.


July 12th, 2010
12:04 pm

…restraint, TWG, re: Mr. Malloy.

And, as far as I know, there is no statute of limitations on “making out”; however, IMHO, at any age over about 33 it really is gross and juvenile to refer to whatever as “making out”. And as for DB and her husband, if you are married, it is not “making out”, rather, it is probably foreplay…


July 12th, 2010
12:37 pm

My 20 year is next year and you’d better believe I’m going to wear something sexy…what I consider sexy of course. :-) TWG, you worry too much about too much. If you are comfortable in something, if you feel good about yourself in something, then go for it! Do something nice with your hair, put on a little lipstick, put on some lovely jewelry, and enjoy yourself! You’ll be fine.


July 12th, 2010
1:08 pm

Wear something you are comfortable in, whatever that is! To heck with those people–how many do you care about really? If Michael likes the dress and it fits and you can solve the sequin scratching problem (I had the same problem with the dress I wore to my younger daughter’s wedding–miserable)(I’d just cut off the sequins under the arm–who looks under there anyway) then wear it.

Don’t wear something that doesn’t fit or makes you feel self-conscious. Have a good time.

My 40th reunion(!) was a month ago. I didn’t get to go, and I am a little disappointed. I just didn’t have the funds to make the trip with all the details at the time. In addition, traveling any distance isn’t very comfortable due to health problems. So, I stayed home. There are a few people I would have enjoyed seeing, and I would have loved to watch everyone. I heard that the guy I carried a torch for for 3 years was going to be there, and I would have enjoyed seeing him and meeting his wife. Also a few of the super-brains I hung out with were supposed to come. That would have been nice.

About 10 years ago I got together in my hometown with my BF and we rode around town and talked half the night. That was lots of fun for me. I was trying to figure out how to get OUT of the workplace, and she was trying to figure out how to get IN. (Neither of us has done it yet–kinda like high school LOL)

The only other reunion I went to was the 5 year, but I learned a lot watching the people I thought I knew. A lot of the old patterns reasserted themselves. Some of the guys I thought were so dumb had actually gotten degrees and were working!

At any rate, I hope you have a wonderful time! And post a “prom” picture of you and Michael as you head out the door!


July 12th, 2010
1:09 pm

TWG – just keep in mind, most of the women going to this reunion, are thinking and going through the same thing you are……


July 12th, 2010
2:25 pm

Theresa I say go for it! The dress sounds fine. Sexy is a state of mind. I’ve seen plus sized women ooze sexy! You make the dress, not the reverse. I plan on dressing however I want for as long as I want. I joke with my friends all the time that I’ll be the sexiest Grandma on the planet. I’ll still be wearing whatever makes me feel happy…and sexy. That could mean a cute shirt from Bebe or some hot Baby Phat jeans.

I personally don’t think showing more skin is sexy, I think showing less is more. But that’s me…girl, do you and enjoy!


July 12th, 2010
3:03 pm

@JJ is right. All of the other women are trying to decide the same thing. For men, it is pretty easy, but women’s fashions vary so much that it can be difficult. First I’m trying to work out whether I’ll go to the reunion. Then it will be what dress to wear. Defining the dress as ‘dressy’ means a lot of different things to different people. However, I’ll pick out something that feels good to me and gets the husband’s “quick” approval. I’ve found he has good taste and when he hesitates, I should try again.