Inspiration In My Closet: How Six Dresses Inspired & Empowered My Friends & Me During Turbulent Times by Elisa Schmitz

Become the Fire
3 years ago

Inspiration In My Closet: How Six Dresses Inspired & Empowered My Friends & Me During Turbulent Times

I used to wear dresses – all the time. Whether casual dresses or business dresses or cocktail dresses or even ball gowns. Then, the pandemic hit. Our world changed so drastically, so quickly, and many of us weren’t prepared for such a sudden shift in our lives. Suddenly it seemed like I wore jeans and T-shirts all the time, then mostly just yoga pants and hoodies.

As my birthday approached this year, I looked longingly in my closet for something more inspiring to wear. I caught sight of my ball gowns; long, sweeping dresses that have the power to transform, even if only in your mind. Three still had the tags on them. I had bought the dresses because I fell in love with them, thinking, “I’ll wear those to a fancy gala someday.” That day hadn’t yet arrived once the pandemic hit. I was left to wonder when I’ll ever wear those gowns, and when I do, will I be wearing a mask as an accessory, like a coordinating handbag?

I decided not to wait to find out. I cut off the tags and asked my husband for a birthday gift: a picture a day for my Six Dresses Birthday Celebration. He happily served as location scout, lighting coordinator, director and photographer for the photo shoots, and I’m grateful for this gift that brought me joy and community connections throughout my “birthday week.”

Dress One: Sunday, October 25

My first dress choice seemed obvious, since you can’t go wrong with a simple little black dress (LBD). Floor-length elegance by Laundry by Shelli Segal, this versatile zip-up-the-back gown took me to a fundraiser gala in style. Today, it took me outside on a chilly October day.

Let’s not wait to dress up, my friends. Let’s celebrate even when there’s no “reason” to. If we wait and the gala never comes, our dresses will not have had their moment to shine. I held back on my dresses, but not anymore. Whatever you’re holding back, I encourage you to stop waiting. Pull out your dress – or your suit or your business idea or your phone to call that friend or family member – and make it happen. Tomorrow isn’t promised. Live life today.

"Your thoughts are similar to a statement I made to my best friend. We declared that when we went out we should wear dresses and look super cute. We don't go to the symphony or ballet anymore or out to special dinners. We don't have a reason to wear our cute dresses. So now, just going out we should wear our dresses and look adorable. Your post made me think, get pix!" – Cassandra C.

"Beautifully inspirational metaphor to use a best dress to spark good things to happen. You were inspirational long ago and you still are today. I love your long-term inspirational journey." – Kendeyl J.

Dress Two: Monday, October 26 

It’s snowing out, in October. A perfect day to be inspired by this satiny-green gown by JS Collections. I wore this floor-length mermaid-style dress to a holiday ball, and I just may wear it for Christmas this year to surprise my husband.

Who says we can’t dress up if we’re “only” staying in? Let’s find joy by thinking outside the box. Wearing an evening gown, dining by candlelight and dancing to ‘80s music – or whatever makes YOU smile – at home might make going out seem so last year…

"A girl can never have too many evening gowns. Let’s be clear on that." – Susan W.

"I can’t wait for the ones you have never worn!" – Betsy T.

Dress Three: Tuesday, October 27

Clothes can hold our memories. Sometimes just seeing what we wore on a happy or sad day can trigger deep emotions. That’s what happened when I put on this beaded evening dress by Xscape. I wore this flowing, floor-length gown on New Year’s Eve in Kitzbühel, Austria, six years ago. That was the night when, at midnight on a grand balcony overlooking the snowy Alps with fireworks lighting up the sky, my husband dropped down on one knee and proposed. With a crowd of fellow revelers watching, I tearfully replied, “Ja!” It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. Putting on this dress brought back all those memories and emotions.

A reminder that when times are tough, maybe we can get a respite thinking of happier times. What if we used a favorite outfit, activity, scent or meal to trigger a positive memory and bring us some joy. What if we allowed ourselves the luxury of escaping the everyday and replacing it with a special day, even just once in a while. This dress brought me fireworks today.

"I need to get dressed up! You look gorgeous in these dresses!" – Jennifer V.

"I love these posts and your unwavering positive spirit!" – Dawn L.

"Brilliant practice. It’s re-wiring your brain for happiness and resilience by creating a positive mental state and marinating in it long enough to push it to a neural trait. And wow! That’s a gorgeous photo!" – Julie P.

"You’re making me think about my dresses and memories! I’ve been in my yoga clothes almost every day for eight plus months. Might drag out a dress." – Kim H.

"I’m going to TRY to get myself together and do a spin-off on your idea next week. Let me just say you are into inspiring and it has worked." – Betsy T.

And she did it, woohoo! Here's what Betsy posted on Monday, November 2: "My #CovidLifeReset: If you’re like me, your life got T-boned by a worldwide pandemic. If you're also like me, you are blessed with health, home, income and family. I have been inspired by many of Elisa Schmitz's posts at We have never met, but have very special mutual friends (as is the way of digital social media). Showered, dressed, makeup applied Day One." – Betsy T.

Dress Four: Wednesday, October 28

I rediscovered this lace and crepe evening gown by Tadashi Shoji in my closet, with the tags still on it. When I saw it for the first time a few years ago, I remember thinking it was one of the most beautiful dresses I had ever seen. In the fitting room, it slid on as if it were made just for me. I noticed the bodice, cleverly designed to appear sheer. I appreciated the lace, a modern take on a classic fashion technique. But the mermaid-style, floor-length crepe skirt, with its daring slit up the front, took my breath away. Would I be bold enough to wear this? I decided that I would, and promptly fell in love. I bought the gown because I had to have it, believing I’d find the occasion – and the moxie – to pull it off. And yet for some reason, there it was, hanging in my closet, never worn.

Maybe I never found the “perfect” event that called for a daring, dramatic dress. Maybe I was too timid to take a risk, concerned about what others might think. Whatever held me back from taking this dress out to play, it was a mistake. Because this is more than just a dress. It’s a masterful work of art. And today, it’s making me feel powerful. Lesson learned: Cut off the tags. Be bold. Take a risk. Listen to your inner voice. This dress is a reminder to own my power.

"Love this one and the fierce message it inspires for all of us." – Jessica A.

"So beautiful! Never be concerned what others think. I’m a firm believer of doing what I want, when and how. Take the risk and be bold. We only live once." – Meredith S.

"Love this dress! And the reminder to own your power!" – Kim H.

"Wow! I think you got something going here, Elisa. We should all dress up for the holidays and share photos!" – Lynn F.

Dress Five: Thursday, October 29

This is the only dress I’m celebrating that I’ve worn more than once. This floor-length, beaded flamenco-style gown by Xscape by Joanna Chen took me to at least two or three charity galas and events over the years. As I thought about why it got chosen over other options in my closet, I realized it’s because this gown makes me feel like ME. Not “me dressed-up.”

European elegance commingled with Latina flair, this dress expresses my individuality and allows my personality to shine. It feels like the authentic me, and that engenders confidence. When you’re confident in your authentic self, you own the room. When you own the room, you can make anything happen. When I wear this dress, the possibilities are endless. And that is how fashion should make you feel.

"My favorite, too! You have absolutely beautiful dresses! I love your spirit and knowing that as you shine your authentic you, you make the possibilities endless. Thanks for inspiring me with your dresses and your perspectives!" – Kim H.

Dress Six: Friday, October 30

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” That’s what this floor-length, zebra-stripe, strapless gown by Jessica McClintock is all about. I rediscovered it hanging in my closet, tags still on. A work of art, so why had I never worn it? As an introverted extrovert, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to stand out. Growing up, I was considered “different” – Puerto Rican mother, Croatian father, first generation American, never the right clothes, not tall enough, not cool enough, just not enough – and was bullied for not fitting in. As much as I wanted to fade into the background, my “stripes,” or differences, made me an outsider and it felt like there was nowhere to hide as I tried to blend in. It wasn’t until high school that I learned to embrace being “other,” got comfortable with being uncomfortable, and allowed myself to stand out. Since then, I have continued to grow in my truth and understanding of my authentic self, a journey that lasts a lifetime. 

It turns out that a zebra’s stripes are not just there for aesthetics. The stripes serve several purposes, including to help keep zebras cool, repel insects or even confuse predators. The stripes help zebras not only to survive, but also to thrive. Zebras don’t do any of this actively; they just do it by virtue of who they are. As I got more confident in who I was, I realized I was enough, and I allowed my own stripes to shine. By doing so, I started thriving. The more I shared my authenticity with the world, the more I succeeded.

"Love this message! Your posts have been my favorite thing all week. Happy birthday, beautiful, amazing, Elisa." – Tamara O.

"I agree, these positive posts have provided a bit of respite from these difficult times. Happy birthday! Here’s hoping 2021 gives you everything you wish for." – Dawn L.

"So fun to watch you play dress-up and really enjoyed all your insight. Happiest birthday, my friend." – Mary A.

"Love the dress and the meaning behind it. My look is sending a message today, too, and on your birthday! Hope your day is as special as you are!" – Ann Marie

"Happy birthday week, dear Elisa! You saved the best message for last." – Lauren F.

"Shine your stripes, girl! LOVE it and this powerful message to thrive, being YOU!! Wishing you a magical year ahead of bringing forth all you dream of!!" – Kim H.

"You made it to Friday in stunning fashion AND you INSPIRED! Game on!" – Betsy T.

"You look amazing! Stand out and roar!" Mindy H.

Which brings me back to this dress. While the other gowns I celebrated make a statement using a whisper or a microphone, this dress uses a megaphone. I hadn’t yet found the right venue in which to unleash it and let it speak its truth, but I can’t think of a better day than my birthday to let it do the talking for me. And as I enter a new year of life, I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

Thank you to all my friends and community members for your kind comments and feedback. You made my pandemic birthday celebration so very special and I appreciate you!

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