Wearing the Same Dress

Marybeth La Motte and Karen Caldwell in Dolce & Gabbana

Have you ever gone to a party and someone was wearing the same dress as you? It happens all the time, yet not to me until a couple of weeks ago at the Mid-Winter Gala in San Francisco. Luckily, the woman wearing the same dress was gracious and sweet Karen Caldwell. Karen didn’t run the other way or try to avoid me. We looked at each other and laughed. Then we took some photos and chatted about the dress designer, Dolce & Gabbana, sponsor of the event. The good news was that we both looked good, and we admired one another’s taste. We even accessorized similarly. We wore our hair pulled back, and chose earrings and not a necklace. For me, it was a relief that it was Karen in the same dress. I’ve seen this happen at other parties and the women didn’t take too kindly to one another.

It is inevitable when a dress is not a one-of-a-kind, that someone else will have the good taste to choose it just like you did. You may have seen the topic in magazines and online, People’s Fashion Faceoff or Who Wore it Best? features in many publications. When it comes to luxury fashion, department stores try to help lessen the chances of duplicates at events by keeping a list of who purchased which gown and where they plan to wear it. However, the information they track is for their own company, they do not check online sales beyond their stores, worldwide distribution, the growing resale market or historic data. Some online retailers can help. For example, if you purchase an item on Centro39, the site for luxury Italian fashions, they can tell you how many of the items exist, and their distribution worldwide. This information is helpful, but still, anything can happen. I might buy the dress in Tokyo and wear it in San Francisco, and how are you to know? I’ve heard women talk about creating an online registry for this sort of thing. Perhaps someone will …

— Related: more Karen Caldwell on Red Carpet Bay Area