In the hierarchy of Clothes That are Hard to Shop For, dresses (special occasion ) fall somewhere between bras and jeans.
First there is the lack of inventory--there is not the abundance of dresses there is of, say, gortex outerwear. Second, the scant inventory is often hard to find. Finally, there are those personal figure "peculiarities" that justify the double martinis and chain smoking that follow a trip to the dressing room.
That said, I am pleased to share the following two tidbits of information. While there are many retailers who sell lovely frocks (Marios, Anthropologie, Butch Blum, Le Amis, Olivine, etc...) if you want some serious service and a wide variety Nordstrom in Bellevue Square is a great place to go. First, of all the local Nordstrom stores, including downtown where special dresses are tucked away behind another department in some weird closet-like alcove, the Bellevue location has the most robust special occasion department.
I admit, for years I had this impression that the Special Occasion department was ground-zero for frothy mother-of-the-bride ensembles. Maybe I was not looking, and maybe things have changed but there is much more in this department than mint green taffeta two piece suits with sequins shoals and rhinestone broaches.
The other thing the Bellevue Special Occasion department has is Lauryn Lopez, assistant manager. Lauryn found me stalking a BCBG handkerchief dress and very gently insisted I try it on, along with SEVERAL others. When I needed different sizes she had them brought in from other stores and held them until I could get there to try them all (5 or so) on.
When i arrived for my appointment Lauryn, ever cheerful and clam, was close but did ot hover. Before long I ran into a roadblock: while I loved these ethereal spring dresses, they did not "work" for me unless I was willing to go to considerable lengths to modify them. I explained to her what I hoped to find in a dress--easy, uncomplicated, feminine, summery (if at all possible) and something that captured my '70's Malibu-beach-girl heritage without making me look like a woman in clothes that were too young for her in some misguided attempt to recapture her youth. Without any hesitation or impatience SHE DID IT!