Located in the South Coast Plaza shopping mall, just outside the upstairs corner of the fanciest Bloomingdale's this side of the Mississippi, is the unassuming Tadashi dress store. Blink and you'll miss it. That would be a big mistake, because Tadashi's are that rarest of dress breeds — sexy, timeless, basic, well constructed, comfortable, the kind you come back to after you've tried on and discarded all the other supertrendy but ultimately unflattering pretty little nothings you bought on Robertson Boulevard in a fit of sartorial madness. These liquidy yet structured dresses hit all the right spots on the body. Many are made of Tadashi's signature stretch jersey, which sucks you in while also smoothing out the lumpy bits.
Sure, the décor is a little bit 1980s mother-of-the-bride when you walk in, with plush carpet, white settees, taffeta curtains and princess-y etched-glass mirrors. But don't be fooled. The tiny shop is a powerhouse player in the world of cocktail and evening attire. (Tadashi has been the official evening gown of the Miss Universe pageant many times, and really, Miss Universe ought to know from formalwear.) If a coveted dress is not on the racks or in the back stockroom, they can order it for you with an eight-week lead time. You don't even have to drive there: Entrust them with your credit-card number and they'll send you a catalog, mail you some dresses, and you keep the ones you like.
Best of all, unlike other holier-than-thou fashion houses, Tadashi dresses come in realistic sizes, from 0 to 16, a godsend for voluptuous girls with money to burn — Queen Latifah is a fan, according to the Tadashi blog. Nine times out of 10, when compared with a Dolce & Gabbana, say, or a Comme des Garçons, it's the Tadashi that will pass the ultimate cocktail-dress test — looking even better on the body than on the hanger — and make it out the door to the ball.