What - I say - what is worse than a gross fortune spent on a gown for an event, especially a once-in-lifetime momentous occasion such as any one of the thirty-odd inaugural balls scheduled for this month to welcome Barak Obama - than having four other women in the room wearing the same gown you agonized to pin down for yourself?
One way to avoid this issue would be to have a custom gown or, at the very least, a new fabrication for the gown made by the designer or house. But, it's a tad late for that - next time, maybe. Or, you might be able to find a seamstress willing to work 20 hours a day for the next two weeks turning twenty yards of bias cut fabric into something spectacular. Maybe Mum has a piece of custom in the old attic that is a reliable one-of-a-kind.
But if all that fails, contact Bergdorf's or Berlin's and buy a Ready-to-Wear gown or dress (depending on the event). Then register your dress at http://dressregistry.com/and avoid staring down a mirror image of yourself at the next table.
You are able to add any event, anywhere, to the registry. Won't it be thoughtful if event organizers in the future quietly went on and included their event, and then saw to it that word passed informally of an anonymous way of preventing multiple dress appearances? Or that it became a regular tool used by charity committees, chairs, and/or hosts far and wide? I notice that a wise registrant has added her gowns and honestly noted for the world that one was Spring, 2003 from a popular house, thus avoiding even repeats from seasons past. Certainly, there is no reason this should be limited to new apparel, what with two year old seasons being referred to as "vintage" by some stylists. I love, love, love this idea.