Why Not . . . Wear A Dress?
Wednesday June 22, 2011

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Designer Diane von Furstenberg famously said of her new wrap dress design in the 70s to Women’s Wear Daily, “Feel like a woman, wear a dress,” and it is the case that such an decision remains true today.

There is nothing quite like the privilege of being able to wear a dress when you know there are limitless other options to choose from. If women did not have the option, it might not be something so appealing, but the fact remains that fashion allows us numerous choices each morning when we wake up to go to work or dress up for an evening out. So to choose a dress and own it whether it is a simple sheath accessorized with a stunning silk scarf or a little black dress that hangs just perfectly is a statement of ownership, of beauty and I would argue confidence in yourself as a modern woman.
Here are a few more specific reasons to consider wearing a dress.

1. Simplicity
The decision making process of pairing trousers or a skirt with a blouse is an opportunity for creativity and stylist craftsmanship, but sometimes in the morning, you simply want to walk out the door in one piece not having to worry whether you chose the correct complementary shade of pink to flatter your print skirt. Making the decision to wear a dress however is simple – top and bottom – done! Now, just skip ahead to the accessories and footwear.

2. A Mix of Professionalism and Femininity
Choosing to wear a dress in the twenty-first century combines the owning of a woman’s femininity and balancing it with professionalism. Nothing says you mean business more than a woman who can wear a beautifully tailored knee length dress paired with three inch heels while remaining composed, organized and confident in what she is doing. Act like a lady and you will be treated like one.  Act like the professional that you want to be viewed as and a similar effect will occur.

3. Flatter Your Figure
When shopping for a dress, know your body type – apple, pear, curvy, boyish, etc – and choose a style that will flatter your assets (see the list below for ideas based on your shape). A great book for advice on the many different body types and help to choose the best styles for your figure is The Pocket Stylist by Kendall Farr.  If you have a tiny waist – accentuate it with a beautiful belt. If you have broad shoulders, wear a wrap that naturally has a V-neckline giving the illusion of narrower shoulders, and no matter what your shape, wear a sheath dress – classic and timeless. With any dress you buy, have it tailored to fit you well and take care of it, as dresses should be an investment.
Pear (narrower shoulders than hips, small waist, full lower hips and bottom – example Charlotte on Sex and the City, Eva Longoria, Kate Hudson)

*empire waist dresses, wrap dresses – bring attention to the upper half of your body.

Curvy or Hourglass (average to full bust, defined waistline, curvy hips, round or average to full bottom, shapely legs – example Marilyn Monroe, Kate Winslet, Salma Hayek, Drew Barrymore, Scarlet Johansson)

*fitted sheath dress, wrap dresses, strapless, tank dresses that show off your legs, bias dresses

Apple, boyish if on the slim side (broader shoulders than hips, slim legs, often a flat rather than rounded bottom, straight, short to average waist – example Jennifer Hudson, Angelina Jolie, Elizabeth Hurley, Tyra Banks, Cameron Diaz)

*shift dress worn at the knee with heels and a skinny belt, a tunic hitting above the knee with sandals, strapless, wrap dress, shirt or coat dress, A-line

4. A Variety of Shoe Options
Unlike certain lengths of trousers, you are not stuck when it comes to the height of your heel or the type of your shoe when you decide to wear a dress. Ideally, a dress paired with beautiful heels or stiletto boots is most flattering as it lengthens your leg and lifts your behind, but flats, kitten heels or sandals can look wonderful and more appropriate if the scene is more casual.

5. Timeless
Don’t be afraid to invest in a dress.  Save up for it if necessary, but a dress that fits you well and is a classic style is something that will remain in your closet and in use frequently if you take care of it (this is where Cost Per Wear comes into play). During the last few years, I require of my shopping budget at least one new day dress each year that can be worn to work. Now, I’d like to purchase more and some years I am able to, but I at least save up for one new dress a year.  The deal with my dresses is that every dress I have bought in the last nine years is a dress that is still in my closet and that when I wear it, still looks appropriate due to the classic style, color and fit. Such investments do pay off, so don’t be afraid to save a few months more and purchase that dress you have in mind.

3 Dresses for the Foundation of Your Wardrobe
1. the Sheath dress
2. the Wrap Dress
3. the Little Black Dress

If you have only three dresses in your closet, these are the three styles to have. They will take you from day to evening and weekend to wedding in style and well-deserved confidence. Add to the list as you discover more treasures – possibly have multiple colors of the same style that works best for your body type – and always keep Diane von Furstenberg’s words in mind, when you want to feel like a woman, simply wear a dress.

A bit of dress shopping . . .

From left to right:
Tory Burch ‘Leith’ navy dress
Diane von Furstenberg cornflower blue dress
Diane von Furstenberg Marcie dress in Polka Leopard Red wrap dress
Louben black sleeveless sheath
Classiques champagne beige shift dress 
Donna Morgan black and white sheath dress
Oscar de la Renta scarf leather wrap dress
J.Crew Boardroom navy dress
Vivienne Westwood glitter-finish jersey dress

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13 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Wear A Dress?

  1. I adore dresses, so this was perfect for me!! I’d wear them every day if I could, I should really invest in more dresses so I can, some classic ones too! This gives me ideas :)) Hope you have a sweet day!! xx

  2. thehealthyapron – Erin, there are many styles that you can bring into your wardrobe. Here is a list – shift dresses like the champagne dress above – simply accent your waist with a skinny belt and the illusion of definition is there. Also, an A-line dress, a wrap dress is always a good decision, a strapless again with a skinny belt at the waistline and a shirt or coat dress. I hope this helps.

  3. The Dainty Doll’s House sent me over, and I am so grateful! I ABSOLUTELY LOVE dresses and this post suited (dressed, LOL) me perfectly! Great content!

  4. Great post Shannon. I too adore dresses. Packing for my trip was easy because I chose all dresses. Deciding on accessories was the hardest part of packing.

  5. My height and freakishly long legs require that I sew my own dresses, but boy, you’re so right about them. I have to report (and I resisted this for a long time) but there’s NOTHING like a dress to capture a man’s attention in a social situation. Men simply LOVE women in dresses! I think it’s because they love to see a woman embracing femininity…let’s them be “more of a man” to quote a classic perfume ad from back in the day.
    Loved this post, Shannon, and especially inspired by the image of the woman in the navy dress with scarf. That’s simply divine!

  6. Thank you so much for this post! I’m always asked why I’m dressing up so formally, when all I’m wearing is a dress. Now I have a comeback. 🙂

  7. I read this “fashion rule” years ago, and I still think it holds true: The longer the length, the higher the heel; the shorter the length, the shorter the heel. After reading this I tried on different heels with different length skirts and found that following this rule looks much more flattering.

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