Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Frock On: Style Question Wednesday a.k.a. Do You (Party) Dress?


From blogs I’ve been reading lately, around the Mothership and other concentric orbits, it seems quite a few of us (including our “clean sweep” WMM) are going through a bit of a closet and retail cycle re-think.  Delving into our shopping habits, the things that make us feel our best, the way we plan our wardrobes , needs versus wants (in the relative sense).  All the what, how, why ,when and where we purchase wearable things, including letting go of some mis-spent, sized or styled regrets and things that are no longer us.
 
Chic simple, e.e. cummings  Janet over at The Gardener’s Cottage  took a big step into vegan shoes while xoxo took time out from Work for Shoes to post the best kind of capsule wardrobes, travelling ones. 

 So, the zeitgeist, Forevuary blues, one too many final sales, or maybe this is a regular activity, and I just sat up and noticed last week?  Regardless, if this clothing clarification process speaks to you, any progress reports, new insights, closet conundrums resolved you care to put out there?

Since the season will be starting to change soon (fingers crossed where I am) and at the days are definitely getting longer again I’ll soon be thinking about my only enduring (semi-annual) closet challenge.  Every year-end around the holidays, the media fluffs and spins about party dressing like it’s the only time anyone ever cleans up or makes an effort anymore.  (True?)


But come spring and summer, when we must still cover off milestone parties, weddings, fundraisers, reunions and all those other gatherings and occasions, which, at least in naturally colder climes, are much preferable to celebrate in warmer times, the style press goes oddly mum.  They’ve probably all gone off on summer holiday (actually, they’re working on holiday issues already.)


 


Before consulting the OCGOBALGAAO blog oracle, there are a few details I suppose I should clarify:
1. I do have a selection of dresses of the plain LBD/ LND workhorse and cocktail safe variety.
2. In my case dresses are a built-in challenge due to top-bottom disparity and (lack of) height.  I don’t think I’ve ever had an adult one that didn’t involve a nip-tuck trip to the tailor.
3. I rather disagree with the dress-shoes-bag you’re done philosophy that frocks are that much easier/ faster than separates.  Yes, it’s nice not to have to worry about tucking or belts, but dresses usually still need an “in-case” sweater/ jacket/ coat and accessories.  And many nicer dresses demand special underpinnings, that aren’t inexpensive themselves, and/or occasion bags and shoes.




My recurring groomed but doomed challenge is day to fancier dresses (I’m okay with evening clothes). 

-          Because they tend to come in colours and prints, I find them recognizable and memorable for things like seeing an overlapping social group, showing up in holiday photos etc. or just being the person in the kelly green dress.  I also tend to associate the dress with a certain occasion, like one good friend’s wedding and therefore not  particularly want to wear it for another bride (even if none of the guests are the same). 

-          No matter how much I love them (in the store or on others) my practical side doesn’t like buying things to wear once at all; and my inner calculator shudders at the, often not insignificant, CPW.  But waiting to buy dresses on sale can also be very tricky, not as many substitute options, sizes can sell out quickly.  Good natural fabrics in summer weights, like silk and cupro, can be hard to find or pricey too.  And I also  hesitate to pull the trigger in case I tire of the brighter or more patterned than usual three-months-only closet anomaly

-          It’s difficult to change up the look of a true summer dress the way you can in winter with tights, jackets, boots or even a sweater over top.




I swear summer party dresses make me fickle in a way other clothes simply don’t.  I have exactly three I would class as favourites.  And two of them were given to me by someone with innate dress sense.  But that, you’ve seen, hasn’t stopped me from sharing a few random pretty selections by Tory Burch, Suzannah, Warehouse, Thakoon and JC.  The always
Fabulous Florida Mommy also posted this last TB number recently.  When she, also far more sartorial than me, liked it too, I thought it had to be good.



SOS: So do or have you summer dressed?   What styles do you favour as your best?  Any upcoming events you’re shopping for or dress investments you’re simply craving?  Does the much lower wearability factor concern you at all?  Do you tuck away stand-out dresses to wear again next season or in a few summers?   Is there a frock staring you in the face that you’ve worn exactly once – or not at all? Beloved, specific dresses in your closet, favoured brands or go-to retail sources?

BTW: I do have a favourite, happy place for truly one-of-a-kind or even custom party accessories:
www.elvafields.com


54 comments:

  1. Great post GF!
    First off, I have a friend who purchased that pretty TB patterned dress, errr is it called the Ramona? Anyway she loves it, says it's the perfect summer party dress.
    Anyway as you know I love this topic! I'll tell you what I'm noticing as I have pared down my closet and stepped out of the retail cycle of new-wants-every-month (aka crewlade), I am looking again at black dresses as perfect what-do-I-wear-to-that pieces. Well I've always loved a black dress and so does MrBP, it's the one time he comments on what I wear and it's always positive. They can go day to night and they can look different with a change of accessories (and I so agree about the distinctive print dresses). With some good hosiery permanently on call and a set of black foundation garments one is always good to go.
    So I guess what I've been craving is a black dress update. Course I also have that spring coat to wear with them (and the perfect black pump and bag). The hard part is finding some in natural fabrics that can work through the seasons.
    As far as strictly summer dresses, well I do have a couple of patterned ones that I'll haul out again this year, but if I had a wedding or something to go to I'd buy a new one. They are memorable for their colours etc and certain events (especially photographed ones) demand a new frock.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dani, AYK lots of black dresses here (cotton, silk, wool) but they don't make me happy, or feel festive or even chic at the moment. So I've actually been thinking that if I can't find a great navy dress in a decent fabric this month, then I'll see about getting a summer one made. I did spot a RL frock sort of reminiscent of the Jackie O. shift but with some nice detailing, but up-close rayon. Anyway, since I usually have to spend on dress tailoring anyway and live near tons of fabric shops, made might not be that pricey, by comparison. If it was "plain" and I loved it, would wear better and could jazz up with different shoes, a necklace etc. You know with that Brora coat I think you've turned the LBD on its head, in the best way (not samey-samey).

      Delete
  2. GF, I saw the tory burch dress yesterday at the shop - I was stunning, had a very textured material quality to it and felt a bit heavier than I anticipated. It was beautiful! Unfortunately, I tend to have more party frocks, than simple frocks. Now I am searching for simple ones in solid colours. I had a cpw moment about the Tory clothes to be honest - all lovely, but the cpw for most of them, especially if I do not return to a bureaucratic job, is so high it isn't worth it. The other thing I was slightly disappointed with was the TB does not have a standard size per se (though of course they sort of do) they said if I was an 8 in one thing, I might be a 6 or 10 in something else. That would be trouble for ordering!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Morning WMM, that's not good news on the variable sizing. I can truck out to Yorkdale to try things on, but they don't have a lot of her clothing. And there's no way I am making the hubs or good friends business trip mule for me if won't fit. Oh well, something smart about a penny not spent. And glad we both have the shoes figured out ;-)

      Delete
    2. I was kind of shocked - she said one could call and give their measurements and they would tell them what size. But I would say that depends, because in one dress I was supposed to be a M, but to get the blouson effect to look right, it needed to be a large. But what beautiful things....

      Delete
    3. WMM & GF: Once you try on more of TB, you can get an idea of your sizing, depending on the silhouette of the dress, fabric content, etc. It gets easier the more familiar you become with her line.

      Delete
    4. You are right FFM! WMM will just have to come to Toronto next and the we'll have to make trek to our one store here. Thanks to you and Dani for expert agreement TB Ramona is a pretty dress.

      Delete
  3. Hello!

    I also wonder how cyclical this closet clean-out topic is. I also think about how it is related to the current economy.

    I am also petite (short!) and unevenly sized top to bottom. What are you proportions? I'm small on top and bigger on the bottom.

    I know what you mean about dresses not being as simple as they seem. I've been in dress mode for a few years and am getting bored. But they're so much easier to fit than pants.

    I have two summer wedding-worthy dresses. I don't have much occasion for dressy wear. We don't get invited to many weddings (maybe that will change over time), and we have to turn down a lot of invites anyway, because of the distance.

    I could use a basic neutral dress - I love your idea of navy, actually.

    I do not mind repeating dresses, even when they will be recognizable. I'm finding the words difficult to find, but it has something to do with associating myself or other people with items of clothing, and eras in our life, and there being comfort in the predictability of it.

    I think about this quote sometimes when I'm worrying about repeating clothing:

    "...She wears them over and over again, discarding them only when they are worn or outmoded, and she considers it a compliment (as it is meant to be) when her best friend says, ‘I’m so glad you decided to wear your red dress – I’ve always loved it!’"

    I found the quote over here: http://grayzine.no/deadfleurette/2010/11/style-notice-the-quest-for-quality.html/ and it's from a book by Katherine Tessaro.

    That said, if I went to more special events, I might get weary of repeats.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Abby, this reminds me of Laura and Mary Ingalls on the Little House on the Prairie series. They each had their own everyday dresses and church dresses in their expected colors and you always knew what they would be wearing.

      Delete
    2. Abby I too wonder about the zeitgeist of the closet edit and scrutiny of the buy cycle, I think it is related to the economy, and the fact that it just isn't holding our attention anymore, the retail cycle that is!
      And there is something really charming in wearing the same dress to certain events over and over, I have some dresses for specific holidays that I wear over and over, there is a comfort in it, a specialness to it.

      Delete
    3. Abby ditto, personally fried-egg/ boy on top and curves on bottom, something like 155 cm, so lots of shoulder adjusting, hemming etc. Have you seen the Tessaro book called "Elegance"?

      Ladies, I am going to ponder it for a while (not decisive about dresses and getting one made would be a commitment.) But I think I really like the idea of a "signature" blue dress instead of fretting about this. As long as I felt good in it and not too "stuck" (accessories) it's probably much better mentally and financially than fretting. Abby, we missed a fair lot when we lived overseas, out west, so now I'm "in country" and a city, do try to make more of an effort to attend special things.

      Thanks for your SQW help!

      Delete
    4. I must say, I really loved the Ralph Lauren red shift dress I bought. It is a bit of a neutral in my mind! I was looking for ecru, but the red made me feel so good that I did think it made better sense!

      Delete
    5. I like the idea of a signature blue dress, GF. I'm also about 155cm :) I only recently discovered tailoring beyond hems, though!

      Yes, it's difficult missing so many events, I can imagine really making the effort when living closer after a long time away!

      I haven't read that book, but it's apparently the source of the quote - is it worth a read?

      Dani, I agree that there is a specialness in it. Yes, the retail cycle is wild. I think that the internet has opened up the fashion cycle to the general population, and it has become all too much.

      Cate, I love that. Colour coded family!

      Delete
    6. Abby, it's a good premise and has a few more great lines. The one I remember is: "The English are a club not even the English can get into." But to me it lost the strength of the opening chapters and went all "Bridget Jones" chick lit by the end. Back when it came out and got a big Sunday Times (London) write-up I meant to look for the original book Elegance by Genevieve Dariaux that Tessaro credits for her inspiration/ contributions. But haven't yet.

      Delete
    7. Hi Wendy, I think red can be neutral because it is not a trendy colour.

      Delete
    8. GF, the book by Dariaux is on Amazon, that's where I got it.

      Delete
    9. Thanks for the input, GF. I've heard of that other book a lot, online.

      Delete
    10. I have that book , it's one of my favourites!

      Delete
    11. Dani, the novel Elegance starts each alphabetical chapter with an excerpt from the earlier Dariaux book - except for B/ Beauty. I'll have to borrow the original from you sometime.

      Delete
    12. I also have the book by Genevieve Dariaux, and found mine on Amazon, too. Really a lovely read, and one of my favorites, as well.

      Delete
  4. I rarely wear dresses. Only to weddings, or some very special event. In LA, one would look like a tourist if you wore a dress to even a nice restaurant to dinner. I have a few special occasion dresses, and I don't mind repeating them at all. Casual sundresses are cute if you're young I think, but can be a bit too little girlish after a certain age.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy, nailed, that's exactly my fear about many summer-y prints/ styles and shelf-life. Avoid from fears of looking dreaded twee, precious, trying. Extra challenge enough when you are small, complicated by age.

      Delete
    2. Oh yes, that is one of my fears, as well. I am very picky about the prints I choose now that I am 'of a certain age'.

      Delete
  5. Kathy, I hear you - I like a more structured sheath now

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WMM, anxious to see your red dress! Did it come from Macy's? That was making me smile as they are so big on the "red dress" heart disease awareness campaign for women.

      Delete
    2. Yes, was in Ralph Lauren section!

      Delete
    3. Have you tried it with "the" shoes or would you do black with it?

      Delete
    4. I think shoes will be grand with it - as would black. I wish I could have seen the bronze moss linen jacket - stores didnT have yet and it could look nice with shoes and dress!

      Delete
  6. Hi GF, I used not to have many dresses but now I have quite a few which are more casual summer wear - we just don't go to many formal events. I like the idea of a black or navy dress, mixing it up with different accessories. I have a lovely navy silk chiffon dress which I bought at Monoprix in Paris - not expensive at all - but, unfortunately, I've 'sized out' of it!! :0)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patricia, ah Monoprix! And thanks for the book tip. I tend to like simple solutions and formulas for my wardrobe (not that I'm mathematical many other places). I feel like, at least for this stage of my life, I am well-sorted, except for the enduring summer dress dilemma. It's odd because a decade ago, I used to only wear summer clothes (climate) now I have 9 mos. of the year here pretty much down. But the summer not evening/ rare very formal, not office, not weekend thing still stumps me. Maybe because I haven't found "my" look yet?

      Delete
    2. Before I forget - you must be leaving on your trip soon, right Patricia? BON VOYAGE!

      Delete
    3. Oh monoprix again! I loved monoprix!

      Delete
  7. I love dresses,esp. flowy dresses.In the summer i wear them a lot,some i bought local,some from Jcrew.
    MY favorite is the amie dress from which i own two:)
    This year i want to try a structured dress in a bright blue or green.
    I wish i had more events to give me justification for a purchase.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ina, you are brave in my book! If I am remembering right the Amie is the very pretty, bit Grecian style with the belt. But strapless always makes me so nervous (not I Am Legend, I Am Klutz). For more casual, I do have this odd fixation with maxi dresses (especially at beginning of summer when I am keen to disguise my snow white legs.) But I have never actually tried one (big hemming project). Now you know all my frock phobias ;-)

      Delete
    2. GetFresh,i am the same height as you(155cm) and i didnt need to hem them(in xxs),so you should be fine with the length too!!!

      Delete
  8. I don't have many dresses. Mine are mostly casual denim/jersey/sweatshirt (J. Crew Maritime, an Eileen Fisher, a Garnet Hill) or structured tank-style (J. Crew Emmaleigh and the like), but I have a few I could wear to something dressier. I have a printed one that turned out to be a go-to dress from Banana Republic that I bought when they had the first Mad Men line out (although it isn't from that line). I have a lovely fancy dress from Boden that I didn't even order (I ordered the skirt but was sent the dress, a happy error). I have a couple of eyelet dresses (purple J. Crew Lucille, navy Boden). I bought the J. Crew Darby dress at the end of the season at a fantastic price but haven't gotten to wear it yet. My favorite dresses are usually shift-style. They are easiest for me to wear with my ever-changing waist size. These all fit my lifestyle more than their dressier counterparts.

    I don't have occasions to dress up very often, though, and if something came up (i.e. if I were to win an Academy Award etc haha), I would probably have to buy a dress. I might have one or two I could squeak by with if need be. I don't feel festive wearing a black dress to a wedding that I normally wear to a funeral, though. I like some separation there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well after I typed that, I guess I do have a lot of dresses! They don't take up much space, for some reason, so it doesn't seem like much in the closet. I'd have to really love a dress to add it at this point, I have enough.

      Delete
    2. cate, you make me smile. And that's a great "must love" attitude. The Emmaleigh was my work dress when I was in a more formal job, so hard to feel "social". Can't wear black to weddings/ showers (trad. upbringing) and I have same "funeral" label for certain, otherwise very nice suit.

      Did you get the striped, eyelet or was there a plain version of the Derby dress? Always nice to have something already new in the closet to look forward to! Yes, Oscar dresses way fun, but I would probably go sans same-same red carpet stylist (unless I could recruit our spot-on DaniBP) and then get panned. Whatever!

      Delete
    3. The Darby dress is thin stripes of navy and red, fitted bodice, full skirt, skinny straps. I don't think I ever saw another version of it, but that would be a good idea if J. Crew would give us some other variations. It is a nice silhouette.

      When I win my Oscar, I hope I don't end up in the Who Wore It Better? pages of the tabloids. I'll probably wear a cute dress that an 18 year old starlet wore better, how humiliating lol!

      Delete
    4. I think my J. Crew eyelet dress is a version of their Lucille dress?

      Delete
    5. At some point in the style recycle, that Derby dress did come in white with a scallop-eyelet hem (IMO looked very young) as well as a blue on cream ticking stripe. I think you picked up the nicest and most wearable of the lot cate.

      Now that I am more of less off the Crewlade and out of the wedding party brigade, scary that I remember this stuff!

      Delete
    6. Crewlade leaves an indelible mark :)

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I also prefer pants over dresses except special events. I am looking for the right one to wear to my daughter's high school graduation. I do prefer navy over black and agree with Kathy about sundresses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. BB, HS grad how exciting! Do you have to find something that works outside or will it be in an auditorium? Good that you have decent lead time. I can find trousers, jackets, separates in a flash, but a dress is a vision quest.

      Delete
    2. I did this last year with son. They are 22 months apart in age but only one year in schooling. It will be in an auditorium and then convene outside. It was very warm last year. The ladies will be in white and the gentlemen in dark suits. I have two dresses I am looking at but hoping for a discount/sale. Last year the dress I ordered never came in time (was back ordered, then delayed, then delayed again) so I ended up wearing slacks...was quite unhappy.

      Delete
    3. Oh no BB, you definitely deserve better luck this go round. Fingers crossed for the right, no-wilt dress at a good price.

      Delete
  11. I absolutely love dresses! I do own quite a lot of them, and wear them almost daily, especially during the spring and summer. I have a couple of new ones so far this year, and I am now really looking forward to spring so that I can put them into rotation in my wardrobe again. I am still on the lookout for one or two new maxidresses, and possibly one or two knee-length dresses, as well. As far as CPW on them, it is always particularly low since it is warm here for so very long, and they get worn over and over and over again (I do not mind repeating, either).

    I love the idea of a basic navy dress for you, GF! I have one from TB that happens to be one of my favorites to wear during the spring and summer.

    Thank you for the lovely mention, btw! The TB Ramona dress is so lovely, isn't it? I hope it makes it to my wardrobe eventually. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FFM my pleasure and "Respect!" As you know, you and DBP were my muses on this one. Following my earlier comment to Ina, I am drawn to maxi dresses but scared of being swamped by them too. After all of today's positive comments, a wear-everywhere classic navy dress and a try of maxis are definitely going on my list. Lucky you for being able to wear "summer" dresses so much. And yes, I must stick to ones I feel good repeating, can change up. Unlike a princess I can't afford an "archive" wardrobe.

      Delete
  12. Hi GetFresh,
    The maxi dress could be perfect for you. I'm short (5'3") and love them. I purchased one from Ella Moss and Splendid last summer and felt taller in them . Kept the line simple and wore a Ralph Lauren v neck cardigan with both. After reading Dani's blog I did a 360 and started wearing dresses. In the winter black tights and summer sandals . Really happy I changed it up .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marsha, you have almost an inch on me ;-) But I hear you; I'm in for a try at least. Have heard of Ella Moss swimwear but never dresses, off to "do the Google." Thank you!

      Delete
  13. I have an old navy linen dress, shirtwaist style and sleeveless, now on its last legs. It was long enough, a big issue as I'm 5'8" and over 25(ahem). I wish something similar would just appear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I know Lane. Not a Cinderella-ish type. But sometimes would be so great if that perfect dress would just appear, poof. I was taken by a navy shirtdress at Tory Burch, (not sleeveless) but it was rayon, so no go.

      Delete

Kindness is a virtue...