Thursday, January 31, 2013

Never Underestimate a Great Dress

A truly perfect wardrobe staple is both versatile and elegant.

Stand aside, drag queens. Even public restroom signs acknowledge the role a dress plays in establishing femininity and womanhood. From Audrey Hepburn’s classic black sheath dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to nearly any of Marilyn Monroe’s famous looks, dresses are a wardrobe staple that are unique to women’s closets. Sadly, many women shy away from this oh-so-feminine (and chic!) clothing essential. (Perhaps here is where we can learn a thing or two from the drag queens!) Being able to throw on a beautiful dress and walk effortlessly out of the house to face the day, to me, is truly a symbol of that elegant, naturally European je ne sais quoi.

You don’t have to be a girly-girl (although what’s wrong with that?) to get good mileage out of a nice dress. Some women seem to be intimidated by the thought of wearing dresses—they may feel that one is too fancy to wear for regular occasions, or that dresses are simply not their style. As a dedicated tomboy growing up, I certainly understand how these feelings persist! However, as I grew older and developed my personal style, I’ve found that dresses have become a wonderful and easy wardrobe mainstay.

If you’re not used to wearing dresses, or if you just want to get the most mileage out of your clothing pieces, then it’s helpful to buy quality pieces that are in basic styles and simple colors. (Remember: quality over quantity!) The reason why the “little black dress” has become so iconic for women everywhere is that it is simple. A solid, traditional color, like black, never goes out of style. Clothing items, especially dresses, that tend to go too over-the-top with details and frills usually go out of style quickly as the next new trend is introduced. Also, these items can be hard to accessorize or match to other clothing items, which make them less versatile wardrobe pieces.

Accessorizing is how to get the most “bang for your buck,” if you’ll pardon the expression. A nice dress in a classic style and color can be worn from the workplace to weddings, or everywhere in between, with the right accessories. For example, I have a knee-length dress in marine blue with three-quarter-length sleeves that I bought, originally, to wear to a fall wedding. For the wedding, I wore the dress with (very) high tan heels, and I accessorized with a simple white gold necklace and earrings. I’ve since worn that dress to work, which I’ve paired with low-heeled wedge shoes in tan and a soft cream scarf around my neck. Most recently, I wore the same dress to my goddaughter’s baptism in January, and this time I partnered the dress with patterned tights, the wedge shoes, and a yellow cardigan. Because of its basic design and color, I was able to take this dress from elegant, to professional, to modest, all through thoughtful accessorizing. The lesson learned? Simple = versatile!

Dresses don’t have to be intimidating, complicated, or mysterious. Actually, I find that dresses sometimes require less fuss than a shirt and trousers—your top and bottom are already guaranteed to match! In fact, in most cases (with the exception of special-occasion or wedding dresses), a simple dress is your smartest option. Spend money on a quality piece that you will feel comfortable and confident wearing again and again. Although I once thought that dresses were reserved only for special occasions or girly-girls, I’ve since found that a nice dress can be tailored to serve a variety of wardrobe functions. Selective accessorizing can help you to make the most of your wardrobe pieces so that they match both your social calendar and personal style.

What is one of your favorite wardrobe essentials?

For a Yahoo! Shine slideshow of “25 Most Iconic Dresses of All Time,” click here.


  1. I love a good spring dress or skirt, but I've always shied away from other styles. Now you've motivated me to go shopping and see if I can find a more versatile dress for all seasons.

  2. Absolutely! Scarves, sweaters, tights... All are great ways to maximize a dress's potential.