Thursday, February 5, 2009

Go long for Spring

As we settle into February, I find myself looking more and more forward to spring. And quite frankly, with the unseasonably warm weather Houston has been having, it feels like spring is already here. Inevitably with the arrival of spring comes my annual urge to shed my slacks and sweaters for far lighter and easier pieces. This season, I am particularly drawn toward maxi dresses, a style that's been on the runway for several seasons now must be gaining serious traction as stores are flooded with them for spring.

I think the appeal of maxi dresses to most women is how easy they are to wear. Throw one on and you instantly look pulled together and alluring, giving off a casual "I'm on vacation" air mixed with a subtler, more sophisticated European vibe. Maxi dresses have the added benefit of covering you up on bottom and putting the focus on your face/décolletage, making it a particularly attractive style on pear-shaped or plus-sized women.

After combing the internet, I've pulled together some of my favorites below. I've divided them up between solid-colored dresses and prints. In some ways I think solid-colored dresses are easier to wear, particularly for shorter or more petite women (I think large prints can be overwhelming on smaller frames). Additionally, solids are more versatile -- you can accessorize them in such a way as to make appropriate for pool-side lounging or an evening out and people won't be as likely to notice if you wear it weekly (as I am inclined to do with my favorite clothes). Also, while there are plenty of strapless maxi dresses floating around out there, but I didn't include any here because, quite frankly, I don't really like strapless dresses. As for me personally, I hate strapless bras and the neckline only serves to exacerbate how broad my shoulders really are. As for everyone else, aren't y'all sick of spending all night yanking up your top? I'm pretty sick of watching it, frankly. Without a perfect fit and a good bra, strapless can be a nightmare (and I think not particularly flattering unless you are very small-busted). But if that's what you're looking for, vaya con Dios, and let me redirect you to Nordstrom juniors, which has some nice, under $100 options.

As shown above:
1. T-bags long kimono dress (
Shopbop, $207)
2. BCBG periwinkle jersey knot detail gown (
Bluefly, $222)
3. See by Chloe long v-neck dress (
Nordstrom, $355)
4. Empire-waist halter dress (
Gap, $49.50) (available in other colors)
5. Dressy Jersey Grecian v-neck long dress (
J.Crew, $98) (available in other colors)
6. BR Monogram racerback gown (
Banana Republic, $225)

These are all pretty basic, but there are a few things in particular I'd like to point out. The T-bags (what a terrible name!) kimono dress is really wonderful for those of us with bigger busts since it provides a little more coverage up top without being dowdy. The yellow Chloe number is gorgeous, but the tiering and lace at the bodice remind me a lot of the Mexican-style dresses my sister and I sported through the '80s which were purchased for pittance off the back of some guy's pick-up truck (we're classy like that). Also, I would never, ever pair that dress (or any of these dresses for that matter) with black flats. It's just too heavy a shoe for these floaty, ethereal confections. Maxis all require sandals of some kind --
flip-flops, espadrilles, just something with an open toe -- but I think huaraches (a Mexican-style sandal, Tory Burch is doing a great style right now) would be very au courant.

The one downside with sporting such a long dress in a single color is that you run the risk of looking like a giant green (or black or blue) rectangle. On that note, can I offer some unsolicited advice? [Let's pretend you said "yes".] Avoid the black maxi dresses. Last summer I was in Lot8 (Chloe Dao's store here in Houston) and tried on a heavily-discounted Mblem black maxi dress. It was so comfortable, but as soon as I looked at myself in the mirror, I knew it wasn't meant to be. I looked like a nun who forgot her scapular and cowl. Just way, way too much black for me (and I love me some black). If you want something more neutral, I'd go with gray. Accordingly, I've not included any black maxi dresses here, but there are plenty out there for those whose tastes veer toward the goth (or the priestly).

Shown above:
7. Karen Kane knot maxi dress (
8. Diane Von Furstenberg silk blend gown (
Net-a-porter, $695)
9. Matty M twist strap maxi dress (
Nordstrom, $118)
10. Tibi "Valencia" maxi dress (
Net-a-porter, $480)
11. Juicy Couture "Jackie" printed jersey maxi dress (
12. Tocca "Donatella" dress (
Bluefly, $234)

I had more trouble finding moderately-priced printed maxis that I liked, so please forgive the price points here (I wouldn't spend $300+ on a casual dress either). Maybe I'm just picky, but a lot of the prints were just ugly, looked like upholstery fabric, or seemed unflattering (designers need to stop with the horizontal stripes...unless you're teenie-tiny, it's just not a good idea). That being said though, Nordstrom carried several for under $120 and both have the added benefit of working with your regular bra. Have you noticed yet that I'm very serious about the importance of proper support? A good bra can make or break and outfit and I pretty much avoid any outfit that won't let me wear (a good) one. The DVF dress may very well be my favorite print though (with Tibi's being a close second). I just adore the graphic zig-zags and splash of yellow. It actually looks a lot like the dress Korto designed last season on Project Runway for the challenge DVF herself judged. And finally, I chose the Juicy Couture one because I thought the smaller and more delicate print would be well-suited to petite women and I was surprised how few maxi dresses really seemed to take into account that most women aren't really able to carry large Pucci-esque prints.

If there are any other maxi dresses out there that you're loving (or if you hate the whole trend in general), drop me a line -- or leave a comment below -- and let me know! I think part of being a smart consumer is being an informed one, so the more information we can share with each other the better.


Anonymous said...

Pretty awesome! I love to wear maxi dresses just got a new one from Nordstrom.

Tina in Texas said...

Just ran across your blog in my googling! Thank you so much for the Nordstrom suggestion! I have been googling stores like crazy, looking for cute maxi dresses that one can wear a bra with. For a more mature woman (I am 49) who wants to be trendy without trying too hard. I did find a couple of cute ones on the JC Penney web site, and a few on the Sears site -- via their KMart links (!). Who knew? I have no idea what they look like in real life. Anyway, thanks. I am going to RSS feed you now! --Tina in Texas

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