Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ode to the Dress

By now, to the complete surprise of octogenarian Seventh Avenue garmentos, the dress has fully re-established itself as an article of clothing that women buy, wear and want. How long ago was it that "dress departments" consisted of a lone rack stuck in the corner of the store? Remember when to "need a dress" meant you were partaking in some feudal ritual where no other garment had been allowed to infiltrate (i.e. wedding)? The whole idea of a dress was so hopelessly old fashioned that when dresses began to emerge out of the shadows four or five years ago, for some young women it was the first time they had ever shopped for one.

Dresses are not easy. For one thing, the top half and the bottom half both need to fit. There is no such thing as standard sizes in women's wear. One man's 4 is another man's 6 is another man's 2. Dresses start at size 0. Think about it for a moment; zero is nothing.

Dress styles will not universally fit all body types. While there is a style that will work for yours, it may not be the style de jour, the one you see in the magazines or on the mannequins.

Dresses also suffer from "looks-good-on-the-hanger-doesn't-look-good-on-you" syndrome. Likewise there are puh-lenty of dresses that look dreadful on the hanger. If a salesperson suggests you try something because "the hanger doesn't do it justice" she's probably telling you the honest truth.

Dresses are harder to personalize. Now that we've encouraged you to develop individual style we want to zip you into a dress and call it an outfit.

Nevertheless a dress can be your best friend. Once you've established the right accessories (belts or necklaces or footwear) a dress can go a million places seamlessly.

There is actually a nice security in not coming loose at the waist. Some dresses are even made to look like separates for that reason. It's nice to relax and revel in a beautifully cut dress that just cuddles up to your body, enhancing what it should and breezing over what doesn't need showing off.

You can give a dress an individual stamp if you want. Many dresses (tent dresses or flowey unstructured dresses) take on whole new shapes when cinched or tied where you want them. Changing out a belt or sash (dress manufacturers tend to skimp on the quality of belts) makes a huge difference.

Never let yourself fall into the size number trap. A savvy salesperson will always ask "What size do you need?" not "What size are you?" If you absolutely cannot bear that the dress of your dreams fits you in size 10, cut out the size tag! (wasn't there a whole Seinfeld episode about this?)

Resign yourself to the need for alterations. Unless you're buying couture (made for you alone) how unreasonable is it to expect that dress to fit you in every nook and cranny? If a dress almost fits, ask to try one or two others in the same size. You would be amazed how the same garment in the same size can fit differently depending on who sewed it or where the fabric was sitting in the giant pile that was cut out. Some alterations are easier (and less expensive) than others. Hems, cuffs and taking up shoulder straps are no-brainers; a dart here or a shoulder heist there can make all the difference. Anything involving taking out the zipper will start to cost you. Remember it's always easier to take it in than let it out.

The goal of a dress is to flatter, to enhance or tone down but not to hide. You can't go wrong when you establish a waist. It might not be your natural waist, but it will be the focal point to work with your curves. The ribcage is the narrowest part of most women's bodies. That's why some of the most flattering styles out there today hit somewhat higher than your tape-measured waistline. Don't be afraid to experiment and try different things (that's why the dressing room has a door).

Dress for Success has new meaning as does Say Yes to the Dress!

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