The “It” List: Dresses

Fall (fashion)...it's coming!
Fall (fashion)…it’s coming!

Right now its summer. Your uniform (if you have one) consists of bathing suits, high-waisted shorts, tank tops and tee shirts. But before you know it, stores will be filling up with “back-to-school” styles and deals you won’t want to wait to get you hands on. But slow down. Before you go and get all crazy splurging on things you probably don’t need, let me help you get smart about the one piece you do need that will make your life ten times easier come the fall: dresses.

I'll make any excuse to get dressed up. What about you?
I’ll make any excuse to get dressed up. What about you? (Photo credit: Tumblr)

I’m sure a lot of you are thinking, “Well I’m not really a dress person…” and that’s fine. Pant suits, khakis and blazers are cool too but I’m really into dresses because of the main purpose they serve: being an outfit in themselves. Don’t feel like wearing a belt? Cool. Can’t find the time to put an entire outfit together? Fine. Sometimes, a dress is all you really need. Especially on those fall days when it still feels a little like summer and too many layers are just too much. The great thing about dresses, I have found, is that you can be simple and sophisticated without trying too hard. Some days, all you might need are a pair of shoes to finish off your look so instead of worrying about where you put that top after you washed it, you can simply slip on a dress and spend the extra time getting beauty sleep (although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend in that order).

Below I’ve attached the best dresses to have in your closet and why they’re so great (according to me and Nina Garcia). Before you head out on a shopping excursion, make a check-list of these great finds and I think you’ll find that these suggestions are worth the investment!

A-Line Dress:

Being "Type A" has lots of perks!
Being “Type A” has lots of perks! Buy it here.

The A-line dress mimics the shape of a capital letter “A” (narrow at the top, wide at the bottom) and is a versatile, stylish solution no matter the weather. As Nina says, “It will work for you on your best day. It will work for you on your worst day. It will work when you don’t know what to wear, for all occasions and in all kinds of weather. And no matter what, it will flatter your figure.” Sound simple enough? I think so too. In fact, simplicity is why I love this kind of dress. If I’m in a mood to wear accessories that need to be the focus, an A-Line makes for a very classy canvass.

Evening Gown:

It is easy being green if you're in a gown like this!
It is easy being green if you’re in a dress like this! Buy it here.

What sounds like an impractical addition to your closet may just be quite the opposite. To me, this piece doesn’t need to be slinky or covered in sequins or complete with a train. My interpretation of this essential sartorial commodity is something I can wear on a special occasion that upstages my other go-to frocks. Sure an A-line is sophisticated enough and my little black dress has class, but who wants to wear the same dress they wore to barbecues all summer long on a day or night when the festivities call for much more?! In procuring my garment from this category, I evaluate certain qualities very carefully; Is it comfortable? (“opt for chiffon, …crepe, …silk or satin”), is it flattering? (“the most flattering option: a bias-cut gown…”), could I wear this year-round?, are the details/ embellishments too trendy? (“avoid any details that will make the dress go out of style”), (and lastly) is it in a color I won’t get tired of? (“chose a dark or neutral color that can be worn over and over agin”). Asking yourself these questions will ensure that your shopping experience will be worth it in the moment and over time.

Little Black Dress:

You down with LBD?! Buy it here.
You down with LBD?! Buy it here.

When all else fails, a girl can always turn to her little black dress. It will work for you in the office, at after-work drinks, on a spontaneous night out and at breakfast (or at least it did for Audrey). “Choose the best material you can find,” says Nina, “and nothing too tight or too shiny. The beauty of a LBD is its versatility and simplicity. It can be dressed up or down and serves as “a blank canvass” for whatever you need it to be. I like to spice up my little black dress with “a dash of daring”; animal print, ankle booties, aviators…you name it! I happen to agree that you never have too many LBD’s but if you’re on a mission or just can’t decide between a few, having two is a safe move.

Little White Dress:

White: Your new favorite neutral. Buy it here.
White: Your new favorite neutral. Buy it here.

If ever you were in need of a summer pick-me-up piece, the little white dress (LWD) is your girl. “After all, what else would a girl wear when returning from vacation to show off her tan…?” Sure, you should probably stay away from red sauce or red wine in this piece, but ordering up a pair of gold, silver or nude shoes is the best way to flaunt it in a LWD. Additionally, edgy jewelry and/ or black accessories make a little white dress the perfect combination of sexy and cute. And who doesn’t want to be that?!

Wrap Dress:

Keeping your fashion secrets under wraps. Buy it here.
Keeping your fashion secrets under wraps. Buy it here.

The last of Nina‘s top one hundred ideas that has dresses in mind (and one of my favorites), is the wrap dress. After all,  “if there is one dress designed with the intention of flattering the woman’s figure, it is the wrap dress.” I believe this is one of the more empowering pieces you can own as it allows for flattery in all the right places and cinches your waist for a perfect fit. I happen to like wrap dresses in jersey materials and with bold prints and pairing them with everything from boots to stilettos and flats to wedges. The piece is meant to be a utility and as long as you’re comfortable, be a little daring!

Day Dress:

A day dress so fun, you'll want to wear it 24/7! But it here.
A day dress so fun, you’ll want to wear it 24/7! Buy it here.

People might think its silly to have a concept of day dress versus everything else but not all dresses are created equal. Your go-to A-Line might work for a daytime gathering but if that same A-Line is black, it might not be your top choice for a day that might be a bit more on the casual side. In my book, day dresses are the kind of dresses you can throw on for an al fresco lunch date with a friend. They’re the kind of dresses you tend to reference after a compliment saying, “Oh, this old thing?” while knowing you look great. They can be short or long, sleeveless or sleeved, and are easy to accessorize when necessary. When you were little, you might call this dress a “play dress” but now that you’re older, “playing” has become a reason to get a bit more beautiful (with or without a matching set of leggings).

Date Dress:

If you're trying to have you'll never forget, start with your dress! Buy it here.
If you’re trying to have a night you’ll never forget, start with your dress! Buy it here.

Finally, my last dress-y “must-have” comes in the form of a date dress. (If you’re unfamiliar with what I mean, allow Beyoncé to explain.) For all of you “single ladies”, a date dress is the kind of thing you wear out on a landmark birthday or to Girls’ Night Out. This dress might also take the form of another you already own, but when it comes to look and feel, this dress is in a completely different category from the “day dress” or “A-Line”. (Styles like those are better suited for more casual or professional opportunities.) This dress is the kind of dress that shows off your best assets (while still leaving something to the imagination) and outfits you as the intriguing fashionista that you are. You’ll likely want to rock your favorite heels but don’t forget those foldable flats for your purse because this dress you’ll likely want to wear as long as you can (which can make for a long night)!

What is your favorite style? Do you agree with Nina‘s tips? Leave me a note in the comments below for a future feature! I can’t wait to hear what you think!

xo, Vanessa

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Vanessa M. Gatlin

-Blogger, dancer, fashionista -Self proclaimed "political junkie" with a strong interest in international affairs -2011 graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston

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