Dressed for success… and to dazzle
You’re likely to get a very interesting variety of answers if you ask every woman in your circle to complete the following sentence:
Every woman should have a ___________________ in her wardrobe.
A quick poll around here produced the following answers:
Every woman should have SMART BLACK PANTS in her wardrobe – Lisa, 30
Every woman should have A LITTLE BLACK DRESS in her wardrobe. – Sienna, 32
Every woman should have A CRISP WHITE SHIRT in her wardrobe. – Mia, 27
Every woman should have DARK JEANS in her wardrobe. – Maggie, 25
For us here at Kameo the answer is a CLASSIC, VERSATILE AND DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS maxi dress… though we definitely agree with the other answers too!
Why a maxi dress? Well…
- They can be worn up or down, formally or informally
- They flatter most body types, unlike mini and midi dresses
- They work with sneakers, sandals and boots – it really just depends on your personal style
- Adding accessories (a belt, a denim jacket, a leather jacket, a hat) transforms the dress completely – score for two dresses in one!
A maxi dress, much like some of the pieces mentioned in our snap poll above, can last a long time and serve you well if you invest in the right piece. As such, we’ve compiled a handy guide of things to know, consider and look out for when shopping for this classic wardrobe staple.
Know what you want
We’re all familiar with that experience where you go shopping for something to wear to a special event or occasion, but you have no idea what you’re looking for. It could be a dress, or a playsuit or a two-piece swimsuit… that is how clueless you are about what you want to wear. Invariably, masses of frustration and exasperation are your shopping companions on this trip.
No. Before you even think of stepping foot in a store decide what it is that you want. “Navy maxi dress” is a lot more specific and easier to find than “something nice to wear to the wedding”. Even though navy maxi dress is still vague, at least you’ll know in which general direction to turn in the store.
Decide on your budget
How much does a dress cost? How long is a piece of string? There is no answer to what a dress does or should cost, which is why it’s up to you to decide how much you want to spend on this particular garment. Having a budget helps to narrow down your options and, believe us, reduces a lot of possible anxiety later. If your budget is R1000 then you know you can’t even look at the R3000 dresses.
If you don’t decide on a budget (based on actual affordability for you) you may be tempted to go for the R3000 number and then hate yourself (and the dress) for the rest of the month when you’re subsisting on tap water and 2-minute noodles.
The effects of fast fashion on both designers and consumers is an important conversation (and a blog for another day), but what’s important here is to ensure you buy something that you can wear on more than one occasion and for more than one kind of event.
Could you opt for a dress that works as well for your friend’s wedding, as it does for your niece’s christening if you add a little jacket and swap the stilettos for kitten heels?
The goal is to get something that you can wear not only more than once, but many times over many years. Try to go for something classic and versatile, of good quality and the kind of dress that makes you feel like a million bucks and it is likely to last a long time.
Understand what can be altered
Alterations don’t get nearly as much credit as they deserve. These days “alterations” tend to be associated with things your Granny used to do (which included darning socks!). No, alterations are what sets the so-so apart from the super stylish! Unless you’re Beyonce or the Duchess of Cambridge you probably aren’t having things custom made to fit every curve of your body. So that means that you need to become friends with a tailor (a person whose job it is to do alterations). When something doesn’t fit properly or feel as comfortable as you think it should, the solution is often to have it altered. This includes everything from lifting the hem, shortening the sleeves, tightening the waist, adding buttons, removing zips and much more. The point here is that you shouldn’t allow a small thing (like the length of a garment) to put you off the whole dress. Remember that things can be altered to suit your needs.
If it doesn’t fit, don’t buy it
Whether you need to get thinner, fatter, taller or shorter to fit into the dress doesn’t matter. If it doesn’t fit you now it probably won’t fit you anytime soon and it will just hang in your cupboard, staring at you, making you feel guilty.
Here it’s important to note the difference between alterations that can improve aspects of the dress, versus a garment that simply doesn’t fit. Tailors can do wonders with alterations, but they can’t perform miracles.
Give yourself enough time
When you have a fancy function tonight and you leave shopping for a fabulous dress for it until this morning, frustration and fatigue are bound to follow. Lisa (from the poll above) shares this funny story: “I knew for about three months that I was going to a smart work function and I wanted to look great. I knew more or less what kind of dress I wanted but somehow, for some reason that is now beyond me, I only starting looking for the dress on the morning of the event. And it wasn’t nearly as easy to find what I had in mind in the shops in my area. In fact, it was basically impossible. It wasn’t even that I couldn’t find what I wanted, I just couldn’t find ANY dress that would be appropriate for the function. I was driving around all over the show, going into every shop in every mall within a 20km radius. It was dreadful! The worst part is that I HAD time!”
In the end Lisa did find something, but jokes that she was so fed up and exhausted by the time she got to the event she didn’t enjoy it at all, and promptly donated the dress to charity the next day.
It is worth mentioning though that you also shouldn’t give yourself too much time, because that usually means too many options again, which is as frustrating as no options.
Friends who shop together…
So it’s generally easier and more pleasant to go shopping with a friend, rather than alone, and more so when you’re shopping for a big-ticket item, or a wardrobe staple.
But when you’re going for That One Piece you need to be selective about who gets to tag along. Not the friend that says everything looks good on you. Also not the friend who can’t imagine the possibilities a piece might have (see point about alterations above!). You need the friend who is somewhere in between, and one whose opinion you legitimately value. She needs to be able to tell you that your bum looks three times bigger in the dress than it really is, but she also needs to admit that you look ravishing in that dress… even if it then means that you’ll always look hotter than her at functions!
About what’s underneath
Shoes maketh the man (or the suit, or some other garment), but when it comes to the ladies a lot of the look is made by what’s underneath. Believe it or not – believe it – but your underwear plays an important role in how a dress (or any piece of clothing really) looks on you. When you’re shopping for the dress, make sure you’re wearing the undergarments you’re likely to wear with a dress in the style you’re looking for as this will give you a better idea of what works and doesn’t work.
It’s also a good idea to bring the shoes you’re likely to wear with this dress to help give you a better idea of how the outfit will come together as a whole.
At the end of the your shopping spree the most important thing is to go home with a dress that you like, that you’ll wear, that you can afford, and that makes you look stunning.