After my Knitwear post, in which I shared my favourite (and arguably most well rounded) part of my wardrobe, I'm moving on to the next best section - dresses. After knits, dresses are my most worn items. I may not have many, but that's because I expect them to be versatile and take quite a few factors into account when I'm picking a new one.
Length is the main concern - I favour knee length because it works year round, and it's surprisingly hard to find something long enough that won't break the bank.
Comfort is also high on the list of course, which is why jersey fabric is a big feature here.
I like dark colours and small prints, and an overall design that I don't have to be too precious about for work. The amount of times I've caught my clothes on my desk, splicers or shelves is pretty embarrassing, but typical for me.
The charity shop finds
|black print - 'Classics', denim smock - Monsoon, black floral - BHS|
Working with my list of specifics makes charity shops the most awkward place to find dresses. I don't mind sizing up if I find something I like, especially since smaller sizes are the hardest to find in my experience, but length is the major issue here. I'd guess around 90% of the dresses I like in charity shops are too short, and most of the others aren't in a style that suits my shape. Vintage is the obvious way to go here, but with the second hand places being increasingly picked over these days (and especially in and around the city where I am), the odds of finding something suitable are close to nil. All of these dresses came from my very small home town - in fact I think I found both the printed ones on the same day.
The black printed dress has the label 'Classics' (no idea) and came with a matching belt, which I wear tied around my waist since it's a couple of sizes big on me. I wear this dress the least in the winter because I think it looks a bit frumpy with tights, but I love it in the summer for keeping me cool but covered.
The Monsoon smock dress has a fun story attached to it. I was browsing the book section and I overheard a lady asking the price of the dress. When I glanced over I kicked myself for not spotting it, but when she heard it was £3 (gasp!) she changed her mind and decided it wouldn't fit her. After she left I moved swiftly to the rail and claimed it! It doesn't fit me either, being three sizes bigger than me, but I love how comfy it is.
The black floral dress also came with a belt, and required some serious altering to make it fit me right. The sleeves came off, the sides came in and the skirt pleats were replaced with gathering. I'm not hugely keen on the way I altered the armholes (they're still a bit wide) but I don't care enough to fix it...
The jersey section - take one
|blue bird print - Monsoon, blue floral print - Monsoon|
I'll point out now that three out of four of these dresses are from Monsoon. That means if we include the denim one above, more than half my dresses came from there. So...I have a type. Or brand loyalty? Or I just don't like wandering every shop to find something I know I could get in there. The length is just right, the styles are flattering and they last longer than I expected. They also retail at around £55, which I think is a bit ludacris for a dress made of t-shirt fabric, so I generally hold out for the sales.
The blue bird print dress is the one that started it all. I have no idea why I was even in Monsoon, but it was sale time and I was there. I tried this dress on and had one of those rare moments where something fits perfectly and you don't ever want to take it off. Plus, I wear a lot of blue. It was fate.
The floral dress followed later that year. I was looking for another 'blue dress moment' and almost got it with this. The fit was right and the style flattering. It was also half price. I took it home happily and then...hardly wore it. I have no idea why not. Maybe it feels a bit dressier than its sister, or the style is a bit bold for me? I plan to make more of an effort with this one since I do still love it, and the bird dress is starting to show its age a bit recently.
The jersey section - take two
|blue dot print - Monsoon, blue/white stripe - M&S|
Fast forward to this winter and my dress collection has been boosted again. I definitely developed a taste for navy blue instead of black since I stopped working in the cinema, and around half my wardrobe is taken over by this shade.
The blue dot dress was purchased in the most recent sales a couple of months ago. I'd spotted this design online and kept my eye on it, but when I finally saw it in person I was a bit torn. The top half was different to how I'd pictured it - more drapey and oddly shaped than I expected. That's what I get for browsing clothing sites on my phone. I tried it on and still wasn't sure if I liked it, but I took a gamble and it paid off, because now I love it. Sometimes I just need to give items time to grow on me.
The stripe t-shirt dress was a chance find in the M&S sale a few months ago. I like to look at all the sale rails in there since they just mash everything together after a certain reduction point, and I found this in a size 22. Which...well, I like oversize style better than anyone but that was taking it too far. We eventually found a smaller size 16 and I set off to test it. And it's now my comfiest, awesomest (totally a word) dress. The collar came decorated with the world's tackiest bling stones, but it was nothing an hour with an unpicker couldn't take care of.
So, if we've learned anything here, it's that I have very specific tastes in dresses. I'm ok with that.