The stirring of dress desire is a sure harbinger of spring. Even women like me (for whom finding a ready-to-wear frock that fits is difficult), long for one once winter retreats. Now is the time to look, with new dresses arriving in stores and online by the day.
A safe dress is in the eye of the beholder, but I'll apply the standard I use for corporate attire: it stays put and offends no one. This Talbots ponte knit dress, $125, would qualify, and might serve well worn with accessories. Probably in a year or so, a few pulls in the rayon/nylon/spandex would relegate it to the recycle bin.
Milly's Jenny ponte dress: loads more wit in its knit; $365 from Nordstrom.
We all need the safe dress, but also one that makes you sigh with pleasure every time you wear it. I had a black cotton full-skirted shirtdress with leaf-green piping. Cost the earth even on sale– and so what? I wore it for at least six years.
A smokin' dress fits your body and your soul. Here are some I'd choose, from expensive to less so. Make a least one of your dresses a goddess of the closet, presiding with grace and generosity.
Smokin' strategy #1: A striking print or pattern
Akris Marina Grande-Print dress: this seaside print on Swiss cotton provides novel charm. The price, $2,990 is about the cost of actually going there, so I'm showing it for edification. You can buy it at Saks.
|DVF silk jersey print|
Diane von Furstenberg's Alexy silk jersey dress, with the same print in two colourways. I don't see only a thin woman wearing this, either, as the pattern keeps the eye moving. A modern, fresh dress and silk jersey travels wonderfully. Price, $325, also at Sak's.
|Patterned shirt dress|
Smokin' strategy #2: A neutral lifted by interesting detail
Catherine Malandrino's navy deep-v pointelle dress is discreet and alluring at once, a hard-to-find effect. It's lined to the lower thigh, and stretchy enough to fit closely but not cling. (If a knit is well-designed, one does not have to be superslim to wear it.) Price, $495 from Saks.
|Faux wrap dress|
Ann Demeulemeester's faux-wrap black cotton knit dress is unadorned, yet lightyears away from a stiff, safe sheath. Price, $259; from Barney's. Whew, I heart this dress!
In the pales, here's a See by Chloé ecru jersey dress with contrast details, boat neck and button shoulders, very Geoffrey Beene. Price, $396 from myteresa.
Smokin' strategy #3: Gorgeous fabric
The dress that shines by way of its fabric, perhaps "prettier" than you're used to wearing, but you'll get compliments every time.
|Panne velvet from Peggy Lutz|
Peggy Lutz' Cocktail Slip Dress in antique paisley panne velvet is a gorgeous dress for a wedding (perhaps with a pashmina), the opera or even the market if you are in a cheeky treat-yourself mood. In size XXS (12-14) to 5X; price, $480.
Anna Sui's floral-print cotton and silk-blend dress has a crepe-trimmed neck and hem. Channels the '70s but would never be mistaken for a dress you didn't throw out. I see it on a mother of the bride at a garden wedding, but it could just as well be worn for lunch on a patio. Price, $650 from Net-a-porter.
|Luxe lace for day|
Stella McCartney knows how to dress grown women, period. Fawn cotton lace, rounded neckline, slightly flared cut. Expensive, yes–but you don't find exquisite lace on the cheap. Lace Dress, $1,227 at myteresa.
You may not suit these exact choices (or they may be sold out, an annoying fact of life); I chose them to illustrate the smokin' dress principles.
Finding the perfect dress is somehow more challenging than finding good jeans or a just-right tee, and in its own category of triumph. I wish us luck.