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There’s a part of me that never outgrew the dress-up stage of childhood. Back then it was pretending to be an empress or witch-queen – anything that was equal parts regal, mysterious, and magical.
These days, give me a halfway good reason, and I’ll still spend the better part of an afternoon getting all dolled up for an evening out. It’s a lengthy process that starts, of course, with deciding which dress suits the occasion and my mood. After that, a host of secondary decisions: does it need a crinoline? Which shoes will match? How should I do my hair and makeup? Then there’s jewelry, accessories, a purse, hosiery, and various underthings. It’s dress-up, but for adults: less “witch-queen” and more “grown-up glamour” – but still full of whimsy and pleasure. Admittedly, getting “dressed up” like this can take a lot of time, and most of us wait for special occasions when the extra effort seems worth it. In the meantime, our dresses end up relegated to the back of the closet, on hold until a special dinner, wedding, or some other equally fancy event crops up. But wearing a dress is not always the same as getting “dressed up.” Believe it or not, wearing a dress can be just about the simplest wardrobe decision to make, and the most comfortable and efficient way to get dressed and out the door in the morning.
Everyday Easy Dresses
Without fail, when I wear a dress someplace casual – like picking up the kids after school or having a quick coffee with a friend – I get a compliment for taking the time and energy to get “dressed up.”
But pulling that dress over my head and popping on a pair of shoes was likely much more simple - and more comfortable – than any other outfit I might have chosen. More often than not, the dress was the easy solution. Pants and tops have to be coordinated. Waistbands pinch and pull. Shorts ride up uncomfortably. Trousers rarely fit properly in length or inseam without tailoring. Blouses come untucked, skirts twist around. To be honest, it feels like I’ve cheated my way into this compliment when I get it - and I almost always confess this sentiment to the person offering it. People see a dress and assume it’s taken a lot more effort because we’ve married the idea of dresses to the notion of being dressed up. Or, even worse, we’ve concluded that dresses themselves are uncomfortable and unwieldy – usually because we’ve worn styles that didn’t suit our bodies, made out of unpleasant or cheap material, or were constricting and uncomfortable in some way.
Keep It Simple
Obviously not all dresses will do for everyday wear. Leave the satin and sequins for evening glamour and fancy events. Instead, go for less structured shapes (I like an empire waist because it feels so comfortable for my body type) and try a cotton dress, in a simple colour or with a fun, lighthearted print. Skip the fancy hair and makeup. Pop on a cardigan and wear it with a pair of white Keds, simple sandals, or even flip-flops. Pull on a pair of matching capri or full-length leggings underneath, if the weather is cooler; in warm weather, don’t worry about hose or tights at all. Finish with a ponytail or messy bun. No doubt, dresses won’t work for everything. You’ll still need the right kind of clothing to hit the gym or weed the garden (although I’ve been known to mow the lawn in a simple t-shirt dress). But for almost all other settings and activities, don’t overlook the ease of a dress. It really can be as simple, or as complicated, as you want it to be.
Fancy is Still Fun
Wearing a dress doesn’t need to be a major production – it can be as easy as pulling on a pair of pajamas, but just a lot more fashionable. The notion that a dress is complicated, fussy, or time-consuming is largely a reflection of how we perceive fashion, and the abundance of ill-fitting, constrictive, overly stuffy or too-formal dresses many of us have in our closets. But if you find the right dress, the simplicity will surprise you … and you won’t want to keep it tucked away in the closet for a special occasion anymore. And if even the easiest of easy dresses still leaves you feeling a little bit fancy? Take a deep breath and just go for it anyway: you’re never too old for dress-up, even if you’re only going to the grocery store.