Thursday, May 8, 2008


If you're a girl, and you know how to walk in heels (and maybe even if you don't), then you've gotta have a little black dress. It's a classic, it's ultra-flattering, you can wear it everywhere with everything. Everyone loves the little black dress.

And yet... when you wear a LBD to a bar or party, it's just about impossible to get the "all eyes on me" effect, because you're blending in with all the other girls in black dresses. It's always important to have that "safety" dress that you can throw on when you want to look guaranteed good, but sometimes that same dress becomes your "boring" outfit.

Enter the Little White Dress. If there's one thing I learned from my time on my high school newspaper staff, it's that the eye loves white space (also, a pica is some sort of measurement that will drive you absolutely insane). Basically, if you wear a white dress, you'll be the attention-catching pull quote in the middle of an overwhelming solid block of text. Or, in a less nerdy example, you'll be like a spotlight... or a star! A star in the middle of a night sky!

Yes, sure, there are definitely hazards to the white dress. First, you don't want to look like a bride. Second, if you spill your dinner on your dress, you might as well call it a night and head home. And third, and my biggest pet peeve, so many white dresses are see-through. Lining is God's gift for those of us who like to wear underwear, so I don't know why every designer doesn't slap it inside their lighter-colored clothes.

I might as well break my lining rule right off the bat, with this Susana Monaco Pleat Pocket Tube Dress, $149. It'd probably be suited for a swimsuit cover-up, but if the fabric is thick enough to wear without breaking any public decency laws, it'd be a great sexy dress for when you want to look effortlessly hot. I love the hip pockets (since I love all pockets), and I think the gathered bustier would be very flattering to boobs of all shapes and sizes (except square, probably).

Here's a similarly simple dress, from Ella Moss. The Abbey Bow Dress, $155, has the cutest braided straps, and I love that the tie on the bust leaves a little keyhole opening. Very sexy with a side of sweet. I'm generally not a huge fan of bubble hems (they're fattening on almost everyone, I swear), but it seems like the hem on this dress is very subtle-y balloon-y. And I guess it could be read as a high-fashion detail on what could otherwise be a Prettiest Girl at the County Fair dress.

I don't play tennis, but if I did play tennis in some sort of fantasy world country club or Connecticut weekend home, this is what I would want to be wearing. From Ben Sherman, the Pearl dress, $129, is probably too fancy for any actual sports (it could possibly work for croquet). It's a full button-down (both the top and skirt), and there's pin-tucking on the bodice, like a feminine version of the tuxedo shirt. But that just means that the dress can go from the courts to cocktail hour; just take off the removable straps, add some bright heels, and make sure not to spill your Screwdriver. Also, I feel that the model in this photo demonstrates a great quality of all white dresses that I forgot to mention: if you've spent any time at all out in the sun, they make you look so freaking tan. There are very, very few compliments I like better than, "Wow, you look tan," and a white dress is a lot less trashy than going to a (shudder!) tanning salon.

Is all this white making your eyes hurt, like you've been staring into the sun for too long? I'll give you a break with some white dresses with colored accents. The fiercest I've seen is undoubtedly this Dallin Chase Franz dress, $161. The fuchsia ruffle at the neckline could be overkill on a different dress, but against the white it's the perfect pop of color. And you know I love waist sashes, and this one is even greater because of the orange on one side and fuchsia on the other. This dress is ridiculously short, though; you could probably wear it over jeans and make it into a tunic. I'm not sure if it would work with tights, though, since it's such a warm-weather look.

All these dresses so far have been on the pricey side, so let's bring it back to the, "If I buy this dress, then I won't be able to buy 8 cups of coffee. Worth it!" realm. From Forever 21, the Nana embroidered dress, $29.80 would be perfect for Cinco de Mayo (if it wasn't already over). The embroidery, in a shade of light orange that's perfect as an accent but would be overwhelming otherwise, makes this dress look more well-made than it probably is.

Ok, so this next dress is more of a cream (Old Navy calls it "powdered milk," which I find rather gross), but it's in the white family so I hope you'll forgive me. The Old Navy tiered embroidered dress, $20.70 is a bit extreme with the babydoll style-- those cups look a little small to me. But it has a "road trip to Cali!" or, if you're already in California, "road trip to TJ!" vibe that I really like.

Moving on to tank dresses (did you notice I'm progressing from strapless to spaghetti strap to tank, and then we'll have halter, sleeveless and short sleeve!), I've posted this dress from Delia's before, and I still love it even though I'm sure in person it's total crap. But how am I supposed to resist all the cuteness in this photo? She has flowers in her purse, for god's sake! I want the Helena Eyelet dress, $44, just so I can attempt to recreate her entire look (first step: find some cobblestone streets to walk on).

Danielle's gonna hate this dress because it's super infantalizing, even more infantalizing than the dresses I always post about. The Black Halo Empire Tank dress, $306, practically looks like a christening gown. But check out the cool pattern on the top, and how the satin belt complements the different fabrics on the bodice and skirt. It's like debutante on top, hippie on bottom, bride in the middle, but the white brings it all together and keeps it cohesive.

My three halter dresses are all under $45-- how about that? First, from Isaac Mizrahi for Target, there's the Eyelet Halter dress, $39.99. Classic shape in a light, breezy fabric-- a great option.

Another Delia's pick, I find this Caroline dress, $44.50, appealingly slutty. The ruffles on the halter are totally telling everyone to stare at your chest, which is sometimes the effect you want to have.

This F21 dress looks so luxe, like something J.Lo would wear if it cost $21,000. And if it were lined. The Embroidered Shift Dress, $19.80, has that shock of color around the collar that'll frame your face and get you loads of compliments.

This dress is very Mad Men Goes to the Hamptons-- a little costume-y but totally hot on the right girl. From Miss Sixty, this Manya Dress, $209, is the more polished sister of the second dress I posted, the Abbey dress. It has the tie-front detail, but the pencil skirt and cap sleeves make it almost appropriate for the office or a swanky cocktail lounge. The fabric is linen instead of a knit, I think, so you'd have to work a bit harder to keep the dress looking crisp and fresh.

The Ella Moss Kate dress, $162, has one of my favorite ways of wearing white, as crochet. Crochet can be a little old-fashioned, and no one wants to be crotchety, but the simple t-shirt shape of this dress and the unlined sleeves keep it very young. Throw this on with some flat gold sandals and you're all set to go get some tacos.

My final dress isn't my favorite, but the Banana Republic Linen lace-front dress, $98, is still pretty cute. You can't really see the detail on the white version, so I'm posting a photo of the blue, too. Ignore the dumb scarf on the model, the racing stripes of lace down the front are very cute. And I think the shape is moderate enough to work into fall and even winter, with the right accessories.

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