Who doesn’t like the ease that dresses offer in the summer? You throw them on and you’re out the door. Easy peasy. Well, it’s not always easy peasy; not if you have a short waist, a long waist, a small chest, or are disproportionately larger on the bottom compared to the top of your body. Dresses sort of decide how your body needs to be shaped in order for them to fit. Of course, this is the case with most articles of clothing, but when it comes to dresses, you are most definitely at the mercy of the silhouette.
FAKING A DRESS (OR JUMPSUIT)
I work with one client, Ms. Botanic, whose personal style is perfect for easy, fun, and feminine dresses. In addition, she lives in Houston Texas where dresses are the thing you want plenty of if you are going to stave off the ridiculously hot summer temperatures of the region. Over the seasons, Ms. Botanic and I have found several dresses that work for her but, for the most part, finding styles that fit her unique proportions has been a slog. Ms. Botanical has a slim shape but a larger bottom half to top half and a waist placement that never seems to perfectly line up with the dresses she has tried. Many dresses she has purchased have needed tailoring to get the fit right to work with her body. Tailoring dresses to fit can be a much more involved and expensive process. To solve this issue, over the past year, I have switched much of my search from finding dresses that will fit her body to looking for tops and skirts in the same fabrics, prints, and patterns that will create the illusion that what she is wearing is a dress. Last fall, Ms. Botanic purchased several two piece looks from BA-SH.
To be clear, not all tops and bottoms from a designer in the same fabric, prints, or patterns are meant to be worn together as a set. When I was a sportswear designer it was completely normal to turn a print in a collection into dresses, skirts, tops, and even pants, and never did we intend for the pieces to be worn together. However, in cases where pairing two pieces into one look makes sense in terms of proportion, looks complete, and appears to belong together, it’s a great solution.
Also, consider what you get when you take a skirt and a top to fake a dress. You now have two separate pieces that can’t just be worn together, they can be broken apart and used as separates. You can take that top and pair it with a tailored pair of pants or a different skirt or add a different blouse, tee, or sweater with the skirt. While a dress is more standalone, pieces used to fake a dress can get you more mileage. Therefore, in addition to using two pieces to fake a dress to fit your body proportions, you also create more versatility in your wardrobe by having pieces that do more. You sort of get the best of both worlds: the appearance of easy “dresses” along with mix-and-match pieces. Even if your body does proportionately fit dresses well, if you want to get more use from your wardrobe, having two pieces that can be brought together to build the look of one dress might be a smart solution for you too.
If you are someone who sizes larger in bottoms compared to your tops, or vice versa, whose waist never lines up with the waist on the dresses you try, who finds they need to perform major surgery on their dresses to get them to fit right or are just looking to get more with less in your closet, this is definitely a strategy you want to consider giving a try. Below, I am faking some dresses for work by pulling together two pieces.
You could do a lot with this top and skirt from Ann Taylor. The top would work well with a pair of navy pants, you could throw a tee on with the skirt and style it with sneakers. With a crisp white blouse paired with the skirt, you could look super chic heading to work. You could even pair the top with a pair of jeans. What you could also do is bring these two pieces together to fake a dress. I styled the pieces with a pair of orange pumps from Marc Fisher, a navy tote from M.Gemi, and simple silver hoop earrings.
If you can’t find a little black dress that fits right, these two pieces from M.M. Lafleur may solve the problem. I styled their Rashida top in washable ponte with their Astor skirt in the same fabric. This is key when faking a dress, you can’t achieve it unless you choose the two pieces in the same fabric and color that are from the same brand. I finished the look in an understated way with a pair of flats from Margaux, a beige Kate Spade handbag, delicate necklace from Lana and resin and gold angular hoops.
A button down and skirt can be used to create the look of a shirt dress. I used this blouse and pleated skirt from Marella. Both pieces would be fantastic separates in a wardrobe that could easily be styled a variety of ways. For the dress look, I added this wrap belt from Raina to conceal the waistband and I finished the outfit with mules from Everlane, linear link earrings from Mejuri, and a burgundy bag from Mansur Gavriel.
Where the fit of dresses often gets tricky is with sheath dresses because the shape fits much closer to the body. If you are two different sizes on the top and the bottom, you know how challenging it can be to find a sheath that fits both halves equally well. These two pieces, the wrap design top and simple pencil skirt from The Fold create the illusion of a dress. I finished the look with greek patent pumps from M.Gemi, a Demellier work tote and pendant necklace from Monica Vinader.
In addition to faking a dress, you can also fake the look of a jumpsuit which can not only solve the fit issues, it solves the bathroom issue. Everlane has been showing a lot of these looks that bring two pieces together to create the illusion of dresses, rompers, and more. For this look, I styled their tailored linen pants with their linen button down to build a jumpsuit look. I styled it for work with these cognac pumps from Hobbs, an olive belt from Rag & Bone, link necklace from Open Edit and perforated leather tote.
CREATE THE SAME EASE DRESSES OFFER
The thing to love about dresses is how easy they are. You just throw them on and you’re dressed. If fitting dresses is hard for you, faking a dress with two separate pieces will give you the same ease with a much better fit while, at the same time, giving you some separates to play with in your wardrobe.