Reviews: Seven dresses that truly impress

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Note: Looking for the sale post? It's right below this one.

One of my fun escapes in life is shopping. I don't mean buying a lot; I mean being out with friends or quietly investigating current styles and trends on my own. Anthropologie has long been my favorite place to escape to, whether it's on my lunch break, after work or during free time on the weekends. The store is a great place to shop but it's also a great place to think. While I'm thumbing through rack after rack after cute clothing I'm also sorting things out mentally.

Yesterday was one of the most fun excursions I've had to Anthro in awhile, even though I didn't buy anything. For the first time in over a year, the dresses I tried on just fit. There wasn't much guessing about this size or that size -- as you'll read below I grabbed my true size in almost everything and almost everything fit. It seems like such a silly little thing but it was exhilarating to try on fun clothing that fit correctly! I don't know if Anthro made any changes or if I changed. Either way it was the fun escape I'd been looking for.

Eva Franco's Crossing The Stripes Dress ($228) is resort wear to be sure. It's hard in January to picture what I might not wear until May. I unfortunately to not yet live the kind of jet-setter lifestyle which involves winter escapes to warmer weather. Key word being yet! My body was confused too -- goosebumps immediately appeared on my chilled arms. Still, I suppose this could be a lift for people who get sad about winter. Personally I love snow and would much rather be trying on sweaters, funny hats and heavy boots.

In 2010, I was anywhere from my usual size 6 to a 12 in Eva Franco at Anthropologie. Stubborn to the end, I grabbed my true size and trotted to the fitting room. In a happy surprise, the dress fit! This flowy shape isn't really the best over my curvy body, but the chest was right, the skirt sat correctly, and the belt actually had enough holes to close over my waist. It was such a relief to avoid asking for a different size.

I like the top portion of the dress OK. The draping is fun and the stripes look like colorful wings. I wasn't in love with the skirt portion. I felt like the stripes on the bias made my hips look larger. There was one other quirk with the dress...

...which involved the bust. The drape over my left breast revealed an opening underneath through which you could see my bra! I was able to move the fabric a bit to fix this issue but it seems odd to me that this would even be an issue. Just something to be aware of. Aside from the opening the dress is made well in a mostly-cotton mix that is heavy enough to keep the skirt from flying up on you.

Though this dress isn't for me, it's beautiful and well-constructed. Recommended!

There's a little nautical out there every year, and the Gull Wing Dress ($168) by Girls From Savoy is one of my favorite sea-faring creations ever! I love the frilly halter top and the white piping along the hem. Once again I grabbed my true size 6.

A bra is going to be an issue with me and this dress. The straps are very thin and there's a racerback with an open middle. Aside from that though this dress had me head over heels in love! The fit is spectacular. Made from silk with a poly lining, the dress fit over my top half easily and cinched in perfectly at the waist. I love the sash to bits -- it's wide and long and everything you want in a fun dress sash. Every pleat in the skirt fell perfectly. I was twisting to and fro happily like a toddler. Unlike last year's dresses that routinely hit me mid-thigh this dress fell to the perfect length, stopping just above my knee on my 5'8" frame.

The v-neck is a little deeper than I want ideally. If it were just a skosh  higher I could throw a cardigan over it and wear it to work in the summer. Since it's not this would probably be a weekend/vacation-only dress for me. That works for me. Wishlisted!

If you like your military by way of safari, give the Days Of Expedition Dress ($88) from Daughters of the Liberation a shot. This thin cotton frock makes me want to start digging for dinosaurs. I owned a similar dress from Banana Republic in my early teens that I adored. With a glint of nostalgia in my eyes I grabbed my usual size medium and headed downstairs.

This dress runs rather large. There was plenty of room in the backside and the shoulders in the medium. I would size down to a small to buy. I liked the front pockets which somehow escaped the widening effect I often fall prey to. I think that's due to the sash, which is somewhat stiff and not easy to tie into a bow. The lining along the front placket is so darling -- I wish they'd make a dress out of that material! It's great to see a sub-$100 dress at Anthropologie that isn't called loungewear. Still this dress is missing a little something. Wishlisted for reconsideration at sale time.

Pretty stripes in bright colors drew me to Tracy Reese's Powdered Pigment Dress ($228) from the Plenty line. The dress has an open back with a strip at the shoulders to keep it from falling down. Even with the open back I'm happy to report my bra did not show. This dress is made from smooth silk that gently billows as you move. Convinced I could make this dress work on vacation, I selected a 6 to try on.

Once again my usual size worked. Hooray for sizing consistency! As expected, the 'waistline' sat much higher on me than the online product shot dress form. The result was fine. The skirt portion has a faux wrap layer to it that can be a little distracting depending on the color cut. My size 6 was fine, but my friend who tried a 2 ended up with an ugly clash of the teal and orange stripes. This dress is light, easy and pretty ridiculous for January in NYC. Come July I could see loving this piece. Wishlisted!

Once again a strapless frock pulled me in! This time it is the stunning Color-Dipped Dress ($198) by Corey Lynn Calter. This brand always runs a bit small for me so I chose to try on a size 8. Out of all the dresses I tried this one gave me the most trouble. I found the bustline to be cut very small while the skirt was cut rather large. So while I couldn't zip the 8 up all the way over my 34D chest, the skirt was poufing out because it was too large and the belt hung loosely, the tightest of too buttons still too big for my waist.

It's such a shame because this dress is fabricated beautifully. It's cotton that feels waxed. The corset portion is very sturdy with boning that you can hardly feel. The belt is cute with little scallops trimming each side (I had it on backwards for easy snapping/un-snapping.) I also found the length to once again be wonderful. I am so glad to see the return of knee-length. At full price this one's a pass, but on sale I would buy a 10 and hope a tailor can help me out with the skirt.

My excitement over the happy yellow stripes and sash on the Sun Shades Dress ($158) quickly turned to dread when I saw this dress is by Moulinette Soeurs, aka the brand that does not fit me anymore. But being the intrepid blogger that I am, I grabbed a size 8 anyway.

Since this one isn't fitted around the hips a size 8 was fine. I'll take that as a win! The thin stripes are tailored and tucked perfectly over the bust and the thicker stripes down towards the bottom of the skirt helped my top half look thin and streamlined. I love the warm sash (kinda thin though) and the thick yellow straps that will allow me to wear a bra underneath.  The skirt's pleats weren't quite right but a quick touch with the steamer should fix that issue. This dress is a little too full for my taste but I highly recommend it. Well-made and fun to wear!

Confident from that success, I grabbed another dress from Moulinette Soeurs. This is the Pond Reflections Dress ($168) in a size 8. At least, I'm pretty sure it was MS -- online says Maeve. I'll double-check tonight once I'm home.

Because of the flowy silk material, I should have stuck with my usual size 6. The 8 was far too loose on me. This dress is more chiffon-like than slippery silk-esque, which makes it a good option for both work and play. I'm a sucker for large abstract flower prints and I especially like that this dress has a navy base. Unfortunately I do not like the spaghetti straps. I think they make me look wide on top and don't balance my chest out correctly. So while I like the composition and colors of this dress quite a bit it's a pass for me.

The Gunilla Dress ($258) from McGinn seems a bit Kate Spade-esque to me and that is a good thing! I love the black square buttons up the back (which conceal a back zip) and the tank overlayer on top. It's an intriguing design that should flatter nearly everyone.

Once again I went with my true size 6 and once again I'm happy to report that it was the right size! I cannot overstate how happy I was not to have the play the size guessing game. Unlike the sale guessing game, it's no fun at all. This dress is a silk twill that is a little stiffer and sturdier, more like a textured cotton. I just adore the pleats, which fell better on me than on the product shot dress form. Less A, more a. The overlayer top is a modern touch that creates a tiny waistline (thanks, McGinn!) and keeps the classic print from looking too much like grandma's couch. A total winner in my book, except for the price. Wishlisted!

For more dress reviews, check out this recent reviews set.