Jul 302008

The standard Closet Clean-out for a Woman in her โ€˜30s, at Wardrobe Oxygen, lauraashleydress.jpgpromises to improve your reputation at work, your chances at finding a mate, and will actually make you look younger and more confident.”

Aimed at the woman entering her 30s, who may even need to do her first major post-university closet purge, this is a fabulous post, and funny. But the question which has come up here is this:

Can a 40-year-old with a well-developed personal sense of style still wear the Church dress, Laura Ingalls Wilder dress, granny dress, prairie dress, or, “I give up dress” without looking hopelessly dated?

I confess, I think the pictured dress looks good.

  19 Responses to “Reader Question: Are Longer Floral Dresses Hopelessly Dated?”

  1. I agree. But it is rather clingy, so I couldn’t wear it. I would probably show of my belly…

  2. I thought that dress was fine, too–pretty on the right person. I like the double ruffle at the bottom, although the cap sleeves and tiny print would not work on me. But the other one she posted looked dated to me.

    Thanks for addressing this question, Rebecca!

  3. Good? Are you kidding – that dress is fabulous! ๐Ÿ˜€ I would go out on a date in that in a heartbeat.

  4. I would gladly wear the other dress, too, on a summer’s day. It’s very loose and breezy looking to me. What bothers me most about fashion commentary is the disdain heaped on those who are not keeping up with the dictates. Every forum seems to have ongoing threads subject: The awful thing I saw. It’s a way of commenting on other people’s stupidity not to realize or care that trends have moved along. If clothing is made reasonably well and cared for reasonably well and there was not this relentless pressure to keep up with false movement – Fast Fashion – then the whole industry collapses. Once long ago it seems that fashion was most influenced by what was seen at the movies and people aspired to a new look. Now it seems equally driven by the message that you must avoid ridicule. It’s very uncharitable to be so catty!

  5. Other than eternalvoyageur’s comment– that it’s clingy– I don’t have a problem with that dress (as a guy) and thinks it works for the model wearing it.

  6. I agree with most of her conclusions. Flips flops should be banned from society and all printed t-shirts should be burnt – aSap. I also agree with Vildy when she writes about cattiness in regards to those of us who walk our own path and don’t keep up with fashion dictates. That said, my fashion rebel will now rear its ugly head! ๐Ÿ˜‰ lol

    I have a couple denim tops that I love and work with my idiom, size and proportion. I shall not get rid of them no matter how dated she thinks they are. : p Phooey on her.

    I will agree that there are SOME of those โ€œI give up dressโ€es that should be purged. Note that I said some, not all. They do look dated because sand has shifted and they are no longer flattering the new shape. I also think the same style in a different fabric would create radically different, and stylish, dresses. Although the shape of the blue one above would work well for me, the scale of the print is way too small. And it needs some jewelry or a scarf (which is probably dated too ; p ) to break up the print.

    Some of these dressed get a bad wrap just because of the fabric. Printed cotton has come along way. While it may be excellently suited for aprons, you need to be careful with where and how you wear it in garments. My new sheath dress is a example.
    If I made it up into something with gathers, it wouldn’t be flattering. As is, it’s not one of my favorite dresses. ๐Ÿ™‚

    As a seamstress, I struggle with some of what I see in the sew your own modest clothing network (for lack of a better thing to call it, but I think you know what I mean) that seems to specialize in LIW type dresses. I love some of the styles, but made up in small print calico, they do look hokey. It would create a completely different presentation made up in linen or rayon or even just a properly scaled print and be so much more flattering.

    So my long rant that really should be a post at my blog answer is yes, you can be 40something, wear a dress like that and not look dated. It comes back to the whole “whatever you wear depends on your shape, idiom, scale and proportion.” Phooey on what fashion experts insist on.

  7. Context must factor into Allie’s post, as I think she is primarily addressing how 30-something women can dress for greater authority in business settings. But she does say about the dresses, “These are not classic pieces and look dated and frumpy on any woman of any age” . . .

    For my own part, I will certainly continue to wear dresses like this for church, dressier evening functions like the theater or nice restaurants, luncheons, and so on. I don’t have an office job, but if I did, I probably wouldn’t wear such a dress to work without adding a coordinating blazer.

  8. It looks like a nightgown — the kind old women or little girls wear.

    Long, casual dresses are hard to pull off ias is mho, but please don’t wear ditzy little prints. The proportions look soooo wrong to me. If I had to wear one, I’d go for a larger print or accessorize a solid color like purple or green, colors that have a little natural oomph to me but which aren’t glaring either.

    For the modesty crowd, two pieces may be a lot easier to wear. For those that can show a bit more leg, please stick with knee-length skirts and dresses if in doubt.

  9. Sorry, but I don’t think those dresses look good on anyone.

  10. I think this dress works for this model because she is in very good shape and appears to be in her mid-20s. I could NEVER pull this off. This print is too tiny for the average modern women. But I think it looks beautiful on this model.

  11. That model would look fantastic in darned near anything.

    I think there’s a place in an authoritative businesswoman’s wardrobe for a longish, more floaty dress, though in my world that place is often called “Sunday brunch.” Whether little calico prints look good depends A LOT on the wearer — I can only wear black-background prints that are fairly bold, so you won’t mistake me for Laura Ingalls.

    But my longer flowered dress is (thanks to its structured cut) considerably more businesslike than the above-the-knee, shoulder-baring “effortless frocks” that are all the rage these days. And if I wanted to wear a sheath, as the ladies suggest, I’d have to go for nylons or more structured undergarments, which in Phoenix’s 110-degree summers removes the point of wearing a dress at all.

    Do I sound crankier and more emphatic than usual? I think I’m with Vildy on being off-put by the tone of the Ladies Who Dictate Age-Appropriate Attire. Maybe I’ve been corrupted by living in a city where shorts, a black t-shirt, and a tattoo are ALWAYS appropriate. (I don’t have the tattoo!)

  12. I caught that post on WO and I was… disturbed. I’m 20, and when I read that list, I kind of had this sinking feeling of, “I’m… only ten years away from getting rid of half my wardrobe. These are my last years to dress however I want and feel good about it and once I turn 30 I enter THE ZONE OF BORING full of older women sniping each other behind their backs.”

    Which really is not true at all – I understand that once you get older, you shouldn’t dress like a little girl. And we women, sadly, criticize each other’s outfits all the time, no matter the age. But from the tone of the post… throw out this, throw out that, don’t be caught wearing this… I really had this impending sense of doom!

    In any case, I was also surprised to see some of the things she listed for that list, particularly by the long dress, since I wear this kind of dress to church quite often. Nowhere else though! And always with some sort of cardigan/blazer/button-down on top. I think Sheri is right – you wouldn’t wear that dress to the office, but you could to church or other places as appropriate.

    But it’s also true that this model just made the dress work it for her. I honestly shouldn’t wear that style, because I’m short. and it’s crucial that the dress fits well (it is so easy for long dresses to look frumpy).

    The lingerie tip threw me off too – I thought that buying good lingerie is an investment and practical advice at any age.

    All in all, the post made me really sad, because if I were 30 I really would have to throw out half my wardrobe. Not good for the environment/my wallet either.

  13. drwende – actually, you sound like what I wish I could have said

    and Jennifer – that goes for you too … except the part about being 20. lol

  14. I think Allie’s 100% correct on everything she said in that post. I think those LHITP dresses look even sadder on women over 40.

  15. I agree with Christine in part. Those dresses can be worn in such a way that they remind of little girl’s dresses and then they’re too coy for grown up women. As with everything, it’s in how you wear it. If it’s bias, simple, languid, appropriate to the season and doesn’t look like a stiff feed sack print, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be fetching on a past 40 woman. Especially worn with a thin strappy sandal and otherwise uncluttered. I love the look of doing a great deal with nothing at all.

  16. Well, I think that model is an exception — she would look good in many outfits. For the rest of us, I think the long floral dress is pretty out — especially if it has been sitting around in the closet for any length of time. Of course there are always exceptions and maybe we can only count a handful of years before it comes back.

    I have never been a big floral person, but I do have a few 2-color graphic floral skirts I like to wear with solid knit tops and that formula works nicely for me. I don’t think I’ll ever wear a long floral dress again, but I know I should never say never! ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Floral frocks will always be around, but the patterns and shapes change, and that’s what makes them appear either ‘current’ or ‘dated’.

    Any pattern, floral or not, dates more quickly than a plain garment, so if you want to get more wear from your clothes, buy plain fabrics as they will have a longer lifespan in your wardrobe.

  18. Personally, I was rather appalled at how the author of that post felt the need to generalize. The worst part to me was at this age you must not wear ___________. Talk about SHALLOW!

    I think it is horrible to even say that at this age you should/should not wear this…it is about your personality/style/and whether you feel CONFIDENT in what you are wearing. Confidence is the most important–if you feel good in what you wear and it is flattering, forget age! Just stick with what “works!”

    I also realize that much of what she said in the article was geared toward workplace clothing…no matter WHAT age you are, things like flip flops, club tops, etc. are horribly unprofessional! I think a better use for that article would be to change the focus to “what not to wear to work” and scrap the age garbage altogether!!

  19. Thanks for leaving a comment, Becky! I agree with you on the importance of confidence. And I love the idea of being free of the Wardrobe Dictators.

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