Guest Post by Abigail Joan Politzer of Commandress.com
I love dresses. I love them for work, I love them for play, and I even love wearing them when I’m not leaving my house. I love dresses so much that one of the reasons I chose “Commandress” as the name of my blog is because it makes me think of a woman who is confident and professional – and wearing an awesome dress.
Dresses can simplify your life – something I think we’re all looking for. There are fewer decisions to make with dresses. You can look put-together and polished in minutes. Accessorizing your dresses can change you from work to play easily.
More than that, a great dress can be professional, stylish, comfortable, easy to wear, versatile and Made in the USA. The right dress can make you look great, feel great, and enjoy knowing that your purchase supports America’s clothing manufacturers and has a real impact on our economy.
What makes a dress work-appropriate? This can vary among regions and workplaces, but here are the basics:
(1) Fit: Professional dresses should be tailored and/or body-skimming – but not tight. I sometimes go up a size when I’m buying a dress for work.
(2) Hem: The length should be just above the knee or longer.
(3) Coverage: If a dress is low-cut, you should pair it with a camisole (or camisole bra) at the office. I also recommend that you thoroughly “test drive” your clothes before wearing them to work. Who wants to be sitting around a table with co-workers when she discovers that something she’s wearing will not stay put? Dresses can reveal things you do not want seen!
(4) Sleeves: Sleeveless dresses are acceptable in many workplaces – check the dress code or talk with HR if you’re not sure about yours. Personally, I prefer work dresses with sleeves – and I usually wear a blazer or cardigan to the office if I’m wearing a sleeveless dress.
(5) Color: In general, dark solid colors command more authority than lighter colors or prints. This does not mean you should only wear solid black, brown, or navy to work – please don’t! But you should understand what is appropriate for your office and dress accordingly.
Here are several examples of dresses that are professional, chic, and Made in the USA.
If you are buying your first professional dress, a structured black ponte dress is a great place to start. Ponte is a rayon-based stretch knit that is a great fabric for professional clothes: it has give, it doesn’t stretch out, it doesn’t fade, and it is seasonless. As is the case with this dress, ponte dresses are often machine washable (two of my favorite words). The fit of this dress is also perfect for work: it’s structured, but not tight. The Juliet Stretch Ponte Dress in Black is $168 from Dobbin. The Juliet dress is also available in limited sizes in Navy and Bordeaux.
Another great basic is a faux wrap dress in a dark color. A “faux” wrap often provides more coverage and doesn’t shift as much as a real wrap dress. This dress is also “ruched,” which means that fabric is gathered at the sides. Ruching is your friend: it can camouflage a less-than-perfect belly. This dress comes in a fantastic range of dark colors – my favorites include Currant, Midnight, and Wineberry. One last thing: please don’t write this dress off just because it has cap sleeves. These cap sleeves are not tight and extend beyond the shoulder – a design that can actually make your arms look smaller rather than larger. The Suzi Chin for Maggy Boutique Ruched Faux Wrap Dress is availablein regular and petite sizes for $98 from Nordstrom.
**UPDATE: Sharp-eyed reader Andi visted the Nordstrom website and saw that this dress is now listed as “imported”. Our guest poster quickly found us another great dress:
Hi Andi – Thank you so much for catching this mistake. I’m almost positive that the Suzi Chin dress was listed as Made in the USA last month! There is a different Suzi Chin dress on Nordstrom’s website that is listed as “Made in the USA or Imported” – so perhaps they are making some changes.
Nordstrom currently has an Alex & Ava Long Sleeve Jersey Wrap Dress in Boho (deep purple) that is a similar design – although a true wrap – that is Made in the USA and $168.
The design of this Karen Kane dress is another style that is flattering and easy to wear. This dress has ruching that is gathered under the bust. A neutral print, like this Black and Cream confetti print, is another great option for a professional dress. It’s very versatile, and a print fabric is often more forgiving than a solid color. This dress is machine washable. TheBlack and Cream Print V-Neck Dress is $126 from Karen Kane.
Karen Kane also offers a similar dress in plus sizes that is made from the same Black and Cream confetti print fabric. The dress is similar to a faux wrap and would also be flattering and easy to wear. It is also machine washable. The Black and Cream Print Dress is available in plus sizes for $146 from Karen Kane.
Dobbin also makes a fantastic faux wrap dress in a neutral print. This geometric print includes black, brown, and ivory. Although it is a faux wrap, this dress also has the advantage of a belt that you can use to cinch your waistline and customize the dress’ fit. This dress is machine washable. The Carson Geo Print Stretch Ponte Dress is $188 from Dobbin.
If your clothing budget is larger, this David Meister dress would be a fantastic addition to a professional wardrobe. At first glance, it may appear to be a rather plain Little Black Dress. But the dress is much more exciting than that! It has a Violet panel on the front that is covered with geometric lace. The geometric pattern keeps the lace from looking too precious – or provocative. In addition, the color blocking is very slimming. The DavidMeister Knit Dress is $398 from Neiman Marcus.
Finally, here’s another great David Meister dress in plus sizes. If you zoom in on the dress, you’ll see that the background color is actually Magenta. The Black grid-print makes the color look darker and richer. This dress also has figure-flattering ruching. The David Meister Grid-Print RuchedDress is available in plus sizes for $328 from Saks.
Abigail Joan Politzer is an Atlanta-based wardrobe stylist and personal shopper who specializes in styling professional men and women for the office and their personal lives. Abigail is also the author of Commandress, a professional style blog for women. Abigail features American-made clothes and apparel for professional women and their families in a regular Commandress feature: “Smart, Chic & Made in the USA.”