Reader Request: Dresses…All Dressed Up & Down

Three women, three different dresses

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During Sunday’s #stylechat on Twitter, @k_nikki asked about dresses.  She wanted to know how to wear them for work.

To help demonstrate, I thought I’d compare and contrast the same dress used for several different occasions using virtual fitting rooms.

The casual, basic looks from left to right above are H&M Fashion Studio, Boden Outfit Maker and My Virtual Model.

H&M – The Abstract Print Dress

H and M Outfits

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This virtual fitting room gets an A for quality and being representative of ethnicity.  They have a large quantity of items available in the fitting room (though I’m not sure how it compares with their massive in-store selection).  I wish they represented different body types – as far as I can tell, there is only one.

As for the looks, here are three ways to wear a sleeveless abstract print dress.

  • Casual Friday (left): A denim jacket immediately says casual.  The fitted cut of the jacket makes it dressy enough for work and doesn’t take away from the dress.  A brown leather belt adds to the casual story while cinching the waist (the black belt of the dress could either be removed or tucked/taped to be hidden).  A simple metallic necklace adds a touch of dressiness and a colored flat keeps this look smart casual.
  • Professional (middle): This cotton blazer is comfortable for hot summer days while ensuring you’re ready for meetings with clients or the boss.  A metallic statement necklace expresses who you are and a wooden bangle provides an earthy component.  Red pumps are the equivalent of a red tie in terms of expressing confidence while adding a pop of color to an otherwise neutral outfit.
  • Statement (right): Paring the dress with a sweater is an excellent way to turn the dress into a skirt for a completely different look.  In this case, a stylish cardigan tied at the waist to maintain a waistline is a dressy statement.  The metallic necklace, also used in Casual Friday, looks elegant in this ensemble.  A jeweled cuff and colored clutch are additional touches of elegance and a neutral pump adds length to legs.

Boden – The Basic Black Dress

Boden outfits

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The Boden virtual fitting room gets an A for quality and they have a variety of items to choose from.  The drawback is that they only have one model (pictured above).  Let’s make it work!

Most everyone has a basic black dress (or two) in their closet.  Here are a few ideas to get more mileage and looks out of the dress.

  • Casual Friday (left): A simple cotton cardigan is an easy way to create a new outfit.  Note that sweater length and fit are key.  You want to find a fitted sweater in a length and cut that makes the most of your waistline.  If you have a longer sweater, try belting it on the outside to create an hourglass shape.  If that’s not your style, look for a sweater that mimics an hourglass shape with wide shoulders and matching hips.  The monochromatic necklace is almost like adding an embellishment to a very plain sweater.  A black/white print on the shoe is a great way to add an element of interest and break up solids while a colored tote adds a pop of contrasting color.
  • Professional (middle): A fitted cotton blazer is a great, versatile choice that will likely pair with a lot of what’s in your closet.  Wearing a belt that contrasts with the dress, underneath the jacket, is a great way to emphasize your waistline.  A brown and tan tote is a great neutral and a purple pump adds personality (say that three times fast!).
  • Statement (right): The motorcycle jacket converts the dress into a sporty outfit.  Note that a fitted jacket is always key over a soft fabric dress as it will help to reinforce your shape.  A cute colored clutch adds a little pop of personality and a metallic wedge, which is a neutral, dresses up the look with a little shine.

My Virtual Model – The Khaki Dress

My Virtual Model Outfits

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This virtual fitting room excels when it comes to creating a custom model.  You can enter height, weight, hair color and select from a variety of faces and haircuts.  It suffers, however in terms of quality and selection – there are very few items and the image quality does not compare with the previous tools.  Land’s End used this tool for a couple of years and had a decent image quality…I am disappointed that they stopped as it helped me decide what to buy.

Alas, here is one of the dress selections that fit this fictional curvy petite model, in three different looks.

  • Casual Friday (left): I was thrilled to find this colorful cardigan with a belt positioned at the waist to cover up the shoulders and bust for work.  A small black clutch will carry everything you need for a quick shoe shop or lunch with your friends.  Pair this with a simple metallic sandal, a fun statement necklace (orange, pink, silver and/or yellow) and you’re almost ready for the weekend.
  • Professional (middle): The fit of this jacket is good.  The print and large buttons could be a tad stuffy, depending on your style, which makes accessories like a fun, colored tote and great peep toe pumps essential.  Jewelry is another great way to incorporate personal style into this look.  I could see a medium-sized pair of gold or silver earrings and/or a long metallic necklace to build vertical length.
  • Statement (right): a shimmery jacket brings this jacket into event mode.  It could be paired with the same sandals from Casual Friday and a pretty pink clutch.  A long, dark metallic necklace would be a great addition and add the vertical length to slim and make you appear taller.

Are you looking to get more mileage out of your dresses and/or learn how to make them work for different purposes?  Fabuliss can help!

Visit for more information or contact me at or 612-554-4629 to ask questions.

Virtual fitting rooms:  H&M Fashion Studio, Boden Outfit Maker, My Virtual Model

See also: for a wealth of dress ideas from real women.


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2 Responses to “Reader Request: Dresses…All Dressed Up & Down”

  1. Emily Schroeder Orvik Says:

    what a great reinforcement to lessons learned earlier this week with you!

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